Mirrors have often been the subjects of horror films; there has always been something eerie about our own reflection and interpretation of ourselves. Mike Flanagan’s Oculus tries to take this idea of perception and makes for a game of tricks and illusions that causes this brother and sister pairing a life of tragedy.
Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) lost their parents due to this cursed mirror, which cast an illusion over their lives and caused a murderous rampage within the family. Years later they recover the mirror and make a plan to destroy it to end the curse. The film plays with many illusions that keep the plot twisting and turning. It is ambitious, but something about it falls flat.
The acting, aside from a couple of decent performances, feels very TV-movie like. In fact, the whole thing comes off as a low-level production. Horror films, specifically found-footage films, have excelled at their low budget qualities but this one just feels like it is trying to be Hollywood and isn’t. The actors seem to be trying their best, specifically Katee Sackhoff as the mother Marie, but even as a possessed woman, she never feels threatening. It’s almost a bit jokey, but without being funny or scary.
The film feels like it is trying to jam too many things into it at once. It almost mimics Inception, having a similar feeling of is this is reality or is it an illusion. However, this film is not nearly as well-written or complex, and does not engross the viewer anywhere close to that level.
There are a few stand-out moments in the film that show the potential the script had, one particular gross-out scene involves Kaylie eating a light bulb. While the whole film was feeling very lackluster, it almost makes up for it by the ending, which is quite effective and shocking.
Horror fans may enjoy Oculus, but if you are looking to be scared-this film just doesn’t do it. It attempts to be too many things at once, making for an overly-ambitious but ultimately flat attempt at scary storytelling.