Oculus is a 2013 American supernatural horror film written, edited and directed by Mike Flanagan. The film had its world premiere on September 5, 2013, at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and received a wide theatrical release on April 11, 2014. Karen Gillan stars as a young woman who is convinced that an antique mirror is responsible for the death and misfortune that her family suffered. The film is based upon an earlier short film by Flanagan, Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man with the Plan.
The film takes place in two different times: the present and 11 years earlier. The two plot lines are told in parallel through flashbacks. In 2002, software engineer Alan Russell moves into a new house with his wife Marie, 10-year-old son Tim, and 12-year-old daughter Kaylie. Alan purchases an antique mirror to decorate his office. Unbeknownst to them, the mirror supernaturally induces hallucinations. Marie is haunted by visions of her own body decaying, while Alan is seduced by a ghostly woman named Marisol, who has mirrors in place of eyes.
Over time, the parents become psychotic; Alan isolates himself in his office, and Marie becomes withdrawn and paranoid. All of the plants in the house die, and the family dog disappears after being shut in the office with the mirror. After Kaylie sees Alan with Marisol, she tells her mother, and the parents fight. One night, Marie goes insane and attempts to kill her children, but Alan locks her away. When the family runs out of food, the children realize that their father is under the influence of the mirror, so Kaylie goes to seek help from their mother, and finds her chained to the wall, acting like an animal. Kaylie and Tim try going to their neighbors for help, but the neighbors disbelieve their stories. When Kaylie attempts to use the phone, she discovers that all of her phone calls are answered by the same man.
One night, Alan unchains Marie, and both parents attack the children. Marie briefly comes to her senses, only to be shot dead by Alan. The children try to destroy the mirror but it tricks them, making them believe they are hitting the mirror when they are actually hitting the wall. Alan also experiences a moment of lucidity and kills himself by forcing Tim to pull the trigger of the gun and shoot him. Before dying, he begs the children to run, but Marisol and other victims of the mirror appear as horrific ghosts. The police arrive and take Tim into custody. Before the siblings are separated, they promise to reunite as adults and destroy the mirror. As Tim is taken away, he sees the ghosts of his parents watching him from the house.
Eleven years later, Tim is discharged from a psychiatric hospital, having come to believe that there were no supernatural events involved in his parents' deaths. Kaylie has spent most of her young adulthood researching the history of the mirror. Using her position as an employee of an auction house, she obtains access to the mirror and has it transported to the family home, where she places it in a room filled with surveillance cameras and a "kill switch" — an anchor weighted to the ceiling. Kaylie intends to destroy the mirror, but first wants to document its powers, proving Tim's innocence.
Tim attempts to convince Kaylie that she's wrong and the siblings argue. When they notice the houseplants begin to wilt, they review the camera footage and see themselves performing actions they have no memory of. Tim finally accepts that the mirror has an evil power and attempts to escape the house with Kaylie, only for the pair to be drawn back by the mirror's influence. Seeing a hallucination of her mother, Kaylie stabs it in the neck, only to realize that she has stabbed her fiancé. They try to call the police, but are only able to reach the same voice who spoke to them on the phone as children. Tim activates the kill switch, realizing too late that Kaylie stood in its path, and he has killed her. The police arrive and arrest a hysterical Tim, just as they did when he was younger. As both a boy and an adult, Tim claims the mirror is responsible. As he is taken away, the older Tim sees Kaylie's ghost standing in the house with his parents.
- Karen Gillan as Kaylie Russell
- Annalise Basso as 12-year-old Kaylie
- Brenton Thwaites as Tim Russell
- Garrett Ryan Ewald as 10-year-old Tim
- Katee Sackhoff as Marie Russell
- Rory Cochrane as Alan Russell
- James Lafferty as Michael Dumont
- Miguel Sandoval as Dr. Graham
- Kate Siegel as Marisol Chavez
The film is based on Flanagan's earlier 2005 short horror film, also called Oculus. The short contained only one setting, a single actor, and a mirror. The short became highly acclaimed, and interest quickly arose regarding the adaptation of the short into a feature. Initially, studios were interested in making the film in accordance with the found footage genre; however, Flanagan was opposed to this and passed on such offers. Eventually, Intrepid Pictures expressed interest in producing the film "as long as you don't do it found footage".
Expanding the premise to a feature-length screenplay proved challenging, as Flanagan felt like he had "pushed the limit" of what could be done with the premise in the short. The solution Flanagan came across was to combine two storylines, past and present, intercut with one another. The idea was to "create a sense of distortion and disorientation that would be similar for the viewer as it was for Tim and Kaylie in the room." In early drafts, it was difficult to distinguish between the two timelines, until the team hit upon the idea of writing all of the scenes from the past in italics.
Inspired by the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, Flanagan chose to not explain the mirror's origins, describing to Den of Geek that he liked how Lovecraftian literature often seemed to be an "alien force that if you even were to try to comprehend it completely it would drive you mad." He expanded: "Evil in the world doesn't have an answer."
On October 27, 2012, filming wrapped in Fairhope, Alabama, after three weeks.
The film was first released on September 5, 2013, at the 2013 TIFF, and received a worldwide theatrical release on April 11, 2014.
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on August 5, 2014.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 73% based on 139 reviews, with an average rating of 6.3/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With an emphasis on dread over gore and an ending that leaves the door wide open for sequels, Oculus could be just the first spine-tingling chapter in a new franchise for discerning horror fans." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale.
Shock Till You Drop gave Oculus a positive review, stating that it was "smart and scary stuff". Film School Rejects gave a mixed review and stated that it was "well-acted, looks quite good, and manages some moments of entertainment, but as the minutes tick by it grows weaker and weaker until its final cheat is designed to allow for a shocker ending."
Released in the United States on April 11, 2014, Oculus grossed $4,966,899 on its opening day, nearly equaling its production budget of $5 million. As of October 3, 2014, the film has taken in an estimated $27,695,246 at the North American box office and another $16,335,000 internationally for a worldwide total of $44,030,246.
In March 2015, Relativity Media, B4U Television Network, and Balaji Telefilms confirmed a Bollywood remake with the title Zahhak. The title was later changed to Dobaara: See Your Evil. This film is directed by Prawaal Raman and stars Huma Qureshi and Saqib Saleem in the leading roles. Director Mike Flanagan served as the executive producer. The film was released on June 2, 2017.