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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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.
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.
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.
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.
There are some niggling issues here and some poor acting choices there, but Oculus is such a grim and bizarre mind-bender that it's truly hard to resist. It still astonishes me that something this strange got a wide release.
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.