Film review: Oculus

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FRIDAY the 13th of June will be exceedingly unlucky for cinemagoers who hand over hard-earned cash in exchange for ghoulish thrills and spills in Oculus.

* *

Oculus, starring Karen Gillan

Oculus, starring Karen Gillan

Writer-director Mike Flanagan’s ham-fisted take on a haunted house creaks with predictability, and jump-out-of-your-seat scares are perilously thin on the ground.

The script, co-written by Jeff Howard, unfolds in parallel timelines set 11 years apart and the boundary between fantasy and reality becomes so blurred that it’s impossible to make sense of the on-screen madness until the end credits roll.

That said, it’s abundantly clear where Flanagan’s lumbering picture is headed and which two-dimensional characters must be slain, sparing them and us from swathes of risible dialogue that might convince some viewers they are watching a comedy.

Scot Karen Gillan, who is best known for her time-travelling exploits alongside Matt Smith in Doctor Who, sports a solid American accent as the film’s terrified heroine.

She draws upon a repertoire of wide-eyed stares and pitiful whimpers as her protagonist battles valiantly against the ultimate manifestation of evil: an antique mirror.

Oculus doesn’t play fair, creating nightmarish dreams within dreams within dreams that test our resolve.

Pacing is sluggish and from the moment the siblings venture back into the house that brought them anguish, we know one or both of them are certain to leave in a coroner’s bag.

Gillan and Thwaites don’t have sufficient screen time to forge credible on-screen chemistry so it’s hard to invest our emotions in their survival.

A blood-soaked finale intentionally leaves the door ajar for a sequel.