Karen Gillan-starring supernatural thriller from Blumhouse is a good little midnight movie
Right back to Night of The Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, horror has always been at its best when it stays low-budget. Take Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, another offering from the impressive Blumhouse Productions – the company behind such high-hitting horrors as Paranormal Activity, Insidious and The Purge. Call it ‘austerity horror’, if you like, but these claustrophobic chillers are economical in more ways than one.
Expanded from a short by Flanagan, Oculus plays, with some skill, on the age-old idea of running away from the scariest thing in the room. Karen Gillan, who sports a more than credible American accent, plays Kaylie Russell, a gutsy lass determined to destroy an ornate looking-glass that she estimates destroyed countless lives – including those of her mother, father and brother.
The film opens with her meeting sibling Tim (Brenton Thwaites), recently released from a psychiatric unit after being traumatised by past events. Kaylie is convinced this supernatural mirror was responsible for turning their old man into a homicidal maniac, and drags Tim back to their family home, where she’s set up all manner of equipment – cameras, clocks and temperature gauges – to document the mirror’s unnatural powers.
Flanagan repeatedly flashes back to Kaylie and Tim’s childhood, when their parents (Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane) first moved into the house and brought with them this antique horror. If this leaves the film with a rather jagged structure, one that disrupts the rhythms of the story, there are still enough bumps and scares along the way to keep even the hardiest of souls on edge.
The best scenes are with Gillan, who takes her character into the mouth of madness. It’s compelling to watch, even if the gruesome finale (involving a very sharp-looking pendulum-blade) can be seen a mile off. That aside, Oculus is still a good little midnight movie.
General release from Fri 13 Jun.