“Oculus” is a horror film to be sure; the most horrific scene being people walking into the theater after paying good money and then being assaulted with endless babbling by actors and then hearing ear-piercing screams — which were mostly mine because I couldn’t believe the end was what I expected and unfeeling the suspense, which was as gripping as a guppy’s jaws. Another blood-curdling aspect is that people giggled. It wasn’t the giggling that happens after a humiliating involuntary yikes after being startled by a boogieman, but giggling because — well, I am not sure. To me it might have been caused by the idea the screenwriters assumed we are all idiots for thinking what is on the screen is actually scary … as scary as Casper the Friendly Ghost.
I should inform you dear readers that much of the film has two timelines. The past and the present are seen concurrently and then, to add more artistry — and I use that term with uncontrolled sarcasm, the present has two alternative realities. Many critics apparently find that impressive and innovative. I would too if there was if the ending wasn’t so predictable and, for me, lazy and unoriginal.
At first we get purposefully confused. A young man who is in a mental institution is finishing up his therapy and gets released at age 21. We, eventually after being bludgeoned by dull dialogue, discover he killed his father but at the age of ten. His sister greets him upon his release from the institution and she and he are the best of buddies and allies even though he got in the mad house for a minor case of patricide.
So what gives? Sister is convinced that the reason Dad killed Mom and Brother killed Dad is because of an antique mirror that the family bought when they moved into a McMansion. Just so that you know: the mirror is decoratively as appropriate to the house as is a roasted pig at a Bar Mitzvah.
Anyway, Brother wants to put all of the past behind him and he does not recall any ghosties or ghoulies or shenanigans with the mirror in Daddy’s office. Sister insists and has all these poltergeist detection things ready to kill the mirror. I am not kidding. She is taping all of this. But if she had half a brain, she would have webcast it and had about three or four scientists watching in person or on the web, but that would make sense and require a more clever script. I think this film is aimed at the audience who watch those moronic TV shows where people go in the basement of buildings with Ghostbusters boxes strapped to the backs and shout out, “Did you hear that?” over and over while their eyes glow on the infrared film.
Smart film critics really like horror films that don’t have too much horror. This had little horror in it and worst of all, no nudity. It is rated “R” and I am here to tell you “Rosemary’s Baby” was sexier and scarier than Oculus.
There is this scene where sister is presenting the history of the mirror and she shows pictures of the victims of the bedeviled mirror. I think the prop guys took pictures with their iPhone at a frat costume party and printed it on a $30 printer. Really, I swear, it was as convincing as Kim Kardashian is as an actress.
As if this dual reality — time and past — silliness wasn’t irritating enough, the parade of Dead People pushed me over the edge. Honestly, I look deader when I shuffle into the bathroom and gander at my visage in the mirror in the middle of the night.
The ending was boring and lacked any sensed of “Fooled Ya!” I want to suffer heart failure no fewer than five times during a horror film and whiplash at the end. I want a scary movie to make me regret not bringing holy water to splash on the path before me as I exit the theater regretting that I had been bad and feared the devil coming to claim my wicked, wicked soul. The only thing scary about “Oculus” is that such a film can make it to the screen.
But I am in the minority of film critics, apparently. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 71 percent. I think “The Three Stooges Meet the Mummy’s Dummies” has more chills than “Oculus.” Do yourself a favor: do not expose your oculus to “Oculus.”
“Oculus” gets one bow tie only, and I am being generous for no apparent reason except I don’t want my editor to think I forgot to rate it.