Oculus is a supernatural horror that toys with the mind, calling consciousness and autonomy into question. Though chilling and startling, the film feels a little thin. The scares, however, pack quite a punch, and will have you jumping out of your seat.
Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) has spent years in a psychiatric hospital in an attempt to recover from the traumatic death of his parents. Eleven years after the horrifying incident, he is reunited with his older sister, Kaylie (Karen Gillan), who is convinced that dark forces were at work.
Oculus plays with horror clichés –power outages in a haunted house, cell phones malfunctioning, startling ghosts, found footage shots. But while it skims the edge of predictability, it manages to quickly jut in the opposite direction, repeatedly leaving you guessing or cringing. The use of found footage is sparse, and entirely situational. It serves a purpose and doesn’t dominate the film. The haywire cell phones add to the guessing game of the haunting at hand. The ghostly jumps are the most predictable of the lot, but aren’t relied upon. There are no crutches here. The film stands on its own for scares.
The performances are adequate across the board, and add little in terms of production value. Katee Sackhoff as Marie, the mother, elicits some of the film’s more startling scares as the film progresses. Unfortunately, she isn’t given enough screen time before hand to truly flush out the character. As a result we cringe when we see the cruelty inflicted on her, but don’t really care. Rory Cochrane as the father, Alan, is convincingly maniacal, but, again, isn’t given enough backstory for us to truly care about the character.
While this isn’t a horror film that will stick to you – Midnight Madness’s Martyrs in 2008 or A L’interieur from 2007 both packed a wallop that have stuck with me to this day – it’s a good time. Full of jumps and scares that’ll have you hiding behind your fingers, or clinging to the person next to you, Oculus is an enjoyable and easy horror film.