When my mother recommends a horror film to me, it isn’t often I actually find it scary. I’d heard of Oculus. I’d even heard good things. It was one of those films that I intended to watch some day, but never made it a priority. And the other day I found myself with a day of nothing to aside from the ever dreaded laundry. So while laundry hung out to dry, I decided to check out Oculus. I had no real expectations. it scarred my mother which means it could be Seven or it could be Case 39. I watched it and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
I have nothing against found footage horror films. I think the concept can work quite well (Blair Witch Project, REC, VHS etc.) but it can also be an awful attempt to make a film for less (Paranormal Activity’s various sequels). And I am so frigging glad that Oculus didn’t go the found footage route. I could likely have worked as a mockumentary ala Lake Mungo. But instead it gives us a brilliant straight forward horror film that feels almost like an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark meets Memento.
I won’t get into too many plot details since the plot jumps around in time and any details will detract from the tension. The set up is simple. When Kaylie was little, her mom and dad went crazy. It likely has something to do with the giant terrifying mirror in the den. Dad killed her mom, and her little brother killed their dad to protect them. Now Tim is about to get out of the looney bin. The I just got out of the asylum am I crazy or is this actually happening trope is one of the best tropes! He meets with his sister (Karen Gillian giving whiskey throated American accent realness) who is all “Here are some listings for apartments and job leads, and by the way can you help me kill the evil mirror that drove our parents insane?”
You see while little brother spent years with shrinks telling him he is disturbed and helping him ‘realize’ that the whole evil mirror killed mommy and daddy thing was just his mind’s way of coping with an abusive home life that ended in murder. His sister on the other hand has spent the past decade plotting to destroy the mirror. That is right, gurl is in full blown Tommy Jarvis! The rest of the film tells both the story of what happened to their parents, and their attempts to determine whether the mirror is evil or if mom and dad were just crazy.
Despite some questionable moments with make up effects on Katie Sackoff, the film is incredibly solid horror fare. It leaves the viewer guessing as to what is real and what isn’t. It provides just enough mind fuckery without seeming overly complicated and most importantly, is it will scare you.