Sunday, September 14, 2014

Oculus Review

As we get closer and closer to Halloween, one of my favorite times of the year. I can't help but start to get into the horror mood. You may recall I did a review not too long ago of Five Nights at Freddy's, and just recently I decided to play through P.T (long story short, go play P.T it's absolutely fantastic). I just can't help but feel the horror in the air and start to inch my way back to the horror genre, which is a genre that I feel can fail incredibly easily. But there are those times where once in a while, you see a horror movie or play a horror game that just plain works. Case in point, Oculus is one hell of a great horror movie.

What would you do if your family was afflicted with a demonic mirror? Would you try to sell it off and get rid of it, or would you keep try to make sure that no one ever gets their hands on it? For Kayleigh Russell and her brother Tim, they're going to not only try to destroy a demented mirror that has plagued their family ten years ago, but also record them destroying it so that people will realize that the mirror is indeed haunted. However, what happens when the mirror tries to fight back? We not only see Kayleigh and Tim's struggles with the mirror as adults, but we also see just how the mirror tormented their family in the past, with dark flashbacks to when they were kids and the monsters that their mother and father were becoming.

To say that this movie is a psychological thriller is a complete understatement. From the very beginning, the mirror, also known as the Lasser Glass, has an uncanny effect at distorting reality and bending everyone's perception of it. Often times, we see the characters doing one action, but then on the various filming cameras they have set up around the Lasser Glass to record its paranormal activities, the glass will show the characters do something completely different.

Case in point, one scene has Tim, who was released from a mental institution because he murdered his father in self defense the last time he encountered the Lasser Glass, scolding his sister for being so fixated that the mirror was demonic when he simply thinks that his father was a monster to begin with. After he scolds Kayleigh, he returns the room with the mirror inside of it, but all of their equipment and chairs have mysteriously moved. When reviewing the cameras, the cameras show Tim and Kayleigh moving everything, even though we just saw their conversation outside. So what really happened?

This movie isn't so much scary, but rather intense
That's pretty much the shtick for the whole movie. We see Tim and Kayleigh as adults trying to document the Lasser Glass, but the Lasser Glass is fighting back, especially since Kayleigh rigged a boat anchor to destroy the mirror if anything happens to them. However, the other half of the movie is watching Tim and Kayleigh live their childhood, but we watch their normal parents become victims of the mirror... or do they? There are several implications that lead you to believe that the mirror is responsible for corrupting their parents, but some parts might just be in their heads. After all, they're only children, so they can't be 100% sure. All that they do know is that their parents are slowly becoming monsters, but why they are is up to you.

I wouldn't go as far to say that this is a scary movie, but it delves into the kind of horror that I love sinking my teeth into. The horror here is purely psychological, but when something gory does happen on screen, rather than be scary, it's more disturbing than anything else. Seeing a man rip off his own fingernails is gruesome enough, but watching him then do unspeakable things to his wife is even more awful to watch. Just about every aspect of this movie is spine tingling just to sit through, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Like video games, the reason why horror movies don't usually work is because there is a lack of atmosphere. Think of some of the greatest horror movies of all time like Psycho, The Exorcist, or even The Shining, and you'll recall that not much really happens in those movies for the most part. Most of it is just watching the characters be themselves, but slowly the atmosphere changes with our characters mental state. As our characters become more depraved, the mood suitable changes, then when the climax hits, we're shitting ourselves in terror. Good horror is a slow burn. We need to be invested in the world of the characters. Most horror movies now just skip the middle part and go from 0 to 10 in an instant, and that's how you get cheap thrill horror.

Oculus does not mess around for making you feel vulnerable. After a rather long intro, then movie slowly starts to kick things into high gear. The movie wants to make you its victim and will do whatever it can to make sure tat you're just as vulnerable as its characters. In fact, what you see on the screen might be a blatant lie. You don't know what's happening. Hell, the characters rarely know what's happening, and they're often just as confused as you are.

Don't eat any apples
One thing that definitely deserves notice is how the two time periods are melded together perfectly. Both time periods are set inside the house, so there'll be transitions to the other time period without a moment's notice and you'll be taken back just as quickly tot he other time period. I would say that this is like a roller coaster, but I'm pretty sure roller coasters don't screw with you as much as this movie.

And oh God the ending. To say that the ending of this movie is a mindfuck is an understatement. Hell, the last twenty minutes of this movie is a nonstop heart attack that will leave you terrified, confused, heart broken, and gripping the edge of your seat. The climax is a culmination of both storylines, so you'll be kept entertained until the end for both. Even if you know how their childhood story ends (not too well for Kayleigh and Tim fyi), just seeing the how of it all is all that I needed. You know that tired old phrase "It's not the destination, but the journey"? Yeah, that applies to this movie in spades. Spades, spades, spades, spades, spades. Even then, then ending left me completely in shock and awe and without a proper reaction from me. I was left speechless by this movie, and that almost never happens. Never.

But I think I love this movie so much because of how it approaches horror in the first place. Yes it takes time to establish the mirror and the mental tricks it plays on everyone, but a large portion of the movie is just Kayleigh and Tim arguing about whether or not the mirror is haunted. After all, they both went through a truly tragic experience that left their family nearly destroyed and mentally scarred. Tim, who just got out of a mental hospital mind you, is very sensible and is a realist is very skeptical of the mirror being haunted, while Kayleigh is gung-ho about the mirror being the source of all their problems. The movie takes time to say that both sides have valid arguments and that even as an audience member, you don't know who is right. Yes this is a horror movie, but is everything that Kayleigh says true? Is the mirror really responsible for everything bad that has ever happened to her, or is it just a scapegoat for her to use to justify everything?

This does not bode well...
It's safe to say that this is a damned fine horror movie for any horror enthusiast. It has mood, creepy imagery, disturbing gore, terrifying characters, and a hook that will keep you watching until the very end. If I could list any problems, it's that the movie takes a long time to really get going and that it takes about a half hour for anything to remotely get interesting. But once you make it past that half hour, you're in for the ride of your life. I was thrilled in the middle, and I was chilled by the end. Oculus is a keeper of the horror genre and deserves to be a part of any enthusiast's shelf.


Never underestimate the power of a good horror movie...

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