Director: Mike Flanagan
Studio: Intrepid Pictures
Stars: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff
An ornate antique mirror, a tormented pair of siblings and a tricky story structure that alternates between two distinct periods help make Oculus an especially clever, intelligent and satisfyingly creepy horror thriller.
Directed by Mike Flanagan (Absentia) from a screenplay cowritten by Flanagan and Jeff Howard, the film soars way above what might sound like a hokey (and, in the end, an admittedly iffy) premise. A 21-year-old man (Brenton Thwaites) gets sprung from a mental institution and reunites with his antiques dealer sister (Karen Gillan), who convinces him to return to their family home to destroy the mirror she insists possessed their father (Rory Cochrane) and drove him to torture and kill their mother (Katee Sackhoff) over a decade earlier. Whether shifting back and forth between past and present, swirling us around in nightmarish hallucinations or gleefully messing with perceptions of reality, Oculus is terrifically and disturbingly entertaining. It’s persuasively acted by the whole cast, it’s beautifully lit and photographed and it’s miles better than so many other shriek-and-shock hits of the past few years. The movie certainly goes for the throat, yet it’s subtler in its spookiness, with Flanagan delivering the goods but staying clear of CGI or clichéd shock stuff. Will that doom Oculus with audiences who demand cheap thrills with their horror?
Let’s hope not, because director Flanagan and Howard are real talents, ratcheting up the tension slowly and steadily and leaving so much to the viewer’s imagination and interpretation.