Haunted, supernatural mirrors have been a staple of horror films and macabre television shows for decades, and Mike Flanagan’s Oculus has a dandy one on display to excite and torment us. The film doesn’t unfortunately maintain its level of suspense and fright from beginning to end (it begins to fall apart at about the two-third’s mark), but it does a great job establishing its perimeters of suspense and only stumbles when it begins to get too clever for its own construction.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 44 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletkeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/05/2014
Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) is being released from a mental facility after spending eleven years there after being blamed for the murder of his mother (Katee Sackhoff) and father (Rory Cochrane). Older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) who was present and experienced the horror of the incidents leading to the deaths of their parents meets Tim on his release and reminds him of a promise they had made as children to destroy the source of their grief, a centuries old mirror called the Lasser Glass which casts an individualistic supernatural spell over anyone in its vicinity over an extended period. Having been convinced during his treatment that the horrors were all self-induced hallucinations, Tim reluctantly goes along with Kaylie as she conducts her experiments with the cursed mirror all the time trying to convince her that the bogeys that frightened them as children aren’t really present at all.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The screenplay by director Mike Flanagan and his co-writer Jeff Howard does an excellent job providing the detailed history of the film’s curses down through the centuries (poor actress Karen Gillan has the herculean task of speeding through these tragedies which she handles with grace and enough intensity to hold our attention) and shows us why the mirror remains intact after many different attempts have been made to destroy it. Howard and Flanagan have written the story of the parents’ possession eleven years previous and the modern day scenes of the siblings setting up their experiments with video documentation which director and film editor Flanagan deftly cuts back and forth from to keep the two stories flowing simultaneously while we watch. As fantasy and reality begin to dissolve into one another (an effective scene with an apple will have you cringing in horror) and the timelines begin to merge (so that present day Tim and Haylie occupy the same space as the child versions of themselves), the film begins to devour itself a little bit losing our rooting interest since it’s clear we can trust nothing that we’re seeing and losing both tension and terror in the process. The ironic ending isn’t really much of a surprise actually once we begin to see that the adults are under individual spells by the mirror, and the “shocking” climax is really anything but shocking. Before the scipr loses its luster, however, director Flanagan has fashioned some genuinely creepy jump scares via the usual means: slow approaches to something seemingly sinister only to be surprised not by it but by something out of frame that quickly jumps in.
Since the villain of the piece is an inanimate object, convincing an audience of its wicked power relies on the concerted efforts of the six primary actors in its path. Brenton Thwaites and Karen Gillan and their childhood counterparts Garrett Ryan and Annalise Basso are all completely convincing in their panic and dread once menacing moments begin to occur. Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane likewise make their transformations from likable parents to inhuman ghouls most convincing. In smaller roles, Miguel Sandoval as Tim’s psychiatrist, James Lafferty as Kaylie’s fiancé, and Kate Siegel as one of the mirror’s malevolent spirits all do well with limited material and screen time.
The film’s theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a spectacularly sharp, clear, and clean transfer (1080p, AVC codec). The digitally filmed movie boasts believable flesh tones and realistic hues and wonderfully precise details in all close-ups (which in some instances that relate to pulled teeth and yanked fingernails are not for the squeamish). Black levels are excellent with superb shadow detail and contrast has been applied consistently. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix may not keep its effects ambiance flowing throughout the soundfield during the film’s complete running time, but on its small budget it does a first-rate job of frightening us during the movie’s most intense moments, and the use of the LFE channel to keep a jarring rumble going as tension builds is really wonderful. Dialogue has been professionally recorded and resides in the center channel. The Newton Brothers’ music score filtered through the fronts and rears does its part to keep the fright coming in expected and effective waves as long as possible.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Audio Commentary: writer-director Mike Flanagan and producer Trevor Macy begin their anecdote-laden track enthusiastically but lose steam about halfway through so that there are silent patches up to the end.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Deleted Scenes (9:48, HD): six scenes may be viewed individually or together and with or without commentary from Flanagan and Macy.
Inside the Mirror: Creating Oculus (9:34, HD): director Mike Flanagan and producer Trevor Macy discuss the original half hour short film that after years of searching for a production company allowed them to make the idea into a feature film.
Oculus (2006) (32:15, SD): Mike Flanagan’s original short film of the haunted mirror stars Scott Graham as Tim who’s trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of the Lasser Glass. There is optional commentary with Flanagan and Macy available.
Theatrical Trailer (1:26, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): 3 Days to Kill, Brick Mansions, American Horror Story: Coven.
Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.
A good idea for a horror film with sporadically effective execution aided immensely by terrific performances, Oculus may not propel you from your seats in fear, but it certainly contains its fair share of thrills and chills. A terrific video and audio transfer aids greatly in the film’s effectiveness.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
Support HTF when you buy this title: