Review: Oculus (Heather’s Take)

2014/04/10 17:28:52 +00:00 | Heather Wixson

Definitely one of the more original horror movies to hit multiplexes in some time, Mike Flanagan’s Oculus is based on his 2006 short film and does a great job of delivering everything you could want from a paranormal tale about a killer mirror. Flanagan effectively turns his inanimate killer very much into an entity that’s just as deadly as anything with a pulse- a remarkable feat- all while cleverly concocting an intriguing and complicated tale that isn’t afraid to get a little nasty.

The story of Oculus follows siblings Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) as they attempt to reveal the truth about a traumatic childhood event they both suffered decades ago that just so happens to be linked to a centuries-old mirror once owned by their family. Strong-minded Kaylie has spent years searching for The Lasser Glass (a name that the infamous mirror was given after its first owner was found dead by mysterious causes) and when she finally gets her hands on it, things go horribly wrong. Of course, this causes both Kaylie and Tim to question everything they believed about the mirror, the truth of the tragic events of their childhood and just how tight their familial bond really is once the mirror pulls out all its deadly tricks on the duo.

What really sets Oculus apart from many of its paranormal counterparts is that whenever you think you know where the story is going, Flanagan finds an intelligent way to create a cinematic swerve that never feels artificial or forced, a feat that few modern spookfests have been able to pull off as of late. The film's narrative structure, which admirably involves quickly moving back and forth between the past and present, becomes more elaborate as Flanagan and his killer mirror do a bang-up job of manipulating his characters and the audience in some playful and jaw-dropping ways throughout.

Oculus does get a bit too talky for its own good every now and again though, as much of Flanagan’s story is driven by large chunks of exposition, generally delivered by the truly stellar Karen Gillan, that will undoubtedly test the patience of viewers who are looking for something that’s more of a continual onslaught of scares. For those of you who are able to enjoy a movie that takes its time and that successfully builds to a satisfying- and truly effed up- finale (kudos Mr. Flanagan!), Oculus continuously propels forward by its powerful sense of dread coupled with the nifty use of dual realities that results in some truly shocking and visceral moments that I certainly wasn’t expecting.

Movie Score: 3.5/5

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    After falling in love with the horror genre at a very early age, Heather Wixson has spent the last decade carving out a name for herself in the genre world as a both a journalist and as a proponent of independent horror cinema. Wixson is currently the Managing Editor for, and was previously a featured writer at and where her online career began; she’s also been a contributor at FEARnet as well as a panelist for several of their online programs.

    Wixson recently finished her first book, Monster Squad: Celebrating the Artists Behind Cinema's Most Memorable Creatures, and is currently working on her second upcoming book project on special effects artists as well.

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