Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Oculus" (2014)

I blame “Arlington Road” back in 1999. There were surely more and earlier examples of this problem, (Halloween 3 springs to mind) but Arlington Road is the film experience that sticks with me to this day. Spoiler for anyone still wanting to see that crazy film who haven’t but… the bad guys win.

Thrillers are not supposed to turn out that way. It is a betrayal of the trust the audience has put in the story tellers. To be sure, the horror genre does have a high risk of evil winning, but the examples are still the exception. In spite of a lot of death and tragedy, we watch the movies—and invest in certain characters—because we know that most of the time some will survive and the monster will be defeated.

Lately though—and this may say a lot about the cultural landscape—horror has become hopeless and nihilistic.

“Oculus” got a lot of positive buzz last year. And, to be fair it does some amazing things with cinematic techniques that have us questioning the reality of the film throughout. Since it is a story involving mental illness, this is a clever approach. What makes things even more interesting is the way the flashbacks—a standard cinematic device that viewers are familiar with—slowly merge with current events until there is no division between the two time periods. That the director pulls this off without losing the audience shows great talent.

But, the ending (that we see coming pretty early on, so it doesn’t count as a clever twist) is a betrayal of the audience. And, since it is cheesy horror I won’t hold as much of a grudge as I do against “Arlington Road” but this is another “Halloween 3.” Better made, but still, “Halloween 3.”

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