‘Oculus’ Movie Review Roundup: Is It Scarier Than ‘Paranormal Activity’?
Oculus begins when Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) is released from a psychiatric institute and his sister, Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan), reminds him of their promise to “kill it” — the supernatural presence that murdered their family years ago and which sent Tim to therapy. The film jumps between the present timeline and the past, where the viewer sees the supernatural violence unfold on their family when they were children, and which ended in their father killing their mother.
Kaylie is obsessed with proving that a supernatural force living inside the mirror that was once in their old family home is responsible for murdering their family, but in the process she puts both herself and her brother in danger. Oculus is made more suspenseful by the fact that it’s not immediately clear whether or not there is a supernatural element at work, or rather the genetics of mental illness making for a pretty unreliable narrator.
‘Oculus’: ‘Gorgeously Chaotic, Eerie, And Downright Frightening’
Here’s what the critics are saying:
“Mike Flanagan’s Oculus is a gorgeously chaotic, eerie, and downright frightening horror film. I saw a late night screening of it, which was, I feel, a mistake. Its effects still linger. It’s more than just a taut thriller (which it is), a well-made movie (which it most certainly is), or a clever premise (which it has). It’s scary. And that’s not something I can say too often.”
“As the plot constantly shifts between modern day events and Kaylee and Tim’s childhood experiences as they witnessed their parents’ lapsing sanity, “Oculus” becomes an effective allegory for the lingering trauma of familial dysfunction. The small ensemble meshes nicely with the sophisticated narrative approach: Thwaits, as the grown brother, maintains a credibly frightened demeanor as he worries that he might be going crazy all over again; Gillian, playing the Mulder to Thwaits’ Scully, continually strikes the calculated pose of a true believer even as her own insecurities slowly take over. Their collective fears of the unknown turn this rather basic premise into a sneakily profound meditation on more realistic concerns.”
Oculus is actually scary because it goes about its methods differently than most films in the genre.
The tactics of “scaring” with jump-scares are a far too common cheap trick among horror films. Yes, there are a few times when Oculus uses them, but they feel out of place within the context of the film, as if they were placed there because the studio said “that’s what people are coming to see.” The majority of the scares in the film are much more deeply rooted psychological scares, and it works really well.
Oculus will mess with your mind.
So, what do you think, HollywoodLifers? Will you be seeing Oculus? Or are you too chicken?
— Amanda Michelle Steiner