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'Oculus' achieves shock factor, little else

By Angela Boratgis
On April 14, 2014

In today's film culture, it's easy to become a horror movie buff. With technology, creativity and interest in the paranormal at their peak, an influx of wonderfully terrifying stories have been making their way to the screen.
On April 11, "Oculus," made its debut. Clearly written with the intent to eerily spook viewers by combining technology, illusion, historical lore and frightening surprises, "Oculus" definitely got some screams. The film tells the story of two siblings who once again take on the dark force of an antique mirror that once led to the deaths of both their parents. Unfortunately, the creativity that built a tale around such a mysterious object with the power to unravel the psyches of both its characters and its audience wasn't met with the proper amount of logic needed to fill the many holes in its story.
Calling the film's non-linear structure, it would be the understatement of the year. Not only were there countless time changes (past-to-present and present-to-past), but both storylines took place in the same house, with the same dark force and in quite similar ways. Many scenes transitioned between the two so smoothly that the audience often didn't know which time frame they were viewing. The only detail to help decipher was the difference in actors and ages of the characters.
In addition, the logic that the story established was not always followed. Questions were left unanswered and by the end, when a climax finally occurred, the loose ends remained. During the end of a well-crafted film, there comes a point where everything finally makes sense - regardless if it engenders good or bad emotions - especially at the end of a horror film, which is a noticeable trend, the theme or message is always clear.
But in "Oculus," there seemed no connection to so many of the events in the plot. The female character, Kaylie, informs the audience that the origins of the antique are unknown. However, she also reveals a long record she put together of the mirror's former owners and the nature of their untimely deaths. The mirror's history, purpose and existence are simply never explained. Its power is also personified by unidentified spirits, who are introduced at the end of the film, serving no logical purpose.
Overall, Oculus achieves the "shock" factor and will for sure give goosebumps to many audience members. The visual stimulation is at the top of modern horror expectations. Theme music and settings also aided in its spookiness. However, while its illusionary tactics keep the story interesting and unpredictable, the deceit and delusion that the mirror projects on the characters is a mind trick that will ultimately leave viewers with a headache. In the end, the inconsistency and unsettling conclusion seem to kill any thrill that the suspense of the film had created and give the story closure that is both melancholic and ineptly unsettling.

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