Horror movies tend to have a knack for taking everyday objects and turning them into the most horrific and terrifying harbingers of death. In the case of Oculus (dir. Mike Flanagan), the object in question would be that of a supposedly cursed mirror that goes from family to family throughout the decades leaving a string of mysterious deaths behind. That is, until two young adults decide that it is up to them to stop the mirror from killing anyone ever again.

The film starts off at a slow burn. The film struggles in dealing with the character back story, which is explained in agonizing detail through dry, expository dialogue. The age-old adage of “show, don’t tell” could not be more important in the case of Oculus.

When the film isn’t busy explaining everything in painstaking detail, it uses tired jump scares to drum up interest to little, genuine, positive effect. It also struggles editorially by going back and forth between two different time periods in a heavy-handed manner. The way the film is put together in the first half often feels messy and jarring.

For all intents and purposes, the film is shaping up to be a blasé, tired and entirely forgettable

horror flick.

In the middle of the film, however, Oculus turns everything around.

Where the first half was dull and monotonous, the second half is lively and engaging until the end.

As the mirror goes on the offensive, the two protagonists start losing control: they’ll be in one room, only to appear in another; or they might be biting into an apple only to find themselves biting into a light bulb and pulling glass from their trembling mouths.

Once the film gets going, it amps up the chilling tension and the suspense delivers.

Not only does the creepy factor ramp up, but the editing and transitions between the two different timelines are instantly seamless. Oculus is at its best when both the audience and the characters don’t know what is real and what is not by constantly needing to question reality. It is extremely effective when we actually get to watch the mirror assert its power and influence over the siblings as opposed to boring banter about the mirror.

Oculus starts off in a slow fashion, dragging its heels and getting bogged down with monotonous dialogues. The minute the monotony goes away, the film gets going and becomes a bone-chilling and spine-tingling horror flick that keeps you guessing and has you on the edge of your seat.

By Philip Clarke

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