‘Oculus’: The mirror is watching
A two-star movie review of “Oculus,” a clever but off-putting horror film about a sinister mirror that takes a brother and sister back to the night their parents were killed.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Oculus,’ with Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan. Directed by Mike Flanagan, from a screenplay by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. 104 minutes. Rated R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language. Several theaters.
The evil mirror in the clever but off-putting horror film “Oculus” looks like the sort that a wicked fairy-tale queen would cackle at herself in. It wears a malevolent-looking curly black frame and seems far too big for the wall it’s hanging on; you imagine that it could, quite happily, swallow the wall, along with any unsuspecting doors and staircases for good measure. And it is, alas, by far the most interesting character in “Oculus,” mainly because it doesn’t say anything.
That’s not to say there aren’t scares aplenty in this film, which whirls together two concurrent stories: the present, in which a strange brother-sister duo (Brenton Thwaites, Karen Gillan) revisit their childhood home a decade after the violent death of their parents; and 10 years earlier in the same place, on the night of the crime. The mirror, which carries an evil force in its reflection, plays a key role on both nights, as the two events merge together in such a way that the siblings, along with the audience, become terrifyingly disoriented. Director/co-writer Mike Flanagan shows a knack for the quick-cut yikes-what’s-that moment, if not always for dialogue, and while “Oculus” does feel a bit overlong, it doesn’t flag in its final act.
You can almost see “Oculus 2” in the mirror’s reflection; horror movies these days tend to become franchises at the drop of a knife, and this one’s better than many. But I found myself bothered by its repeated scenes of violence against young children, which are depicted with a disturbing realness; it’s hard to be deliciously scared when you just don’t want to watch. Bring back the mirror; change out the rest.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org