Occulus (15)

Directed by Mike Flanagan
Starring Karen Gillan, Katee Sackoff, Brenton Thwaites, Rory Cochrane

Featuring two of my favourite Sci-Fi females, Doctor Who's Karen Gillan and Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackoff, at first glance this looks like a very standard formulaic horror film about a haunted mirror. However, thanks to intriguing use of flashbacks and strong performances especially from Gillan in her first US lead role, this is a pretty enjoyable horror/thriller that relies more on psychological scares and suspense than gore.
Gillan plays Kaylie whose brother Tim(Thwaites) is released from a mental hospital at the start of the film. As kids, their parents were killed and while Tim's therapist has convinced him his delusions of supernatural events are just that - delusions, Kaylie has managed to acquire the cursed looking glass and a stack of technology to prove the curse is real and plans to destroy the mirror, hopefully without seven years of bad luck!
We flip flop between the siblings and the events of 10 years previously when their parents bought the admittedly creepy mirror to decorate their new house. Dad (Rory Cochrane) starts being all intense while mum(Sackoff) slowly goes nuts! Meanwhile, Kaylie's high tech setup with multiple video cameras, alarm clocks, plants and even a dog all fail to convince Tim... But not for long of course!
Once the fun starts, I liked the way the script kept us off balance, switching between hallucination, flashbacks and (is it?) reality. Kaylie munching a light bulb is an especially horrid touch! Gillian's confidence and assurance in the leading role is a real strength, while Katee Sackoff, looking odd with red hair and in mumsy cotton dresses, has less to work with but plays 'driven to madness' well. This is a very effective chiller and while the plot isn't exactly earth shatteringly original, the way the story unfolds is constantly engaging.

June 2014

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