'Oculus' Movie Review Roundup: Critics Delight In Character-Driven Horror Flick
Oculus stars Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites as grown siblings seeking revenge on a cursed mirror that destroyed their lives and countless others before theirs.
Directed by Mike Flanagan, Oculus intertwines the narratives of your Kaylie (Annalise Basso) and Tim (Garrett Ryan) with that of them 10 years later (Gillan and Thwaites). In the interveening time, Kaylie has been obsessing over the night they lost both parents (Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane), while Tim has been locked down in a treatment facility until he no longer believes a mirror made him kill his father. Oculus is a horror genre film that focuses far more on the psyche than the violence of the supernatural.
Critics Review 'Oculus'
In reviewing Oculus, critics largely found Flanagan’s bravely near-bloodless film refreshing. Some even suggested that the film was not only good compared to other horror films, but generally interesting as a piece of cinema. Naysayers, however, critiqued Oculus for not having enough chilling moments to hold one’s interest.
“Tightly paced between two time periods, and edited so they become a blur, Oculus is a hallucinatory ghost story that packs serious punch. […] The key to director and co-writer Mike Flanagan’s great success here is the momentum he builds switching back and forth between then and now. […] Yes, there’s a bit of blood, and Sackhoff takes some terrible turns here, but Oculus is haunting because it messes with your head. That’s where the ghosts are.” – Tom Long, Detroit News
“What ensues is a claustrophobic mind-freak à la Roman Polanski's 1965 Repulsion that — thanks to co-writer and director Mike Flanagan's ironclad grip on the material — smartly grounds the showdown in the roots of childhood trauma and the adult siblings' warring views on how to deal with it. […] Less concerned with fake shocks and show-me violence than the grimly calibrated rotting of personalities, Oculus is one of the more intelligently nasty horror films in recent memory.” – Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times
“As Oculus builds toward its gruesome (but not unexpected) finale, the characters get lost in a series of hallucinations and flashbacks that don’t amount to much other than eat up screen time. Worst of all, the film simply isn’t scary. Flanagan, who uses admirable restraint with blood and gore, is aiming for a psychological thriller more than he is trying to outdo The Conjuring. Even on that level, though, the thrills are about as scary as one of those out-of-nowhere cats modest at best.” – Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald
“Oculus is not just a howling good horror film . It’s a terrific film by any standard — a smart, character-driven, original hair-raiser that creeped the socks off me with no cheap scares. Watching the assured, nerve-racking theatrical debut of writer/director Mike Flanagan, I felt he’d put me on an icy IV drip of dread. Oculus a story that could be an account of supernatural happenings, or a story seen from the viewpoint of a lunatic. It’s genuinely unpredictable.” Colin Covert, Star Tribune
Oculus, rated R, is currently in wide release.
– Chelsea Regan