Mike Flanagan has made quite a splash with his first real big screen horror fest Oculus. And who would have thought that something as simple as a household mirror could be so incredibly frightening.
Flanagan co-wrote and directed this story and he has both an astute command of pacing as a writer and tone and feel as a director. From the moment the film starts, his signature is all over every aspect. This is an example of a filmmaker operating in a medium he was born to work in, with a story he so keenly knows and that comes through on every frame. The benefactor of the brilliance is the audience.
Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane play parents in flashbacks and something horrible happened in their home in the days and weeks after an antique mirror was purchased and placed in Cochrane’s home office. And what is so thrilling (we love horror movies and thrillers when they can achieve this) is the ever-so-slow bone-chilling unraveling of Cochrane’s mind -- and also Sackhoff’s. Is it the mirror?
The mirror clearly has a demonic power to it, but it is laid out so subtly that Flanagan is serving its fear factor to us ever so slowly over the course of the film.
And the fact that his film, teased in the Oculus trailer, toggles back and forth between modern day and those horrible events of the past -- further speaks to the filmmaker’s talent and grasp for his material and its genre.
In modern times, Karen Gillan (soon to be seen as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy) and Brenton Thwaites are Sackhoff and Cochrane’s children. Thwaites is just getting out of a mental institution that he has been in since the “incident.” He is picked up by his sister upon his release and she has one thing on her mind. She has found the mirror and she wants to destroy it once and for all.
It is at this point that Flanagan effortlessly moves between time periods and it only increases the tension, the horror and the scares.
What is the deal with this mirror? How are Gillan and Thwaites connected to it and its fate?
Those are just a few of the questions that arise throughout the film and many are answered. But, our Oculus review states, thankfully, Flanagan wraps up his film with a jaw-dropping turn that will have you guessing and also have the audience begging for more.
And with a genre like horror that is so familiar with the idea of the sequel, we hope to take another look into that horrible mirror once more… very soon.
Time will tell if Oculus becomes a classic. But in some ways, watch The Shining online and see if Oculus reminds you of it -- you know, through that whole father goes nuts storyline!