Oculus

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From its sinister, blood-rushing first scene, Oculus manages to spike both your adrenaline and your expectations. Although neither of them stay high for very long, they do manage to plateau before sinking too far.

If you’re hoping for 2014’s answer to Paranormal Activity, you’ll have to look somewhere else. On its own, Oculus is an impressively tense mind bender, with just enough blood and pop-out scares to satisfy without saturating.  Even the usage of recording equipment avoids the feeling of overuse, as it’s expertly woven into a tale of specter-driven murders and childhood flashbacks.

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Having just been released from a mental institution following the traumatic murder of his parents ten years prior, 21-year-old Tim (played by Brenton Thwaites) is reintroduced to the real world via his big sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan sans Scottish accent). Tim, who is no longer haunted by his memories, finds himself suddenly haunted by his sister, who is determined to prove his innocence by destroying the real culprit behind their parents’ death: a nefarious haunted mirror. Tim is reluctant to relive the nightmare of his youth, insisting that he and Kaylie should just move on.

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Kaylie is unshakeable when it comes keeping the promise they made to destroy the mirror when they were “big and strong” enough. At times seeming close to a mental breakdown herself, Kaylie drags her brother back to their childhood home, where she has set up video cameras, lights, plants, and various alarms…all of which are to be used to document proof that the mirror is bad news.

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Director Mike Flanagan keeps your head spinning as the mirror “wakes up” and starts twisting reality for the brother/sister duo. The mysterious entity from within not only manifests as the glow-eyed ghosts of its previous victims, but also makes the characters hallucinate, adding and subtracting to the real world. Kaylie points out that they can’t trust anything- not even the voices on the other ends of their phones can be believed. The mirror further disorients them by forcing them into flashbacks of the time leading up to their parents’ deaths, reinstilling the confusion and terror felt the night of the murders.

Viewers are kept wound tight with suspense, constantly wondering whether a scene is real, or merely a product of the mirror’s devious scheme. And the film deftly handles the tangling of the flashbacks and present day, making it work without seeming cheesy or confusing. A frightening, childish desperation permeates the second half of the movie, and seeps out to infect the audience.

With an ending that will stop your heart, Oculus is an entertaining thriller that is certainly worth watching.

Written by Saxmei Milano: is a twenteen-year-old creative writer who likes tenors, popcorn, and bright lights. She currently lives just outside of NYC with her grandparents and a giant dog. When she is not out talking to strangers, she is usually watching Law and Order: SVU marathons. She loves to smile and make rhymes. Her favorite people are ones with accents (of ANY kind).”

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