Oculus - Review

A scene from 'Oculus'.
A scene from 'Oculus'.

You know that feeling you get when you’re driving alone at night and you think there is someone in the back seat? Well, that’s how I felt after watching ‘Oculus’.

Directed by relative film making newcomer, Mike Flanagan, ‘Oculus’ is a wonderful example of how a horror film can not only make you wince and jump but also get under your skin.

Flanagan’s film is based on a short he made back in 2006 and it works tremendously well.

Kaylie Russell (Gillen) believes her brother, Tim (Thwaites), who spent ten years in a psychiatric unit believing a hunted mirror was responsible for the violent acts of his father.

After years of treatment, Tim leaves the hospital believing what the medical professionals told him; that his father was a bad man.

Kaylie insists a paranormal was responsible and along with her brother she sets out to prove the evil that the mirror is responsible.

Kaylie and brother Tim acquire the mirror and set up cameras and heat sensors to monitor it at all times; what follows is awesomely scary.

Coupled with a tremendous script and likeable actors in both Gillen and Thwaites, it’s safe to say that ‘Oculus’ is one of the most impressive horrors to come out of America in years.

I remember seeing ‘Paranormal Activity’ for the first time. Admittedly, I was absolutely terrified but as soon as the movie was over so was my engagement with it.

‘Oculus’ is much better in the sense that not only will it scare the ‘holy Bajesus ‘ out of you it’ll make you think twice about going to sleep with the light off.

I’ve said many times in the past in this movie review column but watching a good horror movie at your local cinema can be just as rewarding as the latest thriller or drama.

‘Oculus’ does what all good horror movies should do and that is it that it assaults the senses.

I didn’t know if I was coming or going watching it but that was a good thing. To say ‘Oculus’ had me on the edge of my street would be an understatement; I was that gripped by what was happening that I was practically out in the car park.

One of the most impressive aspects of Flanagan’s film is that it brings with it a degree of originality to the paranormal sub-genre of horror movies.

In the last few years we have had more than our fair share of haunted houses, poltergeists and even a haunted doll.

In ‘Oculus’ the object responsible for making people commit horrendous acts of violence is a haunted mirror.

In one scene a character thinks he is removing a plaster from his finger when in actual fact what he is really doing is pulling his fingernail off.

Obviously, such graphic scenes will turn some movie fans off but if your a cheerleader of gore and horror then ‘Oculus’ will not disappoint.

It’s an impressive performance from Gillan who comes hot on the heels of a successful sojourn on BBC’s ‘Doctor Who’.

Thwaites is good as suffering brother, Tim, and enjoys some of the best scenes the film has to offer.

Flanagan made ‘Oculus’ with a relatively small budget of $5m and although the film has only been on general release both here and in the US, it has already taken almost $40m at the Box Office.

It’s also remarkable to think that it only took Flanagan a few weeks to shoot the film in Alabama and its success just goes to show that you don’t have be a loud sounding blockbuster to enjoy positive accolades.

‘Oculus’ places more emphasis on a sense of dread as opposed to blood, guts and gore. It’s a tremendously smart, stylish and rich horror movie and whilst it may not be for the faint hearted it will creep into the hearts of many a horror fan.

‘Oculus’ is currently showing at the Brunswick Moviebowl; for full listings visit www.brunswickmoviebowl.com or telephone 028 71 371 999.

VERDICT: 3/5 - Mike Flanagan feature film debut will not only have your nerves wrecked but you’ll check your boot, the back seat and even glove compartment before driving home from the cinema. ‘Oculus’ is a smart and very well written horror film and it does what recent offerings from the same genre tried and failed to do and that is that it fills you with an awful sense of dread. Flanagan has announced his arrival on the horror scene with aplomb.