People (and some borderline trolls) discussing Oculus (just from seeing a TV spot or a trailer) are bitching that haunted/cursed mirror movies have been “done to death” already. Well, the last one I remember seeing in the theater was the (fairly) mainstream, gruesome and terrifying Mirrors (grown men in the theater yelled in fear, and I was letting out some serious screams myself; there was even a walkout close to the end of the very gory bathtub jaw-rip scene… I wonder how they’d react to the unrated version) and that was back in early 2008. Since then I’ve seen Mirrors 2 (2010) on VOD and it wasn’t a strict sequel (I was positive it was based on a J-horror or K-horror flick, due to the formula, even before I finished watching; I later read and confirmed the fact), plus a pretty creepy–and fun– little Philippino horror flick called Feng Shui (about the only feature-length film in Tagalog I’ve really enjoyed, and recommended– as a bonus, it’s got a neat kind of Final Destination theme woven in, where people are marked for death in a certain way). That’s about it as far of the list of haunted mirror movies, so I call bullshit on that.
Also, if you’ve seen Mike Flanagan’s début film, Absentia, you know how creative he can get. The movie wasn’t perfect, but the fright it generated caught me off guard… and I’m not even talking about “jump” scares. Now, we get to see what he can do with a larger budget; from the moment reviews from the notorious Midnight Madness showing of Oculus at TIFF last fall started trickling in, there was overwhelming praise for the movie, plus props given for creating an atmosphere of creeping dread and fear without relying on blood and gore, or any fake-out jump scares. Two reviews and it was on our Horror Boom MUST SEE NOW! list. But wait, the praise for the movie’s nightmarish originality doesn’t stop there.
I’ve been reading and seeing great things online for the past six weeks or so. Here are ten of them that all contribute towards me dragging Mr. Horror Boom to see it Friday night (when it opens theatrically):
1. The fact that the MPAA says the R-rating is due to the following: Terror, Violence, some disturbing images, and brief language.
2. From the review on Movies.com (read it all here):
Mike Flanagan’s film is brilliant and inspired and scary and more creative than any other horror movie you’re bound to see this year… What makes Flanagan’s film works so well is its unflinching commitment to establishing and then unraveling a scenario where all the tension comes from the idea that a mirror could somehow turn normal people into raving maniacs.
3. From Indiewire.com (entire review here) : Director Mike Flanagan also helped edit the film, and the movie is ridiculously tight. Even with the two timelines, two sets of actors playing the same character, fantasy elements that intermingle with what is actually happening, and a scary ghoul with glowing eyes, there isn’t an ounce of fat on “Oculus.” It’s easily the scariest movie since “The Conjuring,” and in some ways is a deeper and more satisfying film. It’s stylish but not showy, more concerned with the thematic undercurrents coursing just beneath the surface. In “Oculus,” the lead characters are deeply disturbed adults who are trying desperately to move on with their lives. Almost everyone is haunted by some aspect of their past. What “Oculus” suggests is that you have to move on… or you’ll pay the ultimate price.
4. This part of the soundonsight.org review (entire review linked here):
With fantastic editing, the film achieves not only creates plenty of gory, pop out scares, but also raises notions of other more terrify ideas. Horror can lie in obsession, and there is no greater personal horror than a loss of one’s perception. True to the mirror’s abilities, audiences will start to doubt what direction the film goes in. Constantly shifting, Oculus is a smart, scary horror film that will keep audiences guessing to the point of madness.
5. This quick flash in the more recent trailers…
I wonder what’s going to happen next… eek.
6. From the review on wegotthiscovered.com (link here):
Relying on supernatural chills, Oculus contains enough genuinely disturbing moments to raise the hairs on my arms with ease, especially considering Katee Sackhoff’s disturbing transformation. Turning into a feral creature of sorts, Sackhoff abandons all human elements and embraces an animalistic performance that’s pure, jolting genre creepiness incarnate. I couldn’t help it – even when Sackhoff was obviously lurking around the corner, I squealed like an overly macho man who momentarily got caught off guard (or that’s what I’ll tell myself) …Flanagan ends with a edge-of-your seat scareatorium that’s relentlessly terrifying.
7. Here’s a snippet from a review that REALLY got us psyched (on Wordfilm.about.com) even though we had to redact a spoiler-ish word or two:
Flanagan cuts between them expertly, letting the past and present bleed together. Gillan, Sackhoff, and Cochrane give sharp performances (Thwaites is a bit of a lightweight) as the darkness unfolds in both timelines. It’s almost like getting two effective, creepy stories in one… What [the cursed mirror] does is mess with your mind. It’ll make you want to do something you wouldn’t normally do, or make think you’re doing one thing when you’re actually doing something else. For example, maybe you think you’re pulling a Band-Aid off your finger, but you’re really [spoiler-y detail redacted}. Or maybe you think you're giving the kids a bath, but you're actually -- well, you get the idea.
8. This poster definitely didn't hurt.
9. From Nick Schager’s Village Voice review:
Replete with superb performances led by a paranoid Sackhoff and unhinged Cochrane, it’s the rare horror film to know how to tease malevolent mysteries and deliver satisfyingly unexpected, unsettling payoffs.
10. Finally, from Chris Alexander at Fangoria.com, who definitely knows a great horror movie when he sees it:
The very device of jamming between decades goes from somewhat clumsy to ingenious and really, I’m not even sure of the exact point when that happens. It just does. Without spoiling anything, the last half hour of OCULUS is one of the most stressful, disorienting and hypnotizing divebombs into child’s-eye horror I’ve ever sat through. In fact, last night I had a nightmare about it and I honestly cannot recall that happening in a decade or more… Mike Flanagan has jettisoned to top of my list as a filmmaker—not just a horror filmmaker, but an artist full stop—to watch carefully.
Oh, and we hear that it’s definitely in your best interest to stay and watch a scene after the credits.
Oculus opens this Friday, April 11th in theaters. We’re definitely in. How about you?