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.
I was legitimately surprised at how well this film used flashback and trickery to keep the movie tense the whole way through despite establishing from the beginning what we could expect. Disturbing moments, revelations, and the usual scares keep the pacing going strongly. The plot breaks down a tiny bi at the end before everything comes full circle, but that is also in line with how the mirror works.
Slightly elevated, moderately unsettling, yet completely forgettable. Mike Flanagan's short film of the same name was far more effective than this feature version. You can tell his hands were tied, being forced to appeal to a younger audience, applying the same character traits and actions from the short to the young leads in this film. It doesn't work but the story is layered enough to stay slightly interesting.