Review: Oculus

oculus-posterStarring Karen Gillen, Brendon Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, James Lafferty and Miguel Sandoval. Directed by Mike Flanagan.


This modest horror flick has a lot going for it. There isn’t much in the way of jolts and jump-scares. Its retro-minimalist approach reminded me most of Ti West (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers).

The movie centers on two siblings and jumps back and forth in time with them. In the present, we meet 23-year-old Kaylie, who meets her 21-year-old brother Tim after he’s been let out of a mental hospital. Eleven years earlier, something happened to their parents, something Tim was blamed for. Kaylie believes it all centers on a haunted mirror, and she sets out to prove in one night that Tim has been innocent all along.

Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) and Brendon Thwaites (Maleficent) are appealing as the grown siblings, two kids we’re rooting for, and their young counterparts do a nice job. I also liked the offbeat casting of Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) and Rory Cochrane (Argo) as the parents, who have their own little Shining side-drama going on.

My main complaint with its setup would be how Kaylie has set up a series of fail-safes and how a few crucial ones get ignored toward the end. The mirror, or rather the dark forces behind it, can play with people’s minds, make them see one thing when they’re actually doing something. This bending of reality means they can’t always trust what they see, and so they need to take precautions. Knowing this, they wander off by themselves too often and too easily. I kept thinking if that was me, my sister would never leave my side!

The movie comes off as a resume for writer/director Mike Flanagan. “This is what I can do with $4 million. Got something bigger for me to do?” I look forward to that inevitable opportunity.

Tags: Brendon Thwaites Karen Gillan Katee Sackhoff Oculus

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