Sunday night at The Ryerson saw the premiere of Mike Flanagan's haunted mirror flick Oculus.
Over a decade after their parents were killed, Kaylie (Karen Gillan) & Tim (Brenton Thwaites) return to their childhood home to confront the supernatural force they believe is responsible.
Oculus is, quite simply, the horror film to beat this year. It is absolutely fantastic. I think my mind is still reeling from the amount of skill that was displayed here. The film's narrative, which involved jumping back and forth from past to present, became increasingly more elaborate as it progressed, but was never once confusing. Flanagan's knack for creating malevolent inanimate objects – as was the case in his also solid 2011 feature Absentia – is expanded on here with the wildly colourful lore behind an object dubbed The Lasser Glass. As he explained in the following Q&A, this project was originally supposed to be an anthology, which I can totally understand. Most impressive is how Flanagan utilized dread as a blanket, and not just a parade of jump scares – though are some of those as well – which, as we all know, is exponentially more difficult to pull off.
|Karen Gillan & Brenton Thwaites in Oculus.|
This film is one of the few horrors in quite some time that, while recalling similar genre efforts, always felt fresh. While something like The Green Inferno did what it did well, it didn't add anything to the equation, whereas Oculus shined brightly beyond just simple emulation. Sure, I can see a lot of Stephen King in this picture, most notably The Shining & 1408, as well as horror titles like Session 9 and 1980's The Boogeyman, but there is a contemporary feel to Oculus which makes it its own beast. Modern technology was used as a way to augment the story and not in a hackneyed “found footage” way.
Oculus was also helped monstrously by its cast. The two leads were very good together, as well as their younger counterparts, played by Annalise Basso & Garrett Ryan. Rory Cochrane – who was at Midnight Madness twenty years ago with Dazed & Confused – and Katee Sackhoff were also solid in very demanding roles as the doomed parents.
|Director Mike Flanagan, producer Trevor Macy & stars Katie Sackhoff, Brenton Thwaites & Rory Cochrane.|
Oculus exceeded my every expectation, and I'm very much looking forward to watching it again in the future. This was just a wonderfully well constructed horror film.