April 19, 2014

Movie Review: Oculus

Here is a movie that seems to have split the horror community (well, what movie doesn't, really?). I have seen posts saying just how good it is alongside requests to unfriend yourself if you like it. The latter I took as a personal challenge, although I would never go so far as to be ingenuous in my like or dislike of a given film (who would that benefit anyway?). As it stands, I have seen Oculus and I am happy to report that the movie is really quite good. I would not go so far as to call it a classic by any stretch, but it was entertaining, well constructed, and just a wee bit different.

Oculus is not just another haunting or possession movie, which only seem to be challenged in sheer numbers by zombie movies of late. It is a movie with supernatural trappings, a few jump scares, but with a different angle. It is a movie that seems to invite a variety of different interpretations. I like this in a movie, not always, but it works here. It is a movie that, in addition to its variety of interpretations, is open to ridicule. I did not see it that way, but I could see how it could be. The funny bit about this was listening to people's shocked reactions throughout the movie and then how quickly that turned to “that's stupid” comments as soon as it ended. Can't please everyone all the time. Nor should it.

This is a movie that centers itself on a mirror, an evil killer mirror, maybe. The characters who see their lives wrapped up with the mirror, intertwined with its reflectiveness of terror are the brother/sister duo Kaylie (Karren Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites). They have had rough lives. Ten years prior their parents were killed in the family home, in front of them. Tim was sent to a mental institution while Kaylie was left to process things on her own in the foster care system.

The tale picks up with Tim being released from the hospital, ready to begin his life. Kaylie then reminds him of what happened and of their promise to stop it. Tim does not seem terribly interested in revisiting the past he just got over, while it seems that Kaylie has never let it go. It also just so happens that Kaylie has located the mirror and brought it to their childhood home where she plans to expose the evil inside the mirror and prove her brother did not do the thing that put him in the hospital in the first place.

At this point, it would be best to experience the movie as it is told without knowing many more specific details. It is a movie that deals with perception, memory, relationships, reality, illusion, and how these things interact with each other. It treats them in a way that at no point is there a reliable narrator. No matter how convincing things can be, there is a possibility that it is not actual reality. It is rather entertaining to watch as our characters try to navigate the dangerous waters around the mirror, how they must often fight their instincts, and no matter how many safeguards are in place, there is room for things to go tragically wrong.

The film, directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan (based on his own short film), succeeds a lot on the basis of its pacing and editing. The movie weaves the present and the past into one slick tapestry that builds on itself in a way that a lot of mainstream horror releases don't. The dialogue seems a little weird at times, but then something clicked, neither of these characters is exactly normal. Tim just got out of a mental hospital, and he talks like that, using psychology-speak, the way he says things is like someone who has just learned them. He has an idea of what he arise talking about but it is not natural in how he says it. Not that he is wrong or anything, it is in the application of recent knowledge, it can ring falsein delivery while still being natural. As for Kaylie, she has been letting the past go around and around inside her head, where she has built up a narrative supporting her beliefs. For better or for worse, she has what she believes to be the facts and will fight to the end to prove them.

Back to the editing for a moment. Just watch as we move back and forth between the present and the past. It is smooth as silk and always makes sense with the narrative. It is pretty slick to watch how the pieces begin to fall into place. What is even more interesting is the possibility that none if it actually happened in the way it is shown, or even at all. It is about the questions, not always about the answers. Watching them as they try to combat the supposed influence of the evil mirror, put together the pieces of their past, and deal with their present.

While I can understand dislike of the movie, I do not agree with it. Oculus is well put together, tells a story that is different than what we usually get in mainstream horror, has interesting characters and kept me involved throughout. The question remains, what do you think happened?


Related Posts with Thumbnails


Post a Comment