MIFF 2014 Review: Oculus (2014) — The Evil Antique That Doesn’t Deliver in Horror Fizzer

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The psychological horror film Oculus tells two parallel stories: The first is set in 2002, where a family move into a new house with new furnishings; including an ornate, antique mirror. Slowly the demonic mirror starts to take a mental toll on the parents (Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff), leading to the deaths of both, with the 10-year old Tim accused of the heinous murders. 11 years later, Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is released from psychiatric care, convinced that the mirror played no part in what happened to his parents. Little does he know that his older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has spent the past decade researching the mirror, waiting for her brother’s return so that she can finally destroy it and redeem her family’s legacy.

"I need the optometrist, first thing in the morning."

“I need the optometrist, first thing in the morning.”

Oculus is based on the 2006 short film Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man With the Plan, which is also the brainchild of writer/director Mike Flanagan. I haven’t seen the short, but I can only imagine that the premise of Oculus works so much better as a short than a feature. The movie isn’t bad, it just doesn’t have enough substance, scares, or relatable characters. I found all the 2002 scenes to be better than the 2013 ones; the 2002 storyline has a solid structure and some genuinely gruesome moments, but when the plot switches to 2013, I feel that the tone becomes almost farcical. Because the two stories are being told simultaneously, whenever I start to feel an attachment to the 2002 plot, we cut back to 2013, which drops whatever tension was developed the prior tale.

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