Netflix review: OCULUS (2014) – Halloween Special 2018

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It’s Halloween month, y’all, and you know what that means! It’s time to catch up on our favorite horror movies and gear up for Halloween! Last year, I did a Halloween special where I reviewed some of my favorite horror, or Halloween-appropriate movies and I had so much fun doing that, I wanted to do it again. Sadly, I don’t like a lot of horror movies, so my pool of material is about as deep as a puddle in summer in California. So in order to rectify this, I’ve reached out to the deepest and darkest corners of the internet and asked for a little help. And by that, I mean I went on Facebook. So, a very special thanks to the Movie Talk community, as well as my friends and co-workers, for your horror movie suggestions. I won’t be able to get to every single recommendation, but you’ve all left me with great ideas and there’s always next year! This is my Halloween Special 2018!

Starring: Karen Gillan (AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018], JUMANJI 2 [2017], THE BIG SHORT [2015], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], and upcoming films ALL CREATURES HERE BELOW [2018] and Avengers 4 [2019]), Brenton Thwaites (PIRATES 5 [2017], GODS OF EGYPT [2016], MALEFICENT [2014], and upcoming films GHOSTS OF WAR [2018] and A VIOLENT SEPARATION [2018]), Katee Sackhoff (TV shows BATTLESTAR GALACTICA [2004 – 2009] and BIONIC WOMAN [2007]), and Rory Cochrane (WHITE BOY RICK [2018], HOSTILES [2017], BLACK MASS [2015], and the upcoming TYSON’S RUN [2019])

Support: Annalise Basso (SLENDER MAN [2018], CAPTAIN FANTASTIC [2016], and upcoming films LADYWORLD [2018] and CAMP [2018]), Garrett Ryan (stuff I’ve either not seen or heard of), Kate Siegel (OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL [2016])

Director/Co-writer/Editor: Mike Flanagan (OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, and the upcoming DOCTOR SLEEP [2020])
Co-writer: Jeff Howard (OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL)
Composers: The Newton Brothers (BYE BYE MAN [2017], OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, and the upcoming MARY [2019])
Cinematographer: Michael Fimognari (BEFORE I FALL [2017], OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL, and the upcoming DOCTOR SLEEP)

This is my honest opinion of: OCULUS

 

(SUMMARY)

In the present day, younger brother Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) has just been released from a psychiatric ward. He reunites with his older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan), who has roped him into facing the terrible events that happened eleven years ago, involving the Lasser Glass mirror. This same is the same one that Kaylie believes is responsible for the deaths of their parents Marie (Katee Sackhoff) and Alan (Rory Cochrane).

(REVIEW)

So full disclosure, I’ve technically seen this movie before, but… meh, this is my blog and I write about whatever the hell I want. But I’ve not written about it yet, so I think it still counts.

Alright, so I sort of love this film. In a way, is has this weird effect, like, it’s gotten better the second time around, but the problems and limitations of its artistic intentions are a little more obvious.

What I absolutely love is that this horror film completely subverts the usual schlock the usually gets churned out. As in, there’s only one jump scare in the entire movie. But even better, the focus isn’t even really on the horror, but rather the psychological and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie do this better. Even the score, which usually has to do a single loud violin note when something scary happens, is actually quite subtle and subdued here. While this movie is rated R, so I definitely don’t think there’s any kids that should be watching this, the movie’s ability to not rely on jump scares and over-the-top scores makes this film very accessible to movie-watchers that are otherwise put off by the horror genre. Yes, there’s scary, disturbing, and violent imagery, but it’s still not bludgeoning your senses with obvious scares like a ton of movies do.

But that’s small fish. Like any great horror movie, one of the highlights are the characters and the genuine, organic connections they have with each other. In the beginning stages, Marie and Alan feel like a legit loving couple. They’re goofy, they give each other shit, but they don’t take their shit-giving seriously. When their kids are annoying, they yell at them to take it outside, but they love their kids. In the present day, you know that both Tim and Kaylie have been through a lot and have had to face their issues differently. So when the two siblings are forced to face the Lasser again, they’re clashing with their memories. Tim’s spent eleven years convincing himself that the events that happened with his family were driven by pure psychology and that all of the supernatural elements were created because they were kids who needed something to shield themselves from a reality that they may not have been able to fully understand. Kailey, however, has only bounced between foster homes and has obsessively compiled records of where the mirror came from has done everything in her power to learn where it came from, where it went, and what she can do to beat its influence over her mind. But even though that these two siblings are desperate to see each other’s perspective, there is a subtle, but strong love between the two. You feel their need to protect each other and to see themselves through to the end. Because of how believable their struggles are it’s really easy for the audience to care about them.

But let’s face it, while every actor pulls an ace performance, the real star of the movie is the Lasser Glass. Where do I even begin with this? For one, I appreciate that the origin of the mirror is never explained. Flanagan expressed that he didn’t want to do that, so he has my eternal gratitude and I think it should stay that way. Frankly, it ruins the mystique of the thing. Like, it’s never says that this thing is haunted by ghosts, or a demon, or if the mirror is just it’s own evil entity. We know that it’s been around for an ass-long time, and it’s brutally killed everyone that’s owned it. We also know that it royally fucks with your mind. What may seem like one thing, an apple, may end up being a light bulb. Or maybe… the apple that turned into a light bulb was always the apple. Yet the mirror still makes you feel the pain of biting into the bulb and hearing the shards hit the ground from the bite. The power of the mirror even affects people in different ways. Like, it practically possesses Alan, but he has all of his faculties. Sure, he uses staple-removers to chip away his fingernails and talks to unseen people in his office, but he otherwise appears normal-ish. Marie, on the other hand, is driven insane to a near feral animalistic state and attacks her children without hesitation. Even Kaylie and Tim simply hallucinate. Badly.

Basically, I love how the Lasser Glass works… in that, you don’t know how it works. Even if you figure something out, like what it feeds on and at what stages its powers are at, but no matter how much is uncovered, it’s never enough to fully understand it, or even really to outsmart it. Even what is understood could never truly be trusted to be the cold hard truth. Kaylie says that the mirror has a thirty-foot radius of effect. What if that radius is only what the mirror wants her to see? What if the events playing out on the recordings aren’t real? What if that’s only what the mirror wants them to see? You see what I’m getting at? The movie makes it clear that nothing is as it seems and nothing that’s seen should be trusted because it could all be fake.

Unless it’s a superhero movie, it’s not very often that I lobby for sequels, practically begging for them to happen, but I’d really like a sequel to this movie. It’s not like everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow and every answer is given to you. No, this movie leaves questions. And not the dumb kind, like, why didn’t this person do this or that (actually, it does, but we’ll get to that later), but rather piecing together what else the mirror can do. Like, do you need to look at the mirror in order to get affected by it? How fast does it affect you? If you hired a teenager to run in and throw a brick at it, would the mirror effectively fight back? Things like that, so a sequel could really explore just what else it can do and that would be pretty welcomed in my book.

For all my praises, this movie does have a few of problems.

For all the preparations that Kailey put into preparing to face the Lasser Glass again, why weren’t better precautions taken? Why didn’t she bring the mirror to the middle of the desert? Hire some dude with a sniper rifle and keep an eye on mirror so in case something happens, there’s literally a loaded gun being held up to it, rather than the anchor that she rigged to the ceiling? Why endanger her brother? Why involve him at all? She ought to have known how dangerous this thing is. Wouldn’t it have been better if he’d be as far away from it as possible? Honestly, I think it was just an artistic reason to have the setting feel enclosed and to allow more intimacy for the characters, but I think this is actually a hindrance on logic within the story. There’s no reason why more people could have been involved in the destruction of the mirror. There’s no reason why it had to take place in the house.

And what’s the deal with Marisol (Kate Siegel)? I mean, that was a name that Alan scribbled furiously over his papers, but… seriously, who was she? What was her significance? Just another victim that was used as a personification of the Lasser Glass’ seduction to control him? Just a chosen way to fuck with the Russell family? I legit don’t get it. Marisol is featured relatively prominently in the film, but very little is revealed to make us care about what she is.

Overall, despite a couple of problems surfacing, my second viewing of this movie was a far better, and even more uncomfortable, experience. It’s honestly a fantastic piece of psychological horror that I think anyone can dive in and see, even if you have an aversion to scary movies. The scares are subtle, the characters are great, the complementing acting is fantastic, and might just leave a pretty respectable impact. I adore this flick and will likely make it a part of my Halloween library when next year rolls around.

My honest rating for OCULUS: a strong 4/5

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7 Replies to “Netflix review: OCULUS (2014) – Halloween Special 2018”

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