Oculus carefully treads the hallowed ground of straight faced horror and it succeeds confidently. Mike Flanagan’s feature length adaptation of his short film, follows two siblings as they fight against what they believe to be a supernatural entity haunting an antique mirror that brought tragedy to their family. It’s a refreshing concept that is deftly handled, haunted objects and hauntings in general are a topic that has been somewhat neglected within horror in recent years, save for several uneven found footage attempts. It’s a brave endeavor, casting a mirror as your murderous villain and for the film’s first half the gamble is greatly rewarding.
Flanagan makes a wise decision in keeping his cast small and the action almost entirely within one house – a house that serves as the backdrop for the story in present day and the setting for seamlessly connected flash backs of events that took place there years before. This is truly Karen Gillan’s film, her obsessive portrayal of Kaylie the woman who believes without a doubt that a mirror possesses evil powers, ignites each scene she appears in. Her determination sells the concept effortlessly, she builds the story and then holds it aloft. So much so that the film is weakest in it’s flash back scenes where the family is shown to slowly implode, it’s effectively taut but suffers from having Karen Gillan’s defiant Kaylie absent.
It is an impressively ambitious film with riffs on horror greats such as The Shining and Poltergeist. Unfortunately its coherency slips in it’s sluggish third half but it recovers for a startling finish. The film may have benefited from (as impossible as it may have been) giving the mirror more of a personality but the ambiguity of the ‘Evil Mirror’ was clearly a purposeful decision in order to plant the seed of doubt as to whether it really is possessed.
Overall Oculus is not a perfect film by any means mostly due to the fact that its third half suffers badly from slow pacing, but it is a commendable and enjoyable piece of horror film making that deserves to be seen.