I almost didn’t watch Oculus. I tend to think a movie’s promo foretells its quality. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a trailer for a film and an inner voice told me, “This one’s a waste of time.” And usually, that inner voice is right. Something about the Oculus promo triggered that inner voice and this time I’m glad I didn’t listen.
With the demise of video stores comes the problem of not being able to find anything to watch, despite having numerous streaming services. There was something about all those Blockbuster video lined up neatly along the wall, rows and rows of movies, separated by genre, each with its cover very visible and easy to see. Back then, you could browse along then grab the most interesting looking movies and read their jackets. This made movie choosing a pleasant experience. Even the smell of video stores added to it. We could even grab our popcorn and soda at the same time, with the biggest drawback being having to get up and drive there.
It’s probably the fact that the images are so small and descriptions so brief, that can be hard to find something to watch. Also, it’s time-consuming. We no longer get that video-store experience and sometimes it’s just a chore. I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
At any rate, that’s how I found myself in a position where I couldn’t really find anything to watch. It was that circumstance that lead to my decision watch Oculus despite prior misgivings. I have to say, it was a risk that paid off.
The first thing that I thought would be a turn off is that the story is about a haunted mirror. To me that premise is too similar to the haunted toast that made such a splash on eBay. Nothing screams dumb like a face on toast being sold to the highest bidder! Maybe I’m jaded, but I have watched a lot of horror movies and know of what I speak!
Now why the word Oculus and what does Oculus mean? I thought it was an attempt to be similar to Insidious or a play on words pertaining to Incubus or Succubus, and perhaps the ring of similarity was intentional. But there is actually a word. To define Oculus: It’s an architectural term that describes a window or opening that resembles an eye. Now that makes sense, after the fact.
We enjoyed Karen Gillan’s performance as the smart, spunky and assured sister who leads a quest to prove that her father and brother were not responsible for the murders they committed a decade earlier. Instead, she works hard to prove that it was the fault of a 400-year old mirror that she claims has the power to haunt and possess those who own it.
While Hollywood is short on the haunted mirror theme (save movies like Mirrors) the concept is age-old. Many civilizations and several religions believe that mirrors are a doorway to the other side. And they believe that the dearly departed were inside those mirrors and could capture, then extract, the souls of the living through these passageways. Many believe that mirrors should be covered and some even remove them completely.
This tale plays upon these fears. Gaze into a mirror and see the reflection. A reflection of something that isn’t there. This is the opposite of vampires who appear in life, but not in the mirror. In one belief the mirror tells the truth (vampires). In another, it lies (Oculus).
Manipulation of reality is the basis of this evil inanimate object with a mind of its own. Its stubborn, refuses to lose and affects anyone who possesses it.
The effects in this movie are quite convincing and the film has a dark, creepy feel. There is some violence, but it relies more on twists and suspense than on gore for its scares, something that in itself makes this film worthwhile.