Oculus – Chapter 3: “The Man With The Plan” Movie Review
Written by Steve Pattee
A Mike Flanagan Film
Written and directed by Mike Flanagan
2006, 32 minutes, Not Rated
Scott Graham as Tim Russel
Tim Russel is a man on a mission — he is determined to uncover the secrets of a cursed mirror.
The mirror has a history of violence. Everywhere the mirror has hung, death has followed.
Taking every precaution, Russel (Scott Graham – Livelihood) has set up a room with three video cameras (each on their own power circuit), two phones (a landline and cell phone), and numerous alarm clocks. The alarm clocks alert him when to eat, when to drink, when to change tapes, when to nap and when to wake up.
He’s covered all of the angles.
The mirror itself.
When I first watched Livelihood, Graham’s performance did not stand out. He wasn’t bad, he wasn’t exceptional, he was just there.
Obviously, I should have paid closer attention.
Oculus is a one-man show. With the exception of two deliverymen in the very beginning of the film, the movie relies on Graham’s solo performance for 30 of its 32 minutes. For a low-budget feature, that’s a lot to ask — especially considering many low-budget filmmakers have a tendency to put friends over talent in their films. Or, even worse, the dreaded director/writer who thinks he or she can act because they “know” the character better than anyone else.
I don’t know if Graham and writer/director Mike Flanagan are friends but, dammit, Graham impressed the hell out of me with his performance. Neurotic when needed, cocky at times, nervous, angry, scared — Graham goes though a gamut of emotions in this film’s short running time. And he is believable every step of the way. So believable, I didn’t think I was watching low-budget — it felt like Hollywood.
And no small part of that was the way he tackled the awesome script. Flanagan managed to do something in about a half an hour that very, very few low-budget films can do in three times that: Tell a kick-ass story, develop a character I actually care about and entertain me every minute.
Think about it: Oculus is a story about a mirror for God’s sake. A mirror! Where the hell is the horror in that?
But trust me…it’s there. It surprised me, but Oculus managed to deliver dread in spades. It seemed to do it with ease.
And I’m not talking about black-cat scares. In all fairness, Oculus has those, in the form of alarms going off and phones ringing at the most inopportune times. But, in the movie’s defense, you come to expect those, because they are a necessary part of the movie. Flanagan just has a knack of when to use them. At precisely the right — or wrong — time.
What I’m talking about is that feeling you get in your gut watching “that” scene in Exorcist III. Or the spider walk in Exorcist: The Version You’ve Never Seen. Or the TV scene in Ringu.
And Oculus had three of them. In less than 32 minutes, Oculus had me gripping my seat on at least three occasions, wanting to turn on the lights, but not doing so because I didn’t want to be a pussy.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded, as this is a screener. However, if the picture on the DVD I got is any indication of the final picture, holy cow! Look out. It’s beautiful.
And while the haunting John Carpenter-esque music is fantastic, the volume needs to come down just a hair as it comes dangerously close to overtaking the dialogue — something that could really hurt the film.
Lately I’ve been debating whether or not to start reviewing more mainstream movies, as I’m tired of watching everyone and their brother with a video camera thinking they can be entertaining.
Well, with Oculus, Flanagan managed to shake me and say, “Stop your damn whining, you little girl. Movies like this are why you review in the first place.”
And he’s right.