Oculus Film Review

   Oculus is a surprisingly enjoyable movie which blends elements from Asian horror, British Gothic and the American mainstream to make a deliciously wicked and suspenseful hallucinatory experience.

   Karen Gillan stars as a woman with a dark past, welcoming her brother home from a psychiatric hospital. Together, she has decided, they will investigate the cause of their shared grief - a haunted, and ornate, mirror which she believes may have been responsible for the death of their parents.

   As Kaylie (Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) set-up an elaborate experiment to observe any paranormal or inexplicable effects being in contact with the mirror may have on them, director Mike Flanagan inter-cuts the present with the traumatic events of the duo's childhood. What really happened in the lead-up to their parents' death?

   Time bends in the most unsettling of patterns as we travel down labyrinthine psychogenic fugues into the darkest corners of the mind - it’s a rare film in which mental, as well as physical, experiences are translated onto screen. Its a tale, too, which reflect how traumas of the past can be all too real in the present. As Kaylie and Tim look for answers in the now, they have to look for them in their past too.

   Flanagan's use of mirrors in the film is a perceptive one. When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we don’t just see the us of now – in the crow’s feet which line our eyes and the wrinkles around our mouths, we bear witness to the entire journey which led us to that moment. No one person exists entirely in the present – we are equally shaped by the events of the past.

   A high-concept horror, reminiscent of the slow creeping tone of The Woman in Black, Flanagan's film is not afraid to scare with sudden jolts and loud crashes, but the real power of the movie comes from the foreboding uncanny and eerie sense of alienation and disorientation. Kudos must be given to the cast too for their wholly committed performances - Gillan, in particular, proves to be an engaging screen presence whom has a potentially splendid career in front of her.

   A cut above most generic horror released onto cinema screens, Flanagan's creeping film is a short, sharp and dense movie sure to provoke unease even if the feeling dissipate almost as soon as the story reaches its conclusion. Not one to linger in the subconscious for a long time, but certainly a wholly enjoyable feature overall.

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