By Darin Skaggs
Anyone can tell a scary story. They can add a ghost, a witch, really any supernatural element. It haunts a perfectly nice group of people and slowly ruins their life until the villain conquers all or is defeated by the few survivors. This is the steps for every horror film but not all are as confusing or strange as Mike Flanagan’s Oculus.
In this tale the supernatural element is a mirror. It’s a mirror that manipulates the mind, body and soul of anyone who comes near it. All throughout time the mirror has been all around the block motivating its victims to murder the ones they love. About ten years prior to the present the owners of the mirror were the Russell family. It took over their mother and turned their father against them. The two parents didn’t make it and only siblings Kaylie (Karen Gillian) and Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) is left to deal with the repercussions of their family history.
In a world of cheap, mediocre horror films this one is an exception. It is not to be called a masterpiece or one of the year’s best but is a successful achievement in storytelling. There are several good scares and an overall sense of dread you feel while waiting to see what will happen to the brother and sister duo who lock themselves with the mirror, record their every move to prove it is possessed by God knows what. It even goes places that do not make much sense to confuse you about its power and strength.
The “villain” though is not a strong one, in a sense that it is way too strong an antagonist. The film while told in the present also constantly flashes back to ten years before when the siblings were little and their parents were taken over by the mirror’s powers. It seems once your mind is touched by the mirror there is no stopping it like a cancer throughout your body. We figure this out soon enough and know the inevitable that our heroes are in for a loss. It is nerve racking in an entertaining way to see where the story goes, but you know the outcome pretty soon after the plot gets going.
Oculus is enjoyable and an effective horror film, but losses its momentum because of its overpowering villain. Fortunately it works enough to hopefully get on some underrated horror list.