Oculus (R) As is often the case with a better than average horror picture, Mike Flanagan’s Oculus is in danger of being oversold as being better than it is. Oh, it’s good and Flanagan — after years of little-seen direct-to-video or barely released efforts — has a well-deserved little hit on his hands. It has a lot going for it. It has a nicely-building sense of dread. The acting is solid enough. The soundtrack is effective at keeping the tension going. The interplay between current events and those of 11 years earlier verges on brilliant. But perhaps the most ingratiating aspect of the film is that it is so professionally made. The camera set-ups are all stable. There’s not a trace of jittery-cam to be found in the entire film. Having said all that, I’ll also note that the film is longer than it needs to be (a disease of our era) and the ending isn’t all that it might have been. The results are a good, but not great movie — but still certainly one for genre cognoscenti. The story is a somewhat new wrinkle on the old haunted mirror schtick. The slightly new approach here has little to do with the mirror itself, but with the main characters. Kaylie Russell (Karen Gillan) is a young woman of 23. Her 21-year-old brother, Tim (Brenton Thwaites), is just getting out of a mental hospital for the murder of their father 11 years earlier. The truth, of course, is that he didn’t do it — the mirror caused it. While Tim has spent those 11 years being convinced that he was responsible, Kaylie has been tracking down the evil history of the murderous mirror. She’s also been planning to keep their childhood promise of destroying the mirror and proving Tim’s innocence. None of this is as simple as it may sound. First of all, others have attempted to smash the damned thing and the results have been ... inimical to their well-being. Plus, Tim really has come to accept his guilt and would rather put all this behind him. He doesn’t do that, of course, because otherwise there wouldn’t be much of a movie — just the possibly unhinged Kaylie talking to her elaborate video set-up about the history of the mirror and waiting for it to do something. Where the movie just doesn’t come together is the ending. It should be big, it should be shocking. Instead, it’s adequate, which is OK, I suppose, but oughtn’t you be able to expect more?
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard
Producer: Trevor Macy Marc D. Evans
Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff