Review: Oculus

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Produced by the team that made Paranormal Activity and Insidious, Mike Flanagan writes and directs the story of a sister and brother trying to uncover whether their parents were killed by supernatural forces.

Set in Middle America is story of siblings Kalie and Tim who watched their parents being murdered when they were children. Having spent 11 years in a psychiatric hospital after being accused of murdering his father Tim is released and put into the care of his older sister Kalie, who is convinced a haunted mirror was responsible for their parents’ deaths.

Dr Who actress Karen Gillan makes the transition from the small screen to the big screen in this feature. With a performance that gets off to a slow start at the beginning of movie, by the end Gillan shoulders the film perfectly well and helps carry it home. Co-star Brenton Thwaites puts in a fair showing as the psychologically damaged younger brother Tim, who tries to explain away the past with stretched logic and reason. Likewise the supporting cast of Rory Cochrane as father Tim Russell and Katee Sackhoff as mother Marie Russell put in reasonable performances as the disintegrating parents. Unusually enough, the child actors Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, who play the young Kalie and Tim, actually put in the most even performances of the whole movie.

By the end of the film it is clear the real star of Oculus is writer and director Mike Flanagan himself. Based on his short story ‘Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan’ the movie does starts off as a seemingly mundane by the numbers horror flick. But, through Flanagan’s skilful handling of the source material, the film does build up to something so much more. With the film inter cutting between present-day Kalie trying to convince Tim of the real causes for their parents death to flash backs of the events that led to the murders there is a genuine sense that present day Kalie could be just as psychologically damaged as her younger brother. Those flashbacks are then put to further good use in the final act which, unlike most horror films, doesn’t fall apart at the final hurdle but instead actually pulls off a satisfactory ending.

Better than it should be, smarter than it first appears, Oculus delivers the thrills and chills in equal measure and should be seen by all erudite fans of the genre.

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