Yet another film from Blumhouse Studios. After producing such films as Paranormal Activity, Sinister, Insidious, The Bay, The Purge, amongst others, it’s pretty much a given that I’ll check out whatever they put out. So far they have managed to churn out a library of solid releases that have done well at the box office by combining a low budget approach with quality film making. Oculus is the newest release to join the ranks. With a budget of $5million, and already grossing over $22million since its release on April 11, clearly the formula works.
Because this film is relatively new, I’ll stay clear of spoilers, aside from what we learn from the trailer ( http://youtu.be/dYJrxezWLUk ). The film concerns a brother and sister who endured a horrible ordeal as children when their parents both apparently suffered a violent psychotic break, leading to the parents death, and both children being traumatized. Both seem convinced that the cause of all this was an evil mirror that hung in the Fathers office. Years later, they come back into possession of the mirror. Tim, has spent years in an institution is convinced they made it all up as a way of coping with the insanity of their parents, while Kaylie desperately clings to the belief that the Mirror is host to a sentient evil that needs to be destroyed.
Kaylie has set up an elaborate set up of timers, alarms, cameras, and other knick knacks that she intends to use to help her and her and her brother do not fall victims to the power of the mirror. She explains into the cameras the abridged history she was able to learn about the mirror, and the purpose for all the equipment, namely making sure they document the mirrors power and can keep themselves from becoming victims. Then she goes on to explain her belief that somehow the mirror is able to manipulate the minds of those in close proximity and induce complex Hallucinations. As she begins the experiment and explains her intentions, Tim tries to rationalize with her using his “fresh from the psyche ward” logic. This scene is incredible for several reasons, the first is that it addresses and explains any plot hole that exists in the film and also explains it away. So long as you are willing to go along with the premise, all will be well. It also serves as a perfectly logical exposition scene by explaining her hypothesis into the cameras for documentation. By introducing the control element of the video cameras, the audience is given a chance to keep a track of reality once shit starts to get twisted…and twisted, things do very much get!
Not only does the Mirror induce frightening and confusing hallucinations, but the narrative also jumps back and forth between present day and the original event when Kaylie and Tim were children. To make it even more confusing, the flashbacks overlap and synch up with the present timeline…oh yeah…and the hallucinations from both the past and the present seem to play with the timeline as well! It’s hard to tell if the flashback is a narrative device or if it is a modern hallucination. At certain points the present day Tim and Kaylie seen to be able to see their younger selves…but can the younger selves see the present day selves? Yeah…bit of a mind fuck.
What sticks out most to me about this film is not the cinematography, the acting, the score, etc (which are all spot on), it’s that at no point during the film is a distinction being made between whether we are seeing the work of an evil mirror, or the manifested psychosis of a family with a history of violent mental illness. The true test of this film in my eyes is the amount of time I spend thinking about it after i’ve finished watching it, how much it sticks with me. I’ve spend hours and hours over several days thinking about what Oculus has shown me…and I’m still a little uneasy around mirrors.
This film cannot possibly receive enough high praise from me, and I encourage EVERYONE to see it while still in theaters.