As a long-time fan of Doctor Who, I was naturally interested to see what Amy Pond- I mean, Karen Gillian, is doing after leaving the TARDIS. A psychological horror film is not a massive step forward for her, having done tamer and shorter versions of it for Television. As well as this, the director Mike Flannigan is no stranger to this style of film. His troll abduction story Absentia that was a straight to DVD release was met with positive reviews and this feature length film is, in many ways, an expansion of his 2006 short film Oculus Chapter 3: The Man with the Plan.
So the key players are close enough to their comfort zones, and this recent newfound interest in mystical horrors ensures a wide market for any new competitors. The film is about two children who survive an encounter with a haunted mirror, but it takes the lives of their parents, eleven years later they return to their old home to document their struggle against the evil object. The whole, haunted mirror element translates very well onto the modern screen. With newer cinematographic techniques they can easily and effectively convey the offbeat and paranoid sensibilities that the plot is supposed to create for the main characters.
The unusual structure of the film also helps to create this effect. It is remarkable how much terror Flannigan presents is spectacular considering that nearly all of the film takes place in just one location in different time periods. The first encounter with the horrific object is intertwined with their present day encounter to keep the viewer guessing even though one story reflects the other.
These siblings are certainly interesting characters as well, going in very different directions to try and cope with their traumatic childhood encounter. It makes them very believable as brother and sister, and both are individual despite still sharing a common link. Kaylie (Gillian) has become controlling and obsessed with the mystical mirror, with e deep vengeful desire. In contrast, her brother Tim (Brenton Thwaties) is in stern denial, having endured years of therapy to convince himself that what occurred was just in his head, and is understandably reluctant to go back. Their development is just as intriguing, but I’ve already given away more than I wanted to, so I will leave it to you to discover how much they change.
This is quite a small time horror production, so do not expect massive amounts of blood and gore. It is much more about the subtle fear and paranoia that is shown throughout. As well as this Oculus could be the first chapter in a new horror franchise for fans of the genre. That being said, if it is a standalone film then personally I’ll be just as satisfied for two reasons. Firstly this is a strong film and there is no great need for all of the loose ends to be tied up, no one wants to see the popularity degraded by too many weaker sequels.
Secondly, Flannigan has proven to be a good director with such a limited scenario. He might return to direct sequels, but part of me wants to see different projects come out so he can demonstrate any more skills in film making he may possess. He is certainly a director to watch out for.
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