What I'm Watching: Oculus
Hey hey, Triskelions!
I know I've been missing for a bit, but I just got a new computer and I am busily getting far too distracted by playing video games that are newer than 10 years old! ...Er, I mean, I am SO busy getting the thing set up and up to snuff!
But I am here now, and I got out and saw the new(ish) horror flick, Oculus.
Now, before I go any further, it should be made ABUNDANTLY clear that I am a gigantic Karen Gillan fan. Unashamedly so. Well, maybe a little bit of shame, but no one's keeping track. So go into this review with that huge grain of biased salt.
So yeah, guess what? I loved Oculus!
What we've got here is the story of two young adults, who were tormented by an evil, cursed mirror eleven years ago. During those events, Tim was forced to kill his possessed/driven mad father before he killed the kids. For doing this, and thanks to yelling about a killer mirror, he was sent into psychiatric care.
The story picks up in the present day with him finally coming to terms with what happened as bad memories, being a young kid, and every other psychological explanation to get him past the supernatural.
His sister, on the other hand, has not been developing such coping mechanisms, and still believes that the mirror is more than just a mirror. She's spent many years trying to track it down, and learn its history, all plotting for this time now, to finally destroy it and avenge her family.
First of all, THANK YOU, OCULUS, for giving us another original story. Sure, you can find some common DNA with other movies and such, but this is not a remake. It's not a sequel. It's not an adaptation. It is what it is, and as long-time readers of Trisk know, I will heap praise on any horror movie for that reason alone.
I really love how Kaylie laid down the history of the mirror, so far as she knows it. I also love that the origins of the mirror only go back SO far, and even her extensive research never turn up where it came from. The whole story reminded me A LOT of the Magna of Illusion. And if you get THAT reference, we need to be friends.
On top of that, I absolutely LOVELOVELOVE that she took a scientific approach to it, was SUPER smart in her interactions with the mirror, took SO many precautions, had a number of ways to get around the mirror's trickery, and quite honestly, this is the shit so many horror fans clamor for. It's not perfect, but she had a plan, she stuck to it...it was fun being given rules, and then seeing that the mirror and the things within it were smarter than even all the precautions taken. So, so good.
Because, naturally, things can never be so simple as, "here's my plan, and everything goes swimmingly!" Where would be the fun in that?
Also, it was great that they left it JUST vague enough for the first half of the movie whether the mirror was really cursed, or it WAS just stories the kids made up. That becomes increasingly clear to not be the case the longer the movie goes on though, but they pretty much rode that line perfectly right up until it had to be revealed one way or the other.
On top of all that, I like that Tim, the one who has been seen as crazy for the past 11 years, is the voice of reason. HE is the one providing all the rational explanations for what was going on, and trying to tell his sister that she's delusional. It's a great reversal, and a good reason for having him be in psychiatric care all this time, because it gave him all those perfectly reasonable things to say, that would make sense on any other day of the week.
You wouldn't think watching a battle of wits between two siblings and a *mirror* would be this good, but the movie wisely intersperses the present day story with flashbacks to the past to fill in the entire gruesome events of their youth and their parents' demise. It especially becomes interesting once the walls between the two time periods start breaking down, and while they never quite interact, having Tim and Kaylie also bearing witness to the same events we're watching make them MORE than just flashbacks; they're mind games the mirror is playing with them. That helps make the scenes an active part of the story, not just filler and backstory.
I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending. On the plus side, it absolutely doesn't RUIN the movie, which is all too common in horror movies, right? But this was one story I was hoping *really* had a positive outcome. I still like what we got, but I did exit the theatre with a bit of sadness and "Awwh," over what we were given.
Still, the movie has a great cast (I'm not a big Katee Sackhoff fan, but she was really good in this as the kids' mother, being slowly driven insane by the mirror), an original story, and is actually populated by smart characters who think things through. It is definitely worth seeing for those reasons alone.
But really, it's worth seeing for Karen Gillan trying to do an American accent for 100 minutes...