Oculus

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"The supernatural is not super for nothing. Poltergeists are play things compared to this lot."

Ghost stories are the devil to do on screen. Their visual tricks have been played so many times they resurrect only as cliche. The line between fear and farce is as thin as mist. Simplicity may well be the best strategy. Oculus throws The Book Of Horrors in your face. You can always duck.

Tim (Brenton Twaites) is discharged from a mental institution seemingly as sane as a bowl of cherries. His sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) works for an auctioneer where an antique mirror has just been sold. When they were young it used to hang on the wall in a big house in the country where they lived with their parents (Katee Sackhoff from Battlestar Galactica and Rory Cochrane from CSI Miami).

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The mirror is haunted by the spirits of dead people who appear as ghouls with silver eyes, eager to steal the souls of the living. Kaylie "borrows" the mirror from the auctioneer's store room and has it delivered to their old home, now uninhabited, where she intends to subject it to a series of experiments.

You know, even before the flashbacks of Mom turning into a rabid beast, that the supernatural is not super for nothing. Poltergeists are play things compared to this lot. The power of the dead disables the technical wizardry of scientific investigators. Life has the arrogance of certainty, yet death has other skills, such as mind control.

The film starts well and moves with conviction. Annalise Basso, as young Kaylie, is compelling and Sackhoff kitchen sinks it with enough energy to blow the roof off your brain.

Sadly, the final quarter slips under the dark waters of absurdity. Even ghosts have rules. These break them, murdering the plot and wounding those who still believe.

It's a lesson in vanity's pride. Turn away from the mirror! You know not what you see. Or who sees you.

Reviewed on: 12 Jun 2014
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Oculus packshot
A woman tries to prove her brother is taking the rap for a murder committed by a supernatural phenomenon.
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