A brother and sister return to the scene of a horrible tragedy to find out what happened.
There’s a lot going on in Oculus, including two timelines with multiple points of view, unreliable narrators and a mirror that likes to get freaky with your consciousness.
It’s the second feature from writer/director Mike Flanagan and is actually based on a short he helmed in 2006 which won some acclaim on the festival circuit. And it seems like much of the material has made the move to the feature, particularly the gnarled history of the creepy Lasser Glass – the mirror that just might eat people.
In the movie version, this history is told by former Doctor Who star Karen Gillan, taking on her first American leading role. It’s almost two years since this movie was shot so its probably no coincidence its being released right before she appears in Guardians of the Galaxy and her own US sitcom.
As for the movie itself, it’s a strange one. The dual plots are a nice idea but the execution is lacking – there’s an immediacy to both stories which is lost when it flits away to another perspective. Likewise there’s a found footage element at play which never feels properly fleshed out, and that’s not to mention seemingly randomly generated horrors which occur.
Oculus often feels like what it is – a short subject stretched to fill a 104 minute running time that’s just too ambitious. There are several solid creeps and some memorable visuals but the whole affair meanders into messiness by the time the third act approaches, before delivering a haphazard sting in the finale.
Gillan handles the demands of a flat American accent quite well, though she also loses most of her personality in the transition. The rest of her repertoire consists of staring at things with very large green eyes, which works to a degree but soon becomes tiresome. And she’s matched in inertness by most of the rest of the cast, including a strange turn from Battlestar’s Katee Sackoff and a miscast Rory Cochrane.
Director Flanagan himself doesn’t seem totally au-fait with the fundamentals of cinema, staying in scenes a little longer than needed and bringing no pace to the scenes where things should be more frantic.
Oculus isn’t a bad film, and there are elements here that genre fans will enjoy, but the limited creeps, rather sluggish pace and messy structure won’t see it lingering long in the memory.