Oculus was a genuinely scary film that had a heart, characterized by a good script and characters you could relate to. While there were certain familiar elements that sanded off some of the edges that would have made it a great film, it still delivered on its promise. Spoiler-free review follows (I only spoil the mediocre films):
- Tim: While the actor playing young Tim had only one expression (a kind of constipated fear, as though he always had to take a shit but was afraid to for some reason), the older Tim pulled off his role well. Despite his recent release from a mental facility, he was the reasonable character and had plausible (if wrong, of course) explanations for the bizarre events. He had the best lines in the film.
- Kaylie: An extraordinary performance from both the child actor and the older actor. Obviously unbalanced, obviously holding it together with spit and chewing gum, she made the movie. The young version inspired pathos and the adult version inspired empathy. Her OCD style of insanity was believable and reasonable, considering the circumstances. You didn’t like her, but you understood her. A fine line.
- My Eyes Deceive Me: The filmmakers did an excellent job of messing with the viewer’s perceptions, especially near the end of the movie. There was no way to determine what was real from what wasn’t, despite Kaylie’s best efforts. The disorientation was unsettling and one of the mirror’s best weapons.
- Yuck: Oculus earned its R-rating through creative, visceral use of gore. There were parts I wanted to look away from. Even when I expected what would happen, I was still grossed out. Two scenes in particular involving eating were particularly hard.
- Bros (and Sises) Before ‘Rents: the relationship between brother and sister, especially during the flashback scenes, was very poignant. As awful as it is, at times a sibling relationship is stronger than a parental one, especially when one or both parents is abusive. Kaylie and Tim’s bond in the face of their parents’ destruction provided the necessary heart of the film.
Across the board, Oculus was a very good ghost story, and I’m glad I saw it. 4 out of 5 stars.