Only a short post today, as I’m basically dead from exhaustion. I’ll have some longer stuff up again over the next few days. Incidentally, I apologise for not yet responding to the comments on the last of the Sad Puppies posts, but I’ve had a VERY busy few days.
Oculus is proof that total lack of originality is not enough to stop a film being made, or even quite good. Even for a haunted-house horror film, which is what it effectively is, this is quite shockingly derivative.
This is a film about a brother-sister duo many years on from the murder of one of their parents, for which the brother has been blamed, but which in reality seems to be caused by a sinister spectral presence in a haunted mirror — just like the 1980 Halloween rip-off The Boogeyman.
It’s about the slow descent of a decent man who spends his days working at a keyboard into madness, and his psychological torture of his wife and children, and our inability to tell how much of this is him and how much is a ghost — just like in The Shining.
It’s a story told by alternating between two time periods, in which children defeat a monster that turns up periodically, and then have to defeat it again as adults, even though one of them no longer has their memories of the monster. Just like Stephen King’s It.
And it’s got Karen Gillan playing someone who lost her parents as a child, who had an experience as a child that no-one else believes but that she insists happened, and who has to interact with herself as a child at points. There’s a crack in the wall that the camera spends a lot of time on, and at one point she’s menaced by statues that only move when you’re not looking directly at them. The similarity between the sheet-covered statues moving in this and the sheet-covered Zygons-disguised-as-statues moving in the Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary special is an unfortunate coincidence, but still doesn’t speak much for the film’s originality (or, indeed, that of the Doctor Who episode).
Nonetheless, while the film is about as formulaic as it’s possible to get, it plays quite nicely with the audience’s uncertainty as to what’s real in the film’s world and what is caused by the ghost — and, indeed, the uncertainty as to whether the ghost is real or just a folie a deux cooked up by two children to explain their parents’ descent into abuse and murder.
It has some memorably creepy moments, and at times has something of the feel of The Woman In Black, although it’s not nearly as good a film. It’s to be praised, though, as practically the only horror film of recent years not to rely on sudden shocks to make the audience jump — apart from a couple of “boo!” moments early on, there’s very little of the usual loud-bangs-and-sudden-movements stuff that serves to give viewers an adrenaline kick. It gets its scares more honestly, from the story and imagery, derivative as they are.