BY ELLEN ROSSOW
In recent years it seems movies of the horror genre have become known for their inferior acting and somewhat lacking story lines. Horror-lovers line up for tickets to the movies, not because they expect to be baffled by a well-written story or complex character development, but because they want to go home too scared to sleep with the lights off. On Friday, a film was released that not only succeeded in giving audience members what they wanted fear-wise, but also pushed the limits by being an all around well made and written film.
“Oculus” is the story of a relationship between a brother and sister as they try to overcome a horror that befell them as children. After the brother is charged with murder and forced to spend years in a mental institution, the two decide to spend a night trying to prove his innocence and expose the true culprit – a mirror they believe houses a supernatural entity.
While at first sight of the trailer, the film seems to be simply another run-of-the-mill, demon-infested bore, this reviewer believes that “Oculus” holds a place in the running for one of the best scary movies made in years.
The film stars Karen Gillan, famous for her recent role as Amy Pond on BBC’s “Doctor Who,” and nods to sci-fi lovers even further by including Katee Sackhoff, formerly known for her role in “Battlestar Galactica.”
It is no question that the inclusion of these two actresses is one of the reasons that “Oculus” did relatively well in the box office this week.
The horror flick was No. 3, narrowly behind “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Rio 2.”
Gillan, who is outwardly a calm and petite woman, brings a certain darkness to the film by breaking out of that shell and showing her character in the terrified and twisted light that she was written. In a similar way, Sackhoff, whose performance in “Battlestar Galactica” gave her a name as a tough woman, was cast in the role of a loving and somewhat passive mother which was interesting to see portrayed.
Not only did the film include relatively well-known stars, it also featured child actors Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan who, although they are young, have long screen resumes.
In a film like “Oculus,” where child actors play a predominate role, it is easy for their performances to make or break the film entirely. In this case, Basso and Ryan made the film a success.
The film also owes its success to its unique story. While the idea of a demon-possessed mirror has potential to be pretty stupid pretty quickly, “Oculus” added much needed character development and backstory to the creepy idea, as well as a touch of mental illness that makes any horror film that much more realistic.
“Oculus” is rated R for terror, violence, disturbing images and some language. While it did portray blood and gore, as many horror films do, “Oculus” does not, as some do, rely solely on the shock factor gore can bring.
Overall, “Oculus” hit the mark for being not only scary, but an overall effective and well made film.