“I’ve met my demons and they are many. I’ve seen the devil, and he is me.”
Let’s face it, the horror genre has lost its way in the past few years. Actually scrap that, it’s been pretty poor this century, with the mainstream cluttered with pointless sequels and horrible remakes. Most young film fans would probably list the dreadful Paranormal Activity in their top ten, not because they think its that good, but because it satisfies what they believe to be the needs of the horror genre. It seems that film makers are so concerned with confusing or losing their audience that they fall back on superficially-evoked actions such as making the audience “jump” or “hurl”, when really they should be focusing on talking to us on a subconscious level that only real horror can. You may or may not agree with that statement, but I have a strong feeling I am not alone in feeling a real absence of good horror in cinema.
Thankfully Mike Flanagan’s film Ocuclus has the uncanny knack of using fresh concepts, whilst holding onto the fundamental idea that made greats such as Robert Wise’s The Haunting so brilliant. One commentator said that: “Director Mike Flanagan (Absentia) apparently has not been paying attention to the rules of making mainstream horror movies in America, and that’s probably why Oculus is one of the best American horror movies in years.” I could not have put it better, and I for one hope that the film stays as fairly unnoticed as it is, so as not to spoil things with horrible sequels.
Don’t get me wrong, it is far from perfect. It has some questionable plot holes, and loses its way with some of the effects. But it is well-cast and does what good horror should: it straddles the line between the supernatural and psychoanalytical in a way that leaves you never quite sure what is real and what is fantasy. This is important, and Karen Gillan does a terrific job of pulling you into her theories as her brother uses his time in the mental institution to churn out possible refute. Even at the end, I felt slightly jarred, in a good way, by the relentless twists. Not twists of the plot, in the way many modern fans are used to, but twists of perception.
The short running time of the movie is a thumbs up alone, as it gives the viewer no time to reflect. Instead, only your subconscious can take control, manipulated by our own ideas, chooses a side of the possibly haunted mirror to stand on. This may sound like psycho-babble, but it is a ploy of horror directors and writers for decades that has been slightly lost. Here is one horror fan that hopes it makes a real comeback.
Shapstik Verdict: Less about making you jump, and more about making you think, Oculus does what many films have failed to do in the modern horror era: imprint contemporary ideas onto the genre. Flanagan’s horror flick is both imperfect but necessary, as it tensely waits for the supernatural to take hold, but makes sure it never really does… 7/10