Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 04/10/14 20:19:20

"The Power Of Windex Compels You!"
1 stars (Sucks)

"Oculus" is one of those horror films that is so painfully derivative of other entries in the genre that viewers could get together and make a game of who can spot the most overt references on display throughout its running time. Believe me, that is about the closest to genuine entertainment value that anyone is liable to derive from this utterly insipid bit of genre hackwork, a film so lacking in coherence and tension that it makes the "Paranormal Activity" franchise seem borderline tolerable by comparison.

Eleven years ago, a seemingly happy family moves into a rambling and isolated house and Mom and Dad (Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane) decide to splurge on some antique decorations, chief among them an old mirror that goes into Dad's study. Before long, all the houseplants and the family dog are dying, young siblings Kaylie and Tim are seeing mysterious figures and Dad spend his time staring at the mirror perfecting his impressions of Jack Nicholson in "The Shining" and James Brolin in "The Amityville Horror" before everything goes higgledy-piggledy in ways that leave Mom and Dad dead and 10-year-old Tim sent off to the nuthouse.In the present-day, the now-rehabilitated Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is set to begin his life again but before that can happen, Kaylie (Karen Gillan) needs his help with one little thing. Unlike her brother, she remains convinced that the family was the victim of supernatural forces and has managed to temporarily reacquire the mirror (which appears to have quite the body count over the last few centuries) so that they can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was responsible for their parents deaths using scientific means that even Peter Venkman might have called into question. Astonishingly, things do not go exactly according to plan, unless the plan explicitly calls for them to put themselves in great and unnecessary danger for no logical reason whatsoever--if that is the case, then I humbly apologize.

Look, I am perfectly willing to give silly horror films a certain degree of leeway as long as they play fair with audiences, maintain a certain degree of internal logic or at least come up with a couple of decent shocks along the way. However, "Oculus" is so lacking in all of those areas that it comes very close to demonstrating outright contempt for its presumed audience. The storyline is absolute gibberish from the get-go--it often feels like the failed American remake of an overrated J-horror film that somehow never got made in the first place--and the initially interesting overlapping of the past and present-day narratives quickly grows confusing and irritating. The characters are completely nondescript and thusly impossible to care about--the most distinct of the bunch is Karen Gillan and that is only because of the disconcerting resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence that she demonstrates here. Then there is the fact that unless you are easily terrified by the sight of a mirror that doesn't actually do anything or a bunch of dead houseplants, there just isn't anything particularly scary on display, unless you are a devotee of HGTV, of course.

And just when you think "Oculus" can't get any stupider, it ends on such an abrupt and unsatisfying note that most viewers will find themselves thinking that the projectionist somehow forgot to show a reel or two and wondering why they couldn't have dropped a couple more along the way. Actually, now that I think about it, I suppose that this finale is actually the highlight of the film because not only does it bring the incredibly shabby proceedings to a much-needed end but does it so incompetently that even the most forgiving viewers will find it difficult to muster even the slightest enthusiasm for an "Oculus 2" anytime soon.

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