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He Said, She Said Review Site

Oculus

What She said:

She

It’s about time that we sat down and reviewed a horror film; although, I’d stop short of saying this movie was “scary.”  Interesting, yes.  A little startling at times, I’ll give it that.  Outright scary, not really.  But this 2013 supernatural flick isn’t too bad.  I give it credit for what it’s trying to achieve, even though it sugar coats things to the point where they’re rendered slightly stale. 

Oculus tells the story of the Russell family.  They seem like your typical All-American family of four—mom, dad, son, and daughter enjoying the excitement of moving into a new house.  When dad, Alan, decides to buy an antique mirror as a decoration for his office, trouble begins to plague the Russells.  How the events unfold is presented to us in bits and pieces, as the film jets us back and forth between present day and the ordeal of 11 years prior. 

Oculus

In the modern day, we learn that Alan and mother, Marie, are both dead, and that their now 21-year-old son, Tim, has taken the blame for the death of the father.  He’s actually about to be released from a psychiatric facility where he has spent his teenage years, and is thusly reunited with his sister Kaylie, who is two years older than him.  Present Tim wants to move on from the events of his past, but Kaylie has been obsessing over them these 11 years.  She has been relentlessly trying to track down the antique mirror, which she blames for all the drama that befell the Russell family.  Kaylie works for and dates an antiques auctioneer, and right about the time that Tim is being released, she finally comes in possession of the mirror.  She wants to unite with her brother to destroy it and the evil that it carries.  Kaylie talks Tim into coming back to the scene of the crime—the family home that she still owns—and spending a long night with the mirror to document its supernatural capabilities and eventually break it. 

Tim takes the bait and so he and Kaylie settle in for a long night with the mirror.  It’s at this point that we begin to flash back and fully understand the events of these siblings’ past.  Present Tim and Kaylie begin to relive their ordeal, and have trouble distinguishing between past and present, and the mirror works its magic on them once again.  We’re left wondering if they’ll make it through the night alive, or if they’ll cause themselves greater harm.

So, the problem that I have with this movie—and the problem I have with so many horror movies—is why put yourself in this situation to begin with?  Kaylie has researched this mirror, and knows that it has caused irreparable harm to every human it has come in contact with, and yet she is seeking it out once again.  Furthermore, she drags her brother into it as well, just as he’s looking to move forward with his life.  And, shockingly enough, he goes along with it, presumably because he trusts his sister too much.  Horror movies are always unlikely, but I never like to approach my main characters thinking they’re just idiotic.  If Kaylie possesses such a brilliant mind that she can concoct all of these ways to catch the mirror in action—video, audio, temperature sensors, etc.—then why isn’t she smart enough to know that this probably won’t end well for her?  And so that foundation upon which the film was built really bothered me.

Oculus

Aside from that, the flash forward and backward style of movie presentation was pretty well done.  I think The He may have gotten lost a little as it’s not entirely clear what is reality and what are just visions to the characters, but it all made sense for the most part.  If it weren’t for that unique storytelling, I think the movie would have felt very stale.  The general premise has been done and done again.  The acting is uneven at times—mostly with regards to the actors portraying Tim and Kaylie, not those who played parents Alan and Marie.  And the actual visual presentation is not particularly well done.  But the style employed to enable the plot to unfold was different, and so I found value in that. 

There were some chills and startling moments in the film, but overall I wouldn’t say it was really that scary.  I saw the plot twist at the end coming a million miles away, but did appreciate it.  I actually thought it was necessary to end the movie in a conclusive way.  It’s far from the best horror movie that I’ve ever seen, but also was refreshing because it has been so long since I have indulged in one. 

Thumbs half up.

Oculus

What He said:

He

This movie is told simultaneously during two different periods in time.

The year is 2002 and the Russell family has recently moved into a new house. Alan is the father. He (Rory Cochrane) is a software engineer who is apparently living the dream and working from home. He spends a lot of time in his office. I will mention why this is so important later. Marie (Katee Sachhoff) is the mother of the household and I believe she’s a stay at home mom. Kaylie (Annalise Basso) and Tim (Garrett Ryan) are their children. They argue like brother and sister, but are quite close otherwise. They play together regularly and comfort one another during stressful times.

Oculus

Fast-forward to the present and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is being released from what appears to be some kind of mental institution. He was involved in some kind of incident. It’s a little vague at first whether he was the offender or the victim, but he has suffered trauma as a result. Either way, he’s about to be released.
Waiting for him is his big sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan). She offers to take him to her house, until he finds a place of his own, but he refuses. He thinks he would be better off with his own space, so he chooses to stay at a hotel instead. This upsets his sister for some reason.

She makes sure to tell him keep his promise before she leaves though. What promise you might ask? To destroy a mirror she believes is responsible for the death of her parents. Tim isn’t interested, because he believes their father went insane and killed their mother; which then in turn caused Tim to kill his father. Kaylie believes the mirror possessed both of their parents and drove them mad. She has researched the mirror’s history and compiled what she believes to be a lot of evidence. Despite Tim’s reservations, he heads to their childhood home, which she now owns, if for no other reason than to prove to her she’s in denial about what happened.

I mentioned earlier that Alan works from home.  This is important, because he treats his office like a sanctuary. The children are not allowed in there, unless he calls them in. He wants to be left alone when he’s in there.  He also wants it to look really nice. It’s the only room in the house he decorated himself. This is where the mirror comes into play. It is something he bought, because he wanted an antique.

In the past, strange things start to happen. The dog is barking constantly. Plants around the house are dying for no reason. Marie begins to suspect her husband of having an affair. Alan becomes consumed by work and rarely leaves his offices. He seems obsessed with spending all of this time there.

In the present, Kaylie is trying to prove to her brother that the mirror is really haunted. Due to the trauma and the time in therapy, Tim has blocked the experience from his memory. His therapist has offered him a logical explanation for it all and Tim thinks Kaylie has created this fantastic tale to cope with what really happened. The movie spends a decent amount of time keeping you guessing as to whether Kaylie is right about the mirror or if she’s simply insane.

Oculus

This wasn’t the best movie in the world, it wasn’t the worst. It wasn’t terrifying, if you are looking for something that scares the absolutely shit out of you, but it had a few scares and a decent story.

I thought Rory Cochrane (Lucas of Empire Records to most people) was solid. His character was similar to the father in The Shining. It wasn’t the most original character, but he did well with it, so I didn’t care.

I’ve enjoyed Katee Sackhoff since Battlestar Galactica. I think she’s a cool chick and a good actor too. She’s known for being a bit of a bad ass and this character was not that, so I give her credit for showing some range. I also like what they did with the character later in the movie, so again kudos to you Ms. Sackhoff.

I was split on the two leads. I thought the actors portraying the younger versions of Kaylie and Tim were quite good, particularly Annalise Basso. She was the heart and soul of the movie and showed some chops for a youngster. A lot of child

actors catch flack, so when you see a good one, you take notice.
I didn’t think the actors playing the adult versions of the characters were as good though. First of all, I didn’t love the way the adult version of Kaylie was written. She was too much of an expert without any real experience with the supernatural. She had no “real world” experience with the thing, but struts around with the utmost confidence in her theories. I also thought it was kind of lame the way everything she needed to happened did indeed happen and so conveniently. The relationship with her fiancé is a good example of that. He knows nothing of what she is doing, but when she disappears for hours, or prints out pictures of corpses, and doesn’t tell her why, he just goes with it. That’s weak. She didn’t come off as a strong female lead to me, she came off like a character who had everything written her way because storyline needed it to. I also found Brenton Thwaites to be a little cookie cutter. I might not have harped on either one of these points if I didn’t think the kid version of the characters were so much better.

That being said, it’s a decent enough movie. There are a lot of bad horror movies out there.  Studios crank them out so easily and frequently. This isn’t an all-time great, but it’s better than a decent amount of modern horror flicks.

Rating: Thumbs half up.

This movie review was given the He said She said seal of approval on September 5, 2014.

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