Several years after their father brutally killed their mother and terrorised them, Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) reunite in their old home. Tim has just been released from a mental facility, and Kaylie is determined to get to the bottom of the supernatural mystery that surrounded their trauma.
I have to admit, first of all, that I am not good with horror films. Not good at all. So not good in fact, that a colleague deliberately sat beside me at the press show for Oculus, suspecting my abject terror would be ‘hilarious’. Sadly, terror was not forthcoming.
Karen Gillan, in her first role post-Doctor Who, has disappointingly little to do. Her American accent is fine, and she does good scaredy face, but her character is paper thin, and is never really given a chance to develop. The same goes for Brenton Thwaites, Gillan’s co-star, who spends much of his time on screen arguing with Gillan and getting turned around by the supernatural elements at work.
Rory Cochrane – yes, Lucas from Empire Records – has more to do as the kids’ murderous and possessed father, and he does have some rather creepy moments. Poor old Katee Sackhoff doesn’t seem to be able to catch a break though, spending most of her time on screen as the kids’ mother either unconvincingly paranoid or chained to a wall.
Based on Mike Flanagan and Jeff Seidman’s short film Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man With The Plan, Oculus is a remarkable thing for a horror film; it is not scary. Remember I said a colleague sat beside me at the screening for the giggles? I did not jump, gasp or hide behind my hands once. The scares, such as they are, are utterly predictable and not surprising at all. As far as the story itself goes, we get loads and loads of back story, but no real origins tale, so while the film feels a little creepy, we are never given enough origins story to truly be scared.
As director, Mike Flanagan never truly ramps up the tension or atmosphere enough to make the scares work, leaving the energy of the entire film feeling flat. This could be due, in part, to relentless flashbacks that continually break the mood of the film and drag the energy down.
In all, Oculus is not a very scary, original or clever film. Gillan and Thwaites do what they can, Cochrane comes off the best and Sackhoff suffers in a film that feels ultimately flat, drawn out and lacklustre.