Monday, November 03, 2014

Vamp or Not? Oculus

Can I just start by saying that Oculus is a great horror film, released in 2013 and directed by Mike Flanagan. It was a film, however, that made me think vamp as I watched it and so I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on the film.

However, as much as I want to explore the “Vamp or Not?” I also don’t want to spoil what is a very clever and deliberately disorientating film. In this case, however, I think I can go through the parts that lead me to write the article without spoiling the general experience – let’s see, shall we.

Brenton Thwaites as Tim
The film starts in the past with dad, Alan Russell (Rory Cochrane), wandering a house with a gun. His kids Kaylie (played young by Annalise Basso, True Blood) and Tim (played young by Garrett Ryan) are hidden but eventually run for it. They are caught, faced with the gun and suddenly it is Tim holding it and we hear him say that he fired. Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is just about to turn 21 and has been institutionalised since that night. The fact that his dreams indicate his guilt now is seen by his doctor (Miguel Sandoval, House of Frankenstein) as positive and leads to the recommendation of his release.

Karen Gillan as Kaylie
Kaylie (Karen Gillan, Doctor Who: Vampires of Venice) is to meet him and the Doctor warns Tim that she hasn’t had the help he had. She gives him a cheque (his half of the estate) and tells him that she has found it – referring to the mirror their Dad had owned. On the night their parents died they had promised to destroy it when they were big – of course Tim is reluctant to be drawn into those ‘delusions’.

finding the mirror
Kaylie has got the mirror to the auction house she works for and has managed to arrange to purloin it for a short period. She returns it to the old family home and meets a sceptical Tim there. As she tells us the potted history of the mirror and its effects at the beginning of the film I won’t spoil much by sharing with you. The mirror is known as the Lasser Glass and has been associated with strange deaths. We never know what is in the mirror – a ghost or a demon perhaps – but we know how it feeds.

seeing the entity
It starts with the low hanging fruit – as Kaylie puts it. Plants shrivel and die, dogs become listless, ill and vanish (eaten by the mirror, perhaps, though we don’t know) and the mirror manipulates the humans near it, causing hallucinations, mixed up emotions etc. It seems to feed off negative emotions and also causes stark physical changes (a very fat owner became rapidly wasted away). Thus there is a clear thought that the mirror and/or the creature within it is an energy vampire of sorts.

seducing Dad
It will not allow the mirror to be broken but Kaylie has rigged a kill switch consisting of a weighted anchor connected to a mechanical timer that will destroy the mirror if it is not reset. This is one of many precautions she has set up but as the night wears on the mirror exerts its influence and past and present seem to merge for the siblings. Through this we relive with them the events from the past and also discover that those killed by the mirror are kept with it as ghosts with mirror eyes. The mirror’s central entity seems to be a female and she, it would seem, seduced their Dad as part of the actions of the past.

Kaylie and Tim
I won’t spoil more of the film for you as we have the most important bits. We don’t know what the controlling force is, Mike Flanagan was very keen not to allow us to know as that sense of the unknown adds to the eeriness of the film. We do know that the victims are trapped with it as ghosts and that it feeds of energy. In some respects it reminded me of the vampiric section of the amicus portmanteau film From Beyond the Grave except that the “mirror demon” in that drank blood.

The mirror or the entity within is most definitely an energy vampire and thus Oculus is Vamp – but also a film well worth your time. The imdb page is here.

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