You see what it wants you to see.
A brother and sister endeavour to prove that an ornate antique mirror is possessed by an evil spirit in this cunningly crafted, enjoyably creepy horror thriller, Oculus.
Briskly determined Kaylie (Karen Gillan, best known, of course, as Amy Pond in Doctor Who) reckons the enigmatic Lasser glass is to blame for the violent deaths of their parents 11 years earlier – and for the deaths of dozens of other people in the four centuries of its existence.
Hesitant Tim (Brenton Thwaites), freshly released from a psychiatric institution, now believes his elder sister’s theory is a delusion but is helpless to prevent himself from being swept along with her project, which involves rigging their old childhood home with lights, cameras and high-tech surveillance equipment galore and waiting to catch the malevolent mirror in the act.
Co-writer-director Mike Flanagan, expanding the 30-minute short film he shot in four days for $1,500 in 2005, Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan, has done an equally nifty job with his set-up and delivers some spine-tingling scares over the course of the night in which Kaylie puts her plan into effect.
What’s most impressive, though, is the way in which he interweaves Kaylie and Tim’s actions in the present with flashbacks to their childhood. As the events leading to the deaths of their troubled mother (Katee Sackhoff) and father (Rory Cochrane) unfold, the older and younger versions of the siblings move seamlessly in and out of the same spaces in the house until it becomes impossible to work out whether what we are seeing is illusion or reality.
The acting isn’t always as elegant as the camerawork and the story feels a tad over-extended, but with his mix of short, sharp shocks and intricate choreography Flanagan has come up with an impressive and effective chiller.
Certificate 15. Runtime 103 mins. Director Mike Flanagan.