Don't Miss

Oculus – Joint Review


Release Date: 11th April 2014 [USA]
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard [Screenplay] Based on a Short Screenplay by Mike Flanagan & Jeff Seidman
Cast: Karen Gillan - Brenton Thwaites - Katee Sackhoff - Rory Cochrane - Annalise Basso - Garret Ryan

Posted April 26, 2014 by

Full Article

Oculus – Joint Review

Josh Adam’s Perspective:

“You see what you want to see”

If the above tagline made any sense to you, more power to you.  Mirrors have the capacity to bring forth a myriad of emotions from those gazing upon them.  From a single view, we can generate everything in our minds from self-doubt, vanity, horror, and even wonder.  That being the case, I’m surprised it took this long for the horror genre attempt something preposterous about a mirror, as it seems ripe for the picking.  Go figure, “Oculus” exists, if for no better reason than to give young people something to do on a weekend.  It doesn’t have much to say, and when it does, it is vague and non-sensical.  Despite a fine visual sensibility and a smattering of palpable tension, “Oculus” just doesn’t yield anything revelatory, and at times is simply maddening.

‘Doctor Who’ alum Karen Gillan stars as the adult version of Kaylie, and her character is introduced looking rather smugly at a mirror she appears to have located at an auction house.  We’ll ignore the fact that her employment at said auction house is a convenient way for the script to explain her acquisition, as well as provide her an understanding husband (Ryan) who just happens to run the place.  This mirror, with gothic arches, serpentine decor, and an obvious  ‘Evil-Rubbed Bronze’ stain, is an ominous-looking artifact.  The sinister nature of the its’ appearance is a dead giveaway that it has an ulterior motive other than, say, hanging on a wall.

Keeping in mind the motives of inanimate objects, let’s examine the capacity of a mirror to be creepy, and perhaps we can discern whether or not this movie’s premise itself is “ridoculus” (see what I did there?).  When I was younger, I saw mirrors three ways: 1) a reflective surface that was literally a framing device to develop my self-image, 2) a playground for my imagination, as I envisioned a ‘world’ behind the mirror, and 3) a horrific homeland for monsters and demons, particularly due to the “Bloody Mary” myth perpetuated by older friends and relatives.  Does “Oculus” feel like exploring any of that territory?

Of course not, for the mirror in this film has some kind of supernatural power.  Those that gaze upon it are ‘influenced’ (not quite possessed) to carry out horrific deeds for the mirror.  Here’s the odd part- the mirror can apparently materialize into a physical presence as well, that humans can interact with, and the kids in this film actually see.  It leads to an obvious question- why in the world would a supernatural presence have another body take care of what it could do all by itself?  It’s a good example of why this film doesn’t work, for the script provides no motivation or origin for the mirror’s nefarious behavior, or scientific reason for it’s existence; therefore there are no rules, simply tired devices to advance the plot.  In the likely sequels to follow, the writers will be forced to concoct an explanation out of the illogical mess they’ve created.

Back to the “story”- Kaylie is determined to get back at this inanimate object, so much so that she involves her brother Tim (Thwaites).  I have a problem with this: the film shows these two siblings directly involved in the grisly death of their parents, then only reveals that one (Tim) has been hospitalized.  Then, upon Tim’s release eleven years later, Kaylie immediately involves him in her plan to return to their old home and destroy this mirror that was apparently responsible for their parent’s fates.  The movie could stop right here, as a healthy Tim would reject his sister’s plot for revenge if he was, in fact, healthy.  It also bears mentioning that Kaylie, as disturbed as she might also be, doesn’t seem to consider her brother’s well-being at all.  In one step, the film shows us a pair of very close siblings that experienced something terrible, then in the next breath she’s dragging him back into the fray and ostensibly risking both of their lives.  These siblings aren’t as in tune as the movie might suggest- at one point while ‘documenting’ the mirror’s evils, they specifically tell each other to stay together the rest of the time they are in their old house.  The very next scene?  They split up.

This is a good looking movie, capably made and all.  There are even a couple of reasonably tense moments, and the score is a fine companion piece.  As an entire film, however, it just doesn’t work.  I wonder if the filmmakers originally started with a story about perception, and the way we view ourselves, or (this is a stretch) perhaps a larger parable about children and the collateral damage of divorce, but ended up with a cheap horror movie. The latter is the more likely of the two.  “Oculus” makes up rules to advance the story, gives us characters that make odd decisions, and even the film’s centerpiece (a killer mirror, oh my!) is given no logical origin or purpose for existence.  Even the plot device that seems logical is goofed- the story spends time setting up cameras, computers, and routines to prove the existence of spiritual wrongdoing, but oddly enough, within its’ own framework cannot prove it.  It’s the blind leading the blind.  I found myself disliking the film exceedingly more as I took the time to organize my thoughts for this review.  Perhaps that’s a disservice to the project, and maybe my more immediate reactions would have produced a more favorable result and a fairer assessment.  Perhaps it’s just a bad film, masquerading as a serious psychological thriller.

Written By:

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 20.59.08

Josh Adams
Freelance Contributor


Lestat de Lioncourt’s Perspective:

Oh, the horror, the horror. What is it with some of us movie fans, heading to the theatre or curling up on the couch with a horror film? What’s the allure? The reason?

I say the reasons for watching most genres of movies remains the same for horror films – an escape, an adventure, a chance to be a hero. But, most importantly, a chance to excite our imaginations from our usual daily routines.

There’s something about the pulse-racing suspense of a horror that’ll keep you coming back for more, despite the surety of yet another sleepless night huddled under your covers in fear of dreaded Kayako Saeki (for those not in the know, don’t Google her!).

I have loved horror films since I was a child, but over the past few years I have forgone watching them because of the introduction of gore – that’s not horror, that’s horrific. There’s a difference. But my perseverance paid off with the brilliantly written, melancholic and terrifying ‘The Woman in Black’. It was the mix of excellent storytelling and suspense that won me over.

In a way, I knew that I was unlikely to get the same from ‘Oculus’. Why? Because ‘Oculus’ is not based on a book, but on a short written by writer/ director Mike Flanagan. That immediately set the alarm bells ringing, and well, I wasn’t wrong in my interpretation.

The story is about brother and sister duo Tim and Kaylee Russell. Their gruesome childhood is revealed to us through a series of flashbacks strategically placed throughout the film’s runtime. We know something dire happened, because Tim has been in psychological care since childhood, and his sister is, on the surface, a well-adjusted woman, who actually has a mission to complete.

The mission is to do with a mirror. They blame the mirror for the ills that have befallen their family, and to clear their name, Kaylee has decided to destroy the mirror.

But first, an overlong exposition sequence telling us everything about everything. This is all to do with Kaylee’s attempt to document the mirror’s evildoings and its upcoming destruction.

Do I sound dismissive of the film? It’s not my intention. This film is actually quite entertaining. Though the mirror as a plot device is not original, its actions are innovative.

The film works best in the past. Though the Russell parents (Katie Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane) come across as rather bland, their family dynamics, especially the dramatic change in the same, is well-played and beautifully executed. Credit for this has to go to Annalise Basso, who plays young Kaylee. She puts in a powerhouse performance as a vulnerable yet strong and brave child desperately trying to make sense of the unusual situation around her, all the while protecting her younger brother.

It’s a shame young Kaylee grew into a one-dimensional, emotionless character. Karen Gillan is everyone’s favourite redhead nowadays, but she had nothing to play with and came across as completely one-note. Up and comer Brenton Thwaites is given greater weightage in the film but pulls of a grand total of two expressions for all situations.

Unimpressive performances aside, the film completely lacked scares. I’m not saying we need a whole lot of ‘boo’ moments, but, for an antagonist that was particularly cruel and torturous in the past, it only lightly messes with the heads of the adult children. There are a few hairy moments, but no consequences. Not until much later.

And here I come to why this film is worth at least one watch. The denouement. After you’ve trudged through vapid acting, prolonged exposition and virtually no action, that climactic end makes you sit up and take notice. What did I just see? And, most importantly, now what? Films that jerk you out of your comfort zone and niggle at your brain are far scarier than flying limbs and innovative torture devices (looking at you Saw 2-34). I would love to get my hands on the original short film script to see just how much tighter it was, because the embellishments in the feature-length version seem mostly unnecessary, barring giving it a reason to make it to the theatres and finally into our homes.

While not the most accomplished work in horror history, there’s a lot riding on that climax. And, young Basso may just be a breakout star to keep an eye on for the future.

Written By:


Lestat de Lioncourt
Random Thoughts – Lestat’s Blog
Freelance Contributor


Read Similar Articles?…

[Joint Review] – ‘Fantastic Four’
[Joint Review] – ‘Pixels’
[Joint Review] – ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’

Reviews | Joint Reviews | Articles | Debates | Promotions | Interviews |

Join The Debate! Leave us a comment…


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Response


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.