OCULUS directed by Mike Flanagan, written by.
OCULUS directed by Mike Flanagan, written by Flanagan and Jeff Howard, with Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane. A VVS Films release. 105 minutes. Opens Friday (April 11). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
This resourceful creeper feels like writer/director Mike Flanagan’s response to the diminishing returns of the Paranormal Activity series.
Most of the action is confined to a suburban home where a family falls under the sway of something awful – though in this case, the terror comes not from an invisible demonic force but from a centuries-old mirror that may or may not be haunted, possessed or simply sentient.
Brenton Thwaites and Doctor Who fan favourite Karen Gillan are adult siblings who blame the mirror for the deaths of their parents (played in flashback by Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff) 11 years earlier. Or at least one of them does, and is determined to prove it scientifically. Naturally, things don’t go well at all, and before too long our heroes are reliving their previous encounter, which unfolds in a parallel narrative.
Oculus doesn’t do anything especially new – in fact, its vibe is strangely similar to that of last year’s Mama – but it’s cleverly written, and the actors are all much better than they need to be. Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, who play the younger versions of Gillan and Thwaites’s characters, are terrific, and Cochrane and Sackhoff both go above and beyond the demands of the genre.