Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Directed by Mike Flanagan.
2014. Rated R 103 minutes.
Karen Gillan
Brenton Thwaites
Rory Cochrane
Katee Sackoff
Annalise Basso
Garrett Ryan
James Lafferty
Miguel Sandoval
Kate Siegel

We meet Tim (Thwaites) as he is turning 18 and about to be released from a mental institution after six years. What put him there in the first place was that he shot and killed his father after his father had tortured and murdered his mother. Allegedly. His sister Kaylie (Gillan) doesn't remember it that way. She thinks the real culprit is the mirror that hung in her parents' bedroom. Yes, the mirror. According to her, it is pure evil, has been around for centuries, and has left a trail of dead bodies in its wake. She believes the mirror was not simply present for these deaths, but actively caused them through psychological manipulation. Years of therapy has helped Tim realize this just isn't the case. Undeterred, Kaylie returns to the house where it all went down with her brother in tow. She arms herself with a bunch of cameras, a small dog, some houseplants, instructions for her boyfriend to call and check on her every hour, on the hour, and a nasty looking anchor attached to a kill switch. With all of this in place, Kaylie sets out to prove her brother and the rest of the world wrong. While this is going on, we also get to see the events surrounding the death of their mother as they unfold.

After starting with a bang, literally, Oculus just kind of moseys along for a while as Tim and Kaylie take turns spewing reams of psychobabble that passes for exposition. Basically, Kaylie says "Mirror, bad! Mirror really bad! Look at dead people!" Tim responds with "is not," and they do it all over again after a flashback to what happened six years prior. As an audience, we're taken right to the brink of losing interest. Suddenly, a funny thing occurs. Both stories, the one in the past and the one in the present pick up and things start happening. Our interest is piqued and we find ourselves engaged in what's going on with these people. It helps that the tension is considerably ratcheted up as Kaylie continues to tempt fate on end of the spectrum and the situation between her parents begins rapidly deteriorating.

The story of the parents, has a classic haunted house...er...haunted mirror feel. In fact, it seems to take a lot of its cues from The Amityville Horror. Then again, what ghost story doesn't? Of course, there is a twist thrown in which I won't reveal. The present story is the more original of the two. Sure, there's the mirror, but there is also sibling rivalry taken to absurdist extremes. There are also questions of mental health as well as wondering aloud where we can and cannot assign blame. On the surface, this manifests itself in some nice moments where our heroes, and us by extension, have to guess whether or not what they are seeing is really there.

Overall, Oculus is a solid movie, one that starts slowly and manages to increase the tension as it goes. In this regard, it's a nicely done horror flick that relies much more on psychology than on buckets of blood. This is a nice change of pace for American horror, so long emphasizing body count over the intrinsically disturbing. On the other hand, it's just a mirror. Not only that, but for all the research Kaylie put into this thing she couldn't come up with one possible source of its power or one other person to corroborate her theory. Thankfully, this plays into the mystery of whether or not she and/or Tim are insane. However, it also makes it tough to get worked up over a malevolent mirror, no matter how many tragedies are attributed to it. It's also problematic that we can sniff out the ending in advance. The clues are too massive for us to ignore. I won't give it away, here, but our destination becomes apparent too soon. Therefore, while we enjoy what we see, we can't help but feel like it should have been better.


  1. I was meaning to see this one but yeah it looks quite average...I think I'm gonna see Babadook or Tusk for Halloween at least these two look original.

    1. I'd say slightly above average, but certainly not Earth shattering.

  2. More fun and interesting, rather than scary. But still totally worth the watch. Good review Dell.

  3. I enjoyed this fun horror flick, I and the small group I watched it with seemed to knew what was coming after the first 10 minutes of the film. Would I recommend it? Sure why not, there's far worse out there in the horror genre as far as I'm concerned. You summed it nicely with your review, Wendell.

    1. Thanks. It is a fun watch. "There's far worse out there" is an accurate, concise description, too.

  4. Fully agree with you on this one. I enjoyed my time with the movie; its creepy atmosphere freaked me out a lot more than blood and guts and gore would have. But it is indeed a minor horror film. Very fair review.

    1. Thanks. It's certainly solid enough to recommend one viewing. Don't think it will inspire more than that.