Years after the mysterious deaths of their parents, a traumatized brother and sister find the cause of their family tragedy: a cursed mirror whose 300-year history has left a bloody trail of destruction in its wake.
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Like any great B-movie auteur, Flanagan understands that the supernatural is often an extension of the psychological. Like The Babadook, Oculus frames its strange occurrences against a backdrop of traumatic family dysfunction; its haunted mirror introducing literal themes of reflection, identity, the potential of split personalities. The doubling is further reflected in the film's intricate melding of past & present.
Mike Flanagan has crafted a dark and truly sad film about the ways mental illness and trauma can tear a tight-knit family apart. The fact that he accomplished this within the framework of what is ostensibly a low-budget Blumhouse horror picture is doubly impressive. Like his fellow Blumhouse alumni M. Night Shyamalan, Flanagan displays a talent for working with child actors and examining our most deeply felt losses.
Same temporal/perceptual editing tricks as in Videodrome and Dead Again -builds arbitrary walls between past and present, reality and illusion, etc. and then tears them down. It's no masterpiece but it's cute.
Refreshingly light on jump scares, Oculus instead uses really nice editing to join related stories in different time periods and evoke a more psychological than physical dread. It reminded me of puzzle films or "mind-benders" like Triangle and Coherence. It's strange, though, that imagery and motifs specific to the mirror aren't played up more; for most of the film, the possessed object could have been anything.
Too predictable to produce any real scare. The first half of Sinister was better executed. The real horror of American cinema lies in its tragic inability to transcend the lame ghost story genre and introduce something new. This pedestrian pastiche of The Amytiville Horror, Mirrors and The Shining is underwhleming and soporific.
Despite an unpromising, queerly antiseptic set-up, Oculus gradually builds a pretty good head of pathos. The scenes of baleful, bruising psychedelia, increasing in frequency as the film goes on, carry potent emotional weight even as they deliver sharp jolts of vertigo.