When arriving at the theater to view “Oculus” a couple of months ago, there was not a parking space in sight. Growing frustrated, I was ready to give up on the notion of seeing a film that afternoon. However, upon driving to the back of the parking lot, I found one lonely parking space was available. In hindsight, I feel the reason a space was so difficult to come by that day is because the theater attempted to warn me that “Oculus” was not worth my time.
The premise is sound enough for a modern day horror film. Two siblings, Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan) and Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites), find themselves back in their childhood home. Kaylie is determined to exonerate her brother for the death of their father, Alan Russell (Rory Cochrane), and their father from the death of their mother, Marie Russell (Katee Sackhoff). What could have framed these two family members? A mirror that resides supernatural entities.
Kaylie obtains the mirror once more by working for an auction house. She manages to gain possession of the mirror by tricking those around her into thinking she is escorting the mirror to be repaired. While Tim initially insists he wants nothing to do with destroying the mirror, a promise the two made to each other as children, he is sucked back into this world with very little persuasion by his sister. And although part of me knows that there is one person in each of our lives whom can talk us into anything, Tim’s will power quickly fades and he falls back into his old life as if he never left.
Normally, this would not bother me because I can understand how people leaving an asylum could potentially fall back into habits that are not necessarily healthy for them. However, Tim’s recession makes little to no sense to me overall. After all, his doctor believed Tim was truly sane upon leaving the institution. And he proves his sanity by choosing not to stay with his sister after she insisted upon destroying the mirror. Instead, he chooses to stay in a run down apartment even though his sister and her fiance appear more than capable of providing for him. She even explains she is capable of taking care of him, yet he chooses not to stay with her.
Despite his good decision, he still finds himself agreeing to go with her to the house where she has had the mirror taken. Instead of leaving once Kaylie begins her experiment, Tim agrees to stay. And in that very moment, viewers are guaranteed Tim is staying for the duration of her goal to expose the mirror to the world. What I cannot fathom is what makes him go from not wanting to compromise his recovery to staying for the beginning of the experiment. Granted, he wants to be there for his sister. He wants to support her. However, the doctor even foreshadows not to fall into the trap of letting his sister destroy what he has learned inside the institution. He even makes a point to remind him that he has had help to deal with the traumatic experience they experienced as children, but she has not which could be detrimental in the long run.
And while I understand Tim wants to be there for his sibling, since he was too frightened when he was younger to do much, why he would compromise his sanity is beyond me. This is the only reasonable explanation I can provide as the reason he chooses to stay with his sister. Despite the questionable reasoning for staying, there are some redeemable scenes. The scene that involves a light bulb is the one particular that comes to mind.
In addition to that scene, the parallels between the childhood and adulthood of the siblings is confusing at first, but one of the more interesting parts of the film. The only thing that could have made this better were smoother transitions to let audiences in on this trick from the beginning instead of leaving viewers to their own wits in this case. However, I did enjoy how it could make a person begin to debate if there truly is an alternate universe, and which universe is real and which one is fantasy.
While blending the two worlds together, viewers are provided answers as to the two main characters past, but never a true back-story to the mirror. We only see the correlations that occur in almost every circumstance in the homes of where the mirror resided at the time, which only leaves viewers with even more questions. This is made even more painful knowing how slow the film feels upon the initial viewing. There are slow-burn films, which provide a pace that keeps one interested, and then there is “Oculus,” which makes you want to check your phone for the time.
Maybe with the tagline, “It sees what it wants you to see” I should have seen this coming. The fact of the matter still remains that the film leaves viewers wanting more, yearning for answers, and ultimately delivers neither.