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Ten years ago, tragedy struck the Russell family, leaving the lives of  siblings, Tim and Kaylie forever changed. Now in their 20s the brother and sister (Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites) return to their family home to confront a believed supernatural force that lives within a mirror in their family home.

 Oculus
Despite the pretty standard marketing campaign that includes a creepy poster that bears no relation to the film whatsoever, Oculus turns out to be a bit of breath of fresh air when it comes to mainstream horror. Yeah, its not doing anything all that new but what it does do it does very well.

Essentially it keeps it simple. Two characters, one house and one creepy mirror is the basic set up but the brother and sister leading the way are level headed enough characters (thanks to the couple of  good lead actors) to sell the situation to us. We drift back to their messed up childhood event via flashback, to see them  dealing with their slowly heading towards being insane parents (again played very well by Katee Sackhoff and Rory Cochrane) and that generates a nice bit of history to the story and as it builds, so does the tension in the modern day house.

 Oculus
Oculus really likes to play with us and time and time again it tricks the audience via the hallucinations or visions the characters are having due to the power the mirror holds. Characters do things only to realise they weren't doing them at all or we’re shown something happen only to find out something else was happening the whole time. This really aids in drawing us into this unpredictable situation and when the past and present storylines become more and more entangled, even with a bit of crossover it ties the madness this mirror is generating together and really solidifies just what it can do to any individual that comes into its reflection.
 
I really quite enjoyed Oculus. It’s got some a really good mood to it, I liked the characters across the board, it has solid jumps, genuine creepiness and a good play with tension. Even though it falls back on demon or two to give the mirror a face of sorts, for the most part it kept the horror of the situation down to how the characters are changing and slowly driven to madness before it’s killer blow finale. A good old fashioned creepy ghost story really.

 Oculus

Video


The image here is as bright and colourful all as you’d expect from a modern cinema friendly horror release and it's all packed into an impressively sharp and clean presentation. Details such as skin textures and clothing are impressively crisp and the sense of space and depth to the rooms used in the house can be quite effective.

While the single location doesn't offer much in the way of variation, the film plays with lighting in different ways and the deep redness of Karen Gillan's hair and t-shirt tends to jump out of the basic magnolia/beige paint jobs around the house.  Darker elements don’t hold quite the crispness of the brighter scenes but it gives the film a more realistic look than some of the slicker horrors out there. Really dark scenes actually opt for near pitch black at times which adds to the scares, as characters disappear out of sight when they pass through dark corridors and all in all Oculus has a good all round suburban horror HD presentation.

 Oculus

Audio


The bass use here is the immediate draw. It throbs and pulsates us through the unfolding events and manages subtle and aggressive in all the right ways. Dialogue remains strong and central throughout and the score gives the track a wider range as it builds in the front speakers and then uses to rears to trap us in to the more intense parts.

The track really does silence very well, with very limited elements such as soft footsteps and barking dogs in a neighbour’s yard, adding to the ominous feel in the near silent scenes as it builds to a scare. The sharpest of the scares hit loud and fast with effective precision and the creepy (though largely generic and uninspiring) score builds and drops using various speakers and bass, as well as the entire surround set up at its peaks to hammer home those jumps. Add to that the growing whispers and strange voices coming from the mirror and really Oculus provides a very effective and focused horror audio design.

 Oculus

Extras


For the most part it’s basic stuff in the extras. A batch of ‘Deleted Scenes’ (10:11 HD) and a typical making of ‘Inside the Mirror: Creating Oculus’ (09:33 HD)

More interestingly there’s a short film ‘Oculus Chapter 3: The Man With The Plan’. (32:12 HD) which shows us the premise of the film at its rawest and it’s not hard to see why the potential was spotted for a feature length in this pretty exciting short.

 Oculus

Overall


I'm sure Oculus will spawn many sequels (and a ton of prequels judging by the back story we’re presented detailing all of the mirror’s victims) and I'm sure the whole thing will feel run of the mill before too long but as a first outing I had a whole lot of fun with this creepy, well orchestrated jumpfest and I’d totally recommend it for a Halloween night in.

Disc wise, the video is solid but not spectacular, the audio is across the board great (especially that bass use) and a main driver in the scares and the extras, while typical hold the interesting short film that got the Oculus ball rolling.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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