Hooray, I did a thing!
While my roommate and I are both way too cheap to see lots of movies in theaters, we were both really excited to hear about the film Oculus, which stars not only Karen Gillan (if you aren’t a Doctor Who fan you should be she plays one of the Doctor’s traveling companions and is adorable) and Katee Sackhoff, who is best known for her rendition of Starbuck in the 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica (go watch it) but was also recently in Riddick. So we didn’t see this in the theater but made a mental vow to rent it as soon as was humanly possible.
Obviously, we totally failed. But we at least got around to it relatively quickly!
Anyway, my roommate rented Oculus through iTunes, and now here I am.
I feel like sometimes it’d be a good idea to make a room, and put all my new/historical acquisitions in the room – like plants and a bird and all the things that typically break when evil is around, and just let new things sit there for a week or so, and then if the plants and birds and whatever start dying and bugs come in and whatever then just burn the fucking house down. Seems like a plan. I try to be prepared. (I don’t think my roommate would go for it though.)
…anyway, back to the movie.
The two main characters are great. The dude was just released from a mental institution, where he was incarcerated for killing his father (after his father killed his mother). You can tell by the dialogue that he’s totally working his psych ward program – he goes through it like he really needs to be able to believe that he totally hallucinated this evil mirror that ate his parents’ souls. Frankly, though, the movie spends a lot more time on Karen Gillan’s character.
This woman legit has problems. She made a version of a DIY guillotine for goodness’ sake. It’s just chilling in the office. Which she also set up as a home recording studio that kind of looks like she uses it to film porn in her spare time. She’s totally kitted out this entire murder house – her failsafes have failsafes. Her poor husband, if he knew, would probably be like “Why did we commit the younger brother when she is clearly insane”. Frankly, I’m more disturbed by her character than I am by the whole haunting situation. The woman’s on a mission to not only prove that a ghost killed her dad instead of her little brother, but also to destroy this mirror that is apparently like a clown car full of evil dead folks.
This is a kind of incoherently framed story – we get bits of what the kids remember with bits of what may or may not have actually happened, including things that there is no way that the kids could have known because they weren’t there. Eventually we get to parts where they’re filming the kids and the adults walking through the same scene, obviously at different times and doing different things, but maybe they kind of see each other… or not? It makes it difficult sometimes to follow how things are going because you have at least three separate timelines to keep track of – the kids, the adults, and that alternate reality where things that you think are happening are possibly not actually happening and vice versa.
My roommate watched Oculus earlier today while I wasn’t around, and watched it for a second time with me, because she knew I’d be mad at her for watching it while I was at work. Apparently the movie makes a lot more sense the second time around because you know that you’re going to have to keep track of not only what timeline you’re in but whether things are real or not.
Karen Gillan’s acting, I thought, was fantastic. There was once scene in particular – the lightbulb scene, if you’ve watched the movie – that I was really impressed by. She has a hard time with the American accent though. It makes her voice a little throaty and weird. The two kids also did a really good job. We didn’t see as much of Katee Sackhoff as I wanted (and frankly I really like seeing her as a total badass, so this was a huge change of pace for me and kind of affected the way I saw her character a little), but there were a few scenes that she really just hit right out of the park.
Neither of us ever really intends to watch the movie again, so we’re not going to buy it.
Here’s my beef with the movie: it just wasn’t frightening. Firstly, this movie seems like it’s got such a slow pace. I get that there’s a significant backstory that needs to get covered before we can have any real plot but I wish there was a good way to get this done faster; and once we get to the main event it seems like we spend so much time on a story whose ending we already know that the actual story becomes almost secondary – which is silly because that’s the one where the resolution is uncertain.
Secondly, there’s no actual thing there to be frightened of – other than the conceptual idea that your mind can be manipulated without you knowing. You spend the entire movie watching people get screwed with, which is fun and kind of the reason behind reality TV I guess, but there was no real pressure. There’s no sense of urgency; there’s no active threat. All that happens is this mirror that messes with your mind and therefore makes you either hurt yourself or hurt other people. Nothing ever comes out of the mirror – or if it does and it’s not just in your mind, it doesn’t actively hunt you or try to hurt you; it just stands there and looks at you like “Yo, I’m totally evil, be frightened”. It’s hard to feel like a character’s life is in jeopardy when they could LITERALLY just walk away from the whole situation. Don’t get me wrong, mirrors in the dark can totally freak me out, and haunted mirrors are a trope I really enjoy. I even loved the Bloody Mary episode of Supernatural. But at the end of this movie, instead of thinking “Damn, that was creepy!” or “Whoa, that was gruesome!” or even “That was hilariously bad.”, I just came away going “….Oh. Okay, I guess.“, and that’s never where I want to be at the end of a film.