I’ve been critical of horror movies in the past and their evolution over the years. It is weird, out of all the movie genres it is horror that has such rapid and noticeable swings in the likes and dislikes of the public. In the 80s we saw the rise of the slasher flick, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and the like. In the 90s there was a lot more of a push for surreal thrillers like Silence of the Lambs and Event Horizon. In the 2000s we saw the rise of gore porn with film franchises like Hostel, Saw, and Final Destination leading the charge. Now that we are halfway through the 2010’s I can see the trends of horror are changing again as we find ourselves in more of the slow building dread and haunted house horror stories which we can most likely thank Paranormal Activity, The Conjuring, and Insidious for. Now I’m not saying that these horror tropes are mutually exclusive to their given decades, I’m only saying that they do follow trends that the majority of these movies seem to follow. Hell if they followed exclusive trends such classics as The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Drag Me to Hell, and The Thing would not be in existence.
But as of right now we find ourselves in the 2010s and dreadful slow building horror with stylistic and sharp color tones seems to be all the rage. Thus we find ourselves with today’s topic Oculus. Oculus is a movie brought to us by Blumhouse Productions as well as the infamous WWE Studios, directed by newcomer Mike Flanagan, and stars one of everyone’s favorite companions to The Doctor Karen Gillian and relative newcomer Brenton Thwaites. All things considered this movie should not have been much of a blip on the 2014 movie radar but surprisingly enough gained quite a praise from fans and critics alike. So today we are going to look at it and judge whether or not this movie truly is as good as everyone says it is.
Oculus is the story of the Russell family 11 years after it was reported that Kaylie and Tim’s (Karen Gillan/Annalise Basso and Brenton Thwaites/Garrett Ryan) father Alan (Rory Cochrane) murdered their mother and was subsequently killed by Tim. Tim has just been released from a psychiatric ward and reunites with his sister who has spent the past eleven years attempting to prove that it wasn’t their father who killed her and Tim their father in turn, but the possession of a demonic black mirror that hung in Alan’s office. The two siblings return home to monitor the mirror for telekinetic activity. While Tim does not believe his sister at first, phenomenons begin to kick into high gear, forcing the two siblings to challenge the evil mirror head to head. The story then follows both modern day Tim and Kaylie as well as their younger selves as they attempt to take on the mirror and unravel what happened on that fateful night when their parents were killed.
Movie Builds on Dread and Not Cheap Scares
I love the new direction horror movies are going in. That means we get away from cheap kills and jump scares and focus more on the genuine horror that builds slow to a satisfying climax. I for one am much more responsive to an overall feeling of dread then having something jump out in front of me and screaming “OOGITY BOOGITY!”
The movie builds on suspense and allows the mere presence of the ominous mirror be enough to drive the horror in the film. Mike Flanagan stated that he wanted the movie to have a very Lovecraftian feel to it and he has succeeded on that front. The mirror just has this malevolent presence to it that you do not understand and in a way do not want to understand. It is excellently done and has some solid horror moments.
Simple fact the movie is excellently written. I love the relationship with the brother and sister as well as the continued cut from flashback to present time. You are not sure what is real and what is the work of the mirror and can feel the madness that is afflicting both of them. I love the script, the story being told, and the fact that we never truly learn what the mirror is.
It is malevolent to be sure, but where did it come from? Why is it haunted? These are questions left unanswered because they do not need to be answered. It adds to the allure and mystique of the mythos. Overall excellently written and well done horror story.
Karen Gillan’s Accent
Just like Emma Watson in The Bling Ring, at the time of this movies release, it is noticeable that Karen Gillan is trying her hardest to mask her Scottish accent. Far from Guardians of the Galaxy which also had a substantially higher budget and a sound edited voice to begin with, there are obvious moments where Karen’s accent comes through her American accent. It isn’t as bad as Watson who seemed to be straining with each sentence to say what she wanted to say, but any time Karen has to speak a long ‘o’ vowel, the Scottish in her comes out for the world to see.
It isn’t much of a con as it isn’t much of a detriment to the movie, but it is noticeable and can take you out of the moment if you are not ready for it.
Brenton Thwaites Cannot Hold a Candle to Gillan
I don’t mean any shame to Brenton Thwaites, he did the best that he could with what was given to him. But his problem isn’t so much his acting… Okay well it is with his acting. It is much more that he is out acted and out classed by Karen Gillan at every turn. It is clear that Oculus was made with the Tim Russell character to be the main protagonist and was changed when the production was able to hire a big name like Gillan to the production. Because of that the film focuses much more on the Kaylie character and Tim character instead of just Tim. So basically this equates with the two fighting for screen time.
This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that Thwaites just isn’t as good an actor as Gillan and thus looks horrifically weak by comparison to her. His flaws are over played and his bad acting is on display while Gillan is knocking out of the park save for her attempted masking of her Scottish accent. It is a poor choice of casting and one that smaller production sometimes make when they get a big name actor who has some serious acting chops. The smaller time actor looks weak by comparison. Because of this, I have to give some major cons to the movie for either poor casting on the part of Gillan and/or Waites… More or less putting them together and have the two carry the film.
Oculus is a decent movie. It is well written and the film delivers firmly on the horror. There are some flaws in it, namely the poor casting. But it is definitely worth at least one sit through if you are a fan of the horror genre. You will not be disappointed.
Final Score 3/5
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