A woman tries to clear the name of her father for the death of her mother, by proving that the cause was supernatural. Her brother, who killed their father to save them, is dragged into her plan.
I’d heard a lot of good things about Oculus before seeing it, so (perhaps somewhat perversely) I was expecting it to be disappointing. I mean, I don’t think I’m alone in finding that well-hyped movies tend to not live up to the expectation that the hype builds up, right?
Thankfully, I was wrong to be dubious. Instead of disappointment, what I got was a movie that was intelligently self-referential, whilst still managing to bring something new to the table.
There are a few haunted house movie tropes in Oculus: a new home in which there’s an escalation of weird behaviour and strange events; a psychological breakdown that tears apart an otherwise idyllic family; and a frantic face-off between that family and the forces of evil that culminates in violence. This is all stuff that we’ve seen hundreds of times before.
Instead of leaving things there, however, Oculus brings us back to the scene of this event ten years later, pitting Tim (Brendan Thwaites) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan) against each other in the age-old debate of what might be considered conventional wisdom vs. the supernatural. What I really loved about what follows is the way in which this ongoing struggle between the rational and irrational – between what’s real, and what’s not – is handled, in that, right up until the very end, we don’t really know what the answer is. Which is to say, I came out of the movie having a lot more information, but no solid answers – and, I’m perfectly okay with that.
Thwaites and Gillan do a great job of keeping up the intensity of the movie – as do their younger counterparts, Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan (who, as a side note, has a profile photo on IMBD that I find hilarious). Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane do a fine job as their parents, but I can’t help but think of them as nothing more than plot devices for the real action – which is all about Tim and Kaylie.
I like that this wasn’t your typical dark and scary ghost movie, because I feel like the fact that it was well-lit helped in keeping us focused on the fact that, at its core, this was a psychological thriller. I actually found myself wondering at a couple of points whether this movie might have been even better without the ghosts; but I wouldn’t say that they were necessarily detrimental, so I’m fine with leaving things as they are.
At the end of the day, while I could have done with some more actual scares, I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining Oculus was. It’s definitely worth watching.