Oculus

Oculus-Mirror-Haunted-Horror-Movie

Oculus made me feel like I was going a little bit crazy. I couldn’t keep track of where the characters were, whether we were watching flashbacks or a present day sequence, and if what was being shown was real or fake. I loved every minute of it.

Oculus is a “killer mirror” horror movie. You read that correctly – a mirror is the monster. It sounds absurd, but the movie is really effective at generating scares and a sense of deep unease.

Years earlier, Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan) suffered a horrible childhood event. And it all started when their father (Rory Cochrane) bought an old mirror for his new home office. Their father became…different…and their mother (Kaylee Sackhoff) reacts in an unstable and paranoid fashion. After tragedy strikes, Tim and Kaylie are separated (Tim goes off to a mental institution while Kaylie bounces around foster homes). Kaylie blames the old mirror for the tragedy, and Tim initially does too, until psychiatrists and medication convince him otherwise.

This is essentially a film about mental illness. You can interpret it to be a straight horror film ( it actually is a haunted mirror), or question whether Tim and Kaylie are just having a shared psychotic experience triggered by revisiting a childhood trauma. While Tim had professional help to explain what happened to his family in a rational narrative, Kaylie had to cope with the trauma on her own and ultimately developed a supernatural explanation for what occurred, absolving both her brother and father from being responsible for any wrongdoing.

The only problem with Oculus is that it’s not ambiguous enough. I like the interpretation that this is just a shared psychotic experience that the characters (and the audience) are sharing, but the filmmakers seem to really want to push the angle that the mirror is actually haunted. Some of the events that happen late in the film can only be explained if there really are supernatural forces at play, and it cheapens the movie. Rather than an empathetic look at what it may be like to be mentally ill (trying to make sense of a constantly-shifting reality), Oculus instead becomes an above-average horror flick.

I really enjoyed it, but I just wish the ending left things a bit more ambiguous and less reliant on a legitimately haunted mirror.

Grade: B+

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