Oculus is a disappointment. This is one of Blumhouse most underwhelming horror movies to date because it had a lot more potential than, say, Dark Skies or The Lords of Salem. For years Jason Blum has been able to get the most bang for his buck, turning out cheaply made hits. His best films, like Sinister, never feel cheap, though. His latest, Oculus, is cheap, but not because it isn't well made. Where the film takes its cheap shots is with its script.
This is mirror horror movie. As is generally the case, most of the scares come from "what's real?". At a certain point, it becomes exhausting to have the rug pulled under you so many times, especially when you see the pull coming. What makes up for some of these "gotchya!" moments is . Gillan plays Kaylie Russell, a young woman trying to prove her father and brother's innocence after their family was torn apart by a mirror. As kids Kaylie and her brother, Tim (), made a promise to return to the house that their parents were killed in, to prove that they're deaths was caused by a supernatural element.
Every so often director Mike Flanagan milks this premise for some clever scares. There's one scene involving a light bulb that sends chills thanks to some terrific sound design. The same can be said for a jump scare that doesn't need any obnoxious music to let you know it is a jump scare. When young Tim sees a woman/ghost doing something to her father, the ghost glides over to the door to face the camera and Tim. These are the film's two great scares.
Sadly, rest of the movie isn't as suspenseful. The biggest issue, though, is the main character motive. Kaylie wants to catch the power of the mirror on video before destroying it. She wants to spend a tight observing the mirror before her brother and her make sure it never kills again.
She's setting her brother and herself up for horror. It's such a selfish character choice, even though it comes from a well-intentioned place, that you don't care so much whether Kaylie wins at the end. It's hard to care for her brother, too, since Tim is a bland character with some of the film's clunkiest lines. There's a scene where he shouts repeatedly, "It was the mirror! It was the mirror!", and it's as comical as it sounds.
There's also a scene where Kayle reads the entire history of the mirror out loud to video cameras for, at least, five to ten minutes. It's exposition overload and far too often the movie tells rather than shows. When we see young Tim talk about seeing the mysterious woman by the stairway, that's a potentially chilling scene that should be shown.