“Oculus” is a psychological horror film that will have your mind spinning and your eyes second-guessing what you see in the mirror. I hesitate to call this a horror film because it is more of a thriller with a few moments of horrific imagery, but I suppose that the ghosts with glowing eyes are enough for most to consider it horror. And the staple remover and the lightbulb! But a label isn’t important when you have well-paced surprises that pump your adrenaline at calculated moments from start to finish. Prepare to be disturbed and on the edge of your seat when you watch this one. The use of dual storylines is an excellent device to give this story depth and display the hallucinations caused by the mirror. When the two storylines merge, the film becomes a disorienting nightmare that mixes past with present and delusion with reality. I read that the final twenty minutes of the movie became so complex that the writers had to italicize the text of past events to keep everything straight. I cannot imagine the intricacy of filming and editing these sequences, but the final result is stunning. The script is brought to life by amazing acting performances. Karen Gillan’s performance is far beyond what I typically expect from a horror film and I cannot wait to see her in more roles. Brenton Thwaites captures the blend of disturbed child and rational adult that so perfectly contrasts his confident older sister. I was really amazed by Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, the child versions of the aforementioned characters. They bring a continuity to the characters (as they act alongside the adult versions of each other) that is convincing and realistic. The film relies on a constant sense of dread of what might happen next instead of cheap scares that fade quickly. The film flies by because the anticipation never loses steam. It doesn’t need to rationalize what is happening because we just accept the circumstances and hope for a happy ending. I would love to see a sequel, but I said the same thing about “The Ring” so I’m grateful that this standalone story keeps us wondering “what if.” In this case, it is best to just leave your jaw dropped to the floor. “Oculus” is a true sleeper hit that will force you to look away from the screen a few times but keep you looking back to find out what happens next.
[Pictured: Gillan and Thwaites bring the intensity that drives this entire film]