Mike Flanagan‘s Oculus is the latest R-rated horror movie from WWE Studios to scrape the bottom of the barrel of the supernatural horror subgenre that’s taken modern moviegoers by storm. Oculus isn’t even remotely creepy and instead barely gets by on occasional jump scares and a simple story that’s made to seem complex through its unraveled narrative that jumps back and forth between two different time periods. Oculus is something that sounds much better on paper. The actual execution leaves more to be desired.
Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) have had a very troubled past. Both siblings witnessed their father kill their mother and then try to turn the gun on them. Luckily for them, they survived, with Tim going off to a mental institution when he was a child, while Kaylie grew up all alone. Now, the two are re-united years later and are still looking for answers as to what exactly happened to their parents. Kaylie blames a creepy and mysterious mirror, with a horrific past of manipulation and death, while Tim swears that it was all in their heads.
Now, they’ve equipped their old house with enough technology to sniff out the paranormal, in hopes of finding answers and also in hopes of coming to a satisfying conclusion. Is there such thing as a haunted mirror that can tear a family completely apart or must Kaylie and Tim finally accept that their father was a crazy murder?
Mike Flanagan‘s Oculus is not like your typical haunted house horror movie. Oh no. Flanagan approaches his film with science and facts, constantly adhering to a certain structure or formula if you will, to help push the film’s jumbled plot around. See, Oculus is two stories smashed together without much rhyme or reason, shedding light on both Kaylie and Tim’s past and present.
Instead of traditionally bouncing back and forth, the film finds itself trying to fuse both time frames together, in hopes of confusing the viewer and creating a similar and bridging atmosphere. This is also set in place to make the film’s grand finale and final act seem like one elaborate piece of writing, when in fact it’s just another by-the-numbers horror film that’s too safe to become inventive or fresh and instead relies on typical genre safe points to inject a little amount of scares.
Yes, the film is rated R and most might find that appealing, especially during the summer, where horror mostly dies, but don’t let Oculus fool you. This film contains a small amount of blood and gore when compared to most modern R-rated horror films and it’s actually rather tame. I’m not sure if Flanagan was simply making his movie and seeing where the rating would land or if they just honestly didn’t want to make anything bold or reviving for a genre that’s mostly been falling at the waste side when it comes to mainstream product.
Oculus is pedestrian work that would have probably landed in the straight-to-DVD bin if it was made five or ten years ago. I have no idea how or why WWE Studios thought it would be a good idea to cruise this one to theaters, because there’s really nothing about it that screams see me in theaters, aside from maybe its modest production value.
Director Mike Flanagan does a good job keeping the effects practical and most of the film steadily shot and presented in a way that sometimes builds on atmosphere, but mostly ends up a confused mess of celluloid thanks to its pointlessly confusing editing and below-average performances, from two young actors that have a very difficult time selling a scare. Seriously, how can both the leads deliver such wooden and uninterested performances?
It’s always great to see studios releasing horror movies during the start of the summer blockbuster season, especially R-rated horror films, but Oculus is that rare kind of stupid that should be avoided at all costs. Those looking for something remotely scary or even a bloody good time are going to want to avoid this one by all means. Oculus brings nothing new to the genre and is instead another disappointing horror effort from a director with a decent story, but no eye for properly constructing or executing such a basic premise.
Points go to director/writer Mike Flanagan for attempting to make something a little different, even if he comes up empty handed. Oculus is very much an empty horror film with nothing going for it, aside from a few occasional moments of terror that will frighten you for all of five seconds.
Oculus – 5.5/10