Quick Hit: A killer mirror movie (ummmm) that somehow turns out scarier than you expect.
Believe it or not, this is not the first killer mirror movie. I’ve actually seen at least one other, starring 24’s Kiefer Sutherland. That was the 2008 Mirrors (which eventually spawned a sequel in 2010, Mirrors 2). However, those movies were pretty much the typical horror movie mumbo jumbo. Oculus, brought to us by Blumhouse and Mike Flanagan (Hush and the upcoming Stephen King adaptation of Gerald’s Game) is many, many steps above that.
It tells the non-linear story of a young boy and girl who have their parents go quickly insane. This is due to the influence of an antique mirror in the house. Alongside the images of them as children, we get to see them as two young adults in their twenties that have gone separate paths when it comes to the memories of their past. Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has embraced what has happened, binding her time for a moment where she can fight the mirror once more. Tim (Brenton Thwaites) has spent time in a mental institution and has decided that the mirror is just a mirror, and everything that occurred was his young mind attempting to deal with it.
There is a delightful amount of plots here, and that’s what ends up doing the film its greatest disservice. The mirror simultaneously seems to be filling people with thoughts, a portal to another dimension of the dead, and a living entity with its own agenda, as well as a reflection of the past and the present. It’s chock full of ideas, with very little eventual follow through besides some creepy ghoul ladies and gentleman. Along with that, the setting is perfect - a house, that somehow even in the middle of the day is full of shadows. It perfectly exhibits how it feels to be a child when something scares you - everything seems darker than it should be, and horrors hide everywhere.
What is the most terrifying is the parental aspect of the movie. I watched this on Mother’s Day, with my wife – in retrospect, not a great idea. This as a woman choking her offspring multiple times, often very violently (yes, there is such a thing as a violent strangle and an “easygoing??” strangle). There is extreme parental violence towards the children, as well as each other. In fact, all the violence in the movie comes from these interchanges, besides a well-placed lightbulb and a frightening booby trap.
I actually thought the acting, which is lacking in lots of horror films, was pretty good throughout the movie. Karen Gillan is the stand-out, with some terrific delivery and screen composure. But the mother, played by Katee Sacoff, is terrifying in her slow descent into madness. One of the scenes involves her chasing the little girl down the hall (I've included below for your creeped out pleasure of the day) and it gave me some decent chills. Speaking of the little girl, I wasn't entirely sold on their reactions, but for child actors in a horror film, they were serviceable.
The best part of the movie is the interaction that is set up between the Mirror’s interactions and the people it is influencing. I thought it was really creative to have the sphere of influence, and to have the Mirror essentially control your behavior and have you do things that you have no memory of doing. I also thought that the Lightbulb scene, though really telegraphed, was EXCELLENT. Yikes.
The movie ends pretty dismally (spoiler I guess?) but it’s a horror movie. Do you really expect the good guys to win?
I’m going to give Oculus a “C+”.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"