HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: OCULUS
I saw Oculus. Or did I?
The tagline of the film Oculus is “You see what it wants you to see.”
It’s a cool idea. A haunted mirror murders its owners, throughout history, leading to the present day when it tries to murder hot attractive 20-somethings and Battlestar Galactica’s Katie Sackhoff.
The way it murders people is the best part. If you’re near the mirror, you can’t trust your senses. It can make you see things wrong. Rat poison looks like food. You think you called 911 but you really just called Pizza Hut. That’s not actually something that happens in the movie but it would have been funny if they’d done that.
The story is told in the past and in the present. In the present, two siblings try to prove that the mirror is possessed by a supernatural force. In the past, the same two siblings, as little kids, watch the mirror drive their mom and dad totally zonkers. The dad has, like, a sexual affair with the mirror. And the mom turns into a…dog…monster…and eats rocks? It’s a little unclear.
Oh, and that’s the problem with the movie. The unclearness. The characters can’t trust their senses and neither can the audience. The mirror tricks everyone. Is he holding a knife or a banana? Are they inside the house or outside of the house? Is she driving a Dodge charger or appearing as Swanhilde in the Royal London Ballet company production of Coppelia?
In a couple of the scares, the bait and switch is done well. You’re eating an apple…PSYCHE! You’re eating a lightbulb! That’s actually the best creepy gross-out moment in the film and I don’t mind giving it away here because it’s given away in the trailer. (STOP DOING THAT, TRAILERS)
When the bait and switch gimmick is clear, the movie is effective. But toward the end, past and present fuse at the same time the mirror is making some things look like other things and some people look like other people and the end result is a big messy pile of who-gives-a-shit?
With such a huge flaw, I think it’s kind of amazing that I’d still recommend Oculus. But the filmmakers get a lot of things right. The performances are good. There’s no hack b-horror acting on display. The premise plays out well at first and some of the scares are really memorable.
I’d say see it if you’re a horror fan, skip it if you’re not.
Final thought: if you’re a husband, software designer and father of two living in a modest two bedroom house in a california suburb, maybe don’t buy a giant 400-year-old black obviously evil mirror for your study? What the fuck? The guy had NO other furniture remotely like that. They all would have been saved if they’d consulted the host of any HGTV show and made his fixtures all match.