Oculus Review

The other night I noticed that Oculus had shown up on Netflix. I’d been wanting to see if ever since FlayOtters a.k.a Charlie from Austin had talked about it on Horror Show Hot Dog. I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it in the theatre, though that’s no surprise. I almost never see anything in theatres these days.

Last night, I decided to watch it before bed. It probably would have been better to watch it with someone, but opportunities for that are rare lately. It has a nice tense atmosphere and for a change, I didn’t get bored and start playing games on my cell phone.

It’s a smart film, with the horror kept mostly subtle. At this point, I’d say if you intend to watch it, stop reading. What I’m going to discuss after this point will probably spoil some if not most of the fun of watching it.

The film revolves around a mirror, which contains something evil. It extends a sphere of influence in which it can screw with reality. It drains the life from plants and small animals, using that energy to create hallucinations and to corrupt people. It’s a smart premise, a nice clear set of boundaries.

There are two main characters, a brother and a sister, who first encountered the mirror as children. The “present” is a decade later, when the brother has been released from the psyche ward, and is trying to get on with his life. The sister has managed to recover the mirror and intends to destroy it. She has done her research and is fully prepared to fight it. The brother is in denial about it, his therapists having convinced him that the events were tragic but mundane. So, we’ve got the nice pairing of believer and skeptic.

For a change, the believer is playing it smart. She’s rigged up a series of systems designed based on what she’s been able to research about the mirror. She has a few cameras set up to observe it, some fancy sensors, some analog clocks to remind her to change the tapes and to eat, and something akin to the sword of Damocles; a boat anchor positioned to smash into the mirror and destroy it. This dead man’s switch is her protection against the influence of the mirror, the idea being that if she’s dead, she won’t reset  timer and so the mirror will be destroyed. And since the mirror seems to be intelligent, it’ll know that. However, she wants to prove that the mirror is evil and responsible for the death of her parents. So, she needs to give it some time to screw with them before destroying it.

On some levels, this premise really fits. You’ve got a reason for them to be there, a reason for them to be interacting with it rather than just actively destroying it, but you’ve also got a fairly high probability that something will go wrong.  It works, and there are times when you initially wonder if the issue is just in her head.

The problem is that all of her precautions rely on humanity. A few are electric, but she expects those to fail. The anchor is on a kitchen timer and thus in theory out of reach of this thing. Except it screws with people, and there are two people in the house who could effect the timer.

In some ways, this movie reminds me of 1408. It isn’t someone being screwed with by something they have no idea about, it’s someone trying to face down something they are prepared for.

I enjoyed it, and I think it’s worth watching. And I’ve decided not to spoil the ending.

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