‘Oculus’ happens to be one of the better examples of horror films that I’ve seen in a considerable length of time. First and foremost, Mike Flanagan, the director co-screenwriter, Jeff Howard, manage steer clear of the regrettable trend for replacing character development in a coherent plot with as many gory scenes as possible. Often this use of pure only visceral techniques to generate fright heavily rely on the constant, incessant infliction of pain is not only exceedingly boring, but it makes for poor cinematic craftsmanship. The creative team behind this film has gone back to the fundamental roots of this perennially entertaining genre. They have tapped into a simple fact about how to induce terror in an audience. When the means to achieve this is predominantly visual the effect evaporates as the images recede from the mind. When it comes to horror, the best way to reach the audience is on a psychological level. Making the skin crawl with a series of fleeting, graphic images only requires a modest budget the special effects makeup. To read the story that is able to infiltrate the dark recesses of the mind produces an effect that can last for years. Flanagan and Howard have devised the stories that successfully achieve this goal. Although Mr. Howard is relatively new to writing scripts for any type of movie, Mr. Flanagan has been honing his skills for some time. One of his previous works, ‘Absentia ‘, aptly combined horror drama in mystery also utilizing a psychological and emotional approach to telling the story. In this instance he takes on an additional degree of difficulty; the nonlinear timeline. The story is told through a set of parallel threads occurring roughly eleven years apart. The principal story is in the present with flashbacks used to tie in past events.
Eleven years ago Alan Russell (Rory Cochrane), a software developer by profession, was looking forward to starting a new chapter in his life. He was moving into a new house along with his wife, Marie (Katee Sackhoff) and their children, Tim (Garret Ryan), 10 years old, and there 13-year-old daughter, Kaylie (Annalise Basso). One of the rooms in the new home is set aside to be Alan’s home office. While decorating it an antique mirror catches his eye and is included in decor. While it will come to pass, that this choice of accoutrement will have dire consequences for this family. It is quite fortuitous for those of us watching as it provides the core of the story. Both Allen and his wife Marie are affected by the experience hallucinations emanating from the mirror. The children, however, not appear to be affected by this sinister object. The subjects of the hallucinations are different for both of the adults. Alan finds himself seduced by an apparition that refers to herself as Marisol Chavez (Kate Siegel), whose eyes had been replaced by mirrors. The hallucination that afflicts Marie is far more frightening and personalized. She has recurring visions of her own body decaying although she is still very much alive.
This foundation for the story is expertly laid, which is crucial in order to continue drawing the audience into the continually decaying psychological state of these two principal characters. In the present day, Kaylie is portrayed by Karen Gillian, best known to many as Amy Pond, in the iconic science-fiction series, ‘Doctor Who’. The part of brother, Tim, is taken over by Brenton Thwaites. The effect of the mirror upon the apparent is insidious gradually eroding any semblance of mental stability. They may have had. Paranoia begins to overwhelm both of them resulting in psychotic behavior. Once again, the deleterious effects of the mirror manifest differently both of its victims. Marie withdraws into herself becoming isolated and paranoid. Alan keeps almost exclusively to behind the closed doors of his office, confined in the presence of the mirror. The object’s disruptive influence seeps out of the office extending to the household. All of the plants in the house mysteriously die off. While the family pet, a dog, is inadvertently locked in the office with the mirror disappearing without a trace. Marie steadily reverts to an animalistic state devoid of any humanity. She systematically begins to stop herself turning once attractive woman to an emaciated shell. A psychosis reaches a homicidal point as she tries to murder for children. She has stopped by Alan was subsequently restrains her by chaining her in their bedroom. Once again, Alan withdraws to his office. Kaylie and Tim go out ostensibly to shop for provisions for use the opportunity to contact the neighbors. They tried their best to explain what has been happening, but this story sounds so unrealistic that the neighbors failed to believe them. Kaylie does attempt to phone the authorities, police and medical, with the voice on the other end of the line is always the same man whose only response is that she should talk to her father about this matter. Alan, completely possessed by the mirror, unchanged his wife, who once again tries to kill her family. Both Marie and Alan experience a moment of lucidity, resulting in Alan shooting his wife to death in pleading with Tim to do the same with him. It is the only way to escape their torment. Young Tim accedes to the request and is taken into custody by the police. The siblings are separated, but vow to return as adults and destroy the mirror.
The present day portion of the story has Tim being discharged from the mental institution, he was sentenced to. As part of his treatment, he is been told that there were no supernatural events, it was all in his mind. Kaylie has a job employed by an auction house. This greatly expedites obsession with researching the history of the mirror. She discovers that death has been following this object for many years. Once released, Tim and Kaylie’s argue about whether or not the mirror was a source of some supernatural evil. Kaylie sets up the mirror in a room fully covered by surveillance cameras in a contraption set to destroy the mirror automatically should something happen to her. The ultimate dénouement of the film is exceptionally satisfying in the culmination of a carefully structured and artistically executed story. Many fans of contemporary horror may have an issue with this film to do its lack of sensationalism. While the requisite modicum of bloodshed is found, it is nowhere close to the overwhelming usage contained in the flicks they are accustomed to watching.
Of course, the presence Ms. Sackhoff and Ms. Gillian, both known the leading roles television series acclaimed as some of the best Sci-Fi the medium has to offer, draw fans of that genre. Once you get past their familiarity you will witness the considerable versatility of these two young women in mastering their craft. The movie represents the synergy between the excellent performances by the entire cast, the taut script, stylistic direction. Mr. Flanagan initially sets up a normal family, one that is easy for members of the audience to readily identify with. Once that emotional bond between viewer and characters is established he begins to work on steady darkening of the mood. It was a juxtaposition of a normal home in the psychological disintegration of the adults. What is very interesting is how the degradation of the parents exerts its effect upon the children. Just as the husband and wife differ in how the mirror manifest evil influence, the reaction of the children eventually place as a bridge between the siblings. This is nicely shown by their closeness as children contrasted with them being at odds with each other as adults. Tim was forced to accept the events as imaginary as a result of his treatment. Kaylie, on the other hand, was not subjected to such conditioning and understandably became obsessed with uncovering what she is certain is an ancient evil. This film is a refreshing change from the lamentable state that horror has fallen into. It is also establishing this filmmaker as someone who will make a significant contribution to returning horror back into the realm of the psychological thriller.