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'Oculus' review: Through the lasser glass

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"Oculus" was released theatrically nationwide starting today (Friday).

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"Oculus" begins in the present day as Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) celebrates his 21st birthday with his freedom from the mental institution he's called home for the past decade. 11 years ago Tim's father brutally murdered his mother before Tim managed to get a hold of his father's gun and put a stop to the crazy man he called, "Dad," once and for all. Reformed after years of therapy, Tim is released back into the world into the arms of his older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) who was also there that night everything changed.

But Kaylie has been on the outside never forgetting the promise the two siblings made when their parents died. Kaylie has spent her time tracking down what she believes is responsible for her parents death but also the lives of dozens more dating back centuries; an antique mirror that hung in their father's office. With vengeance on her mind, Kaylie is determined to destroy the mirror once and for all even if it puts Tim's recently rehabilitated mental health at risk.

With only a handful of horror films released theatrically so far this year, "Oculus" had the opportunity to be a certified hit amongst a sea of mediocrity. Its bone-chilling trailer sold you on the fact that this was a horror film to be reckoned with, but unfortunately is never fully able to follow through with its promising premise.

Victims who have died thanks to owning this mirror appear as washed out, almost zombified individuals with rotten teeth and shiny eyes similar to Riddick's in any of the "Riddick" films. The trailer hinted at a ton of scares, but nearly all of them are contained in that very trailer. Like most modern horror films, "Oculus" relies on jump scares to scare its audience. Consistent use of the same element over and over again immediately begins to feel predictable and formulaic. "Oculus" is never able to shake that coat of familiarity and stand on its own two legs.

The mirror itself causes individuals to become delusional and see things that aren't there. Those affected hear whispering and succumb to the mirror's desires. It's known as the Lasser Glass and its origins date back to 1755 with at least 45 deaths revolving around its owners. The film itself does an excellent job of weaving back and forth from not only the past and the present, but also the different perspectives of both Tim and Kaylie. At one point, the film has you questioning both sides of the argument as both state factual and logical reasoning behind their beliefs. The storytelling in "Oculus" is its biggest strength, but it has the issue of the journey being more exciting than the actual destination.

"Oculus" fails at establishing a truly terrifying atmosphere. It has a few jump out scares and gross out moments, but is mostly just a jumbled, forced together jigsaw puzzle of films like "Frailty," "Into the Mirror," and "The Shining." It deserves credit for seamlessly blending timelines and perspectives, but its mind games just fail to deliver proper scares. "Oculus" aimed to be the next "Insidious" or "The Conjuring," but it is actually nothing more than a reflective mess.

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