Smart, scary & unpredictable for the majority of its runtime, Oculus is a solidly crafted, skilfully executed & surprisingly effective entry in the world of horror that exquisitely handles its two storylines and makes superb use of available resources to establish an uneasy aura that reeks of mystery, dread & a sense of foreboding.
Written, edited & directed by Mike Flanagan (best known for Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil & Gerald’s Game), the story unfolds in two timelines – one taking place in the present while the other is set 11 years earlier, covering the siblings’ childhood & first stint with the mirror, and is told in flashbacks. Flanagan handles both storylines rigidly and narrates them in a consistent manner.
The script is no slouch as far as narrative structure is concerned. Flanagan gives both plots equal weight & attention and steers them towards a singular outcome. Characters aren’t intriguing at first but things do get better as plot progresses. Dialogue is its weak spot and required more refinement. There are times when it gets a bit confusing but most issues are resolved by the time it ends.
Flanagan’s decision to rely on mood instead of gore only works out in the film’s favour while a few unpredictable moments ratchet things up to further extent. The performances by the two kids playing the siblings outshines the acts of their respective adult counterparts, and although Karen Gillan does a good enough job with her role, Brentan Thwaites looks absolutely clueless and chips in with a flat input.
On an overall scale, Oculus is thrilling, entertaining & more involving than your average horror flick, and is amongst the better examples of the genre. There are some genuinely unnerving scenes in it plus its nonstop play with perceptions of reality keeps things tense & gripping right down to the end. Intercutting the two timelines in a way that puts the audience into the siblings’ shoes so that they too get to experience the mirror’s disorientating power, Oculus is a fresh, complex & twisted delight that comes recommended.