A woman tries to exonerate her brother, who was convicted of murder, by proving that the crime was committed by a supernatural phenomenon.
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Upon Reflection – Simply Brilliant
It was 2006 when director Mike Flanagan first caught our attention. We obtained a copy of his short, Oculus: Chapter 3 and were one of the first internet reviews of the short (a favourable review in case you were wondering). We kept our eye on Flanagan through the years through his follow up projects, Makebelieve (2000), Still Life (2001) and Ghosts of Hamilton Street (2003). But it was Flanagan's 2011 film, Absentia, that really put the budding director in the limelight.
Absentia was a small yet ambitious project that did its best on the festival circuit before getting some attention on VOD and DVD and was Killer Reviews' pick as the best horror film of 2011. Flanagan is back behind the camera with Oculus, a picture that was picked as one of the Elite 10 of the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness Series.
Oculus tells the story of Tim and Kaylie Russell (Brenton Thwaites, Karen Gillan). Tim has recently been released from a mental institution where he spent most of his younger years after he and his sister witnessed a deadly family tragedy that left Tim's psyche in a state of fragility. Only hours removed from the hospital, Kaylie convinces Tim that a mirror procured and displayed at the Russell household was the cause of their violent childhood. Kaylie is convinced that the mirror has a 300-year history of death and destruction and she solicits Tim's help in an attempt to confront and destroy the evil that possesses the antique mirror.
Kaylie and Tim's attempts to find answers and draw out the evil lead to violent hallucinations and flashbacks that both siblings in danger and challenge the sanity of the recuperating Tim. As their night alone with the mirror draws long, Kaylie and Tim soon learn that the mirror is still the dominant force and their attempts at closure soon become a race for survival.
If Absentia was Flanagan's Star Wars, then Oculus is his Empire Strikes Back. A better more polished film, Oculus was as eerie and involving as it was particularly complex in its non-linear storytelling. Much like Absentia, Oculus is intelligent in its unravelling and doesn't cater to the microwave generation's want for a high body count while still delivering the goods.
The acting was stellar with familiar faces Rory Cochrane (CSI: Miami) and Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) complementing the adult Gillan and Thwaites). But is was the performance of the younger Kalie (Annalise Basso) that steals the movie with a virtuoso performance that demonstrates the young actor's range.
Horror fans that have longed for a good and clever thriller involving ghosts and the paranormal will have their thirst quenched with the smoothness of a 12-year-old Scotch. Oculus is everything we could have hoped for from the no-longer-unknown Flanagan.
It is a superior thrill ride that will challenge audiences to keep up with the fast moving plot developments while delivering upon an onion layered type screenplay that will keep your guessing not only in what happens next, but if what is happening is even real.