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Oculus: Or Why I Was Right to be Scared of Mirrors

Official Synopsis: A brother and sister reunite 11 years after a tragedy in order to destroy the evil mirror responsible for the death of their parents.

Snap Synopsis: HAUNTED MIRROR. NOPE.

“OH SHIT!” Moments: Lost track. Just never buy antiques or peer into a mirror ever again.

Watching Oculus was like being caught in a nightmare where you thought you had woken up, only to realize that not only were you still asleep, but the dream had gotten even worse. But let me back up a bit.

Siblings Tim and Kaylie are reunited after Tim’s release from a mental facility, where he’s spent eleven years after fatally shooting their father — the father who had murdered their mother and was in the middle of attempting to kill his children as well. Needless to say, things are a bit awkward between the siblings. Before Tim can even eat his obligatory “Welcome Back!” lunch, Kaylie is whirling them off to fulfill Their Promise, even though it’s in every single of one of Timbo’s best interests to say “no” to his big sister.

It turns out that Kaylie’s sweet gig at a luxury auction house isn’t out of a deep appreciation for antiques so much as a means to track down the Lasser Glass, the mirror that houses the evil responsible for the death of her parents. Now she has it in her possession and it couldn’t be better timing, because brother is going to help her destroy it. Too bad the evil entity residing in the Lasser Glass isn’t exactly defenseless either.

UM YEAH. I KNOW. Photo courtesy of Joblo
UM YEAH. I KNOW.
Photo courtesy of Joblo

Oculus is a movie you can’t settle into because it grabs at you and gets you all wound up and tense, and never stops messing with your head. The creeps and spooky antics snowball during the movie, and like our intrepid siblings, the viewer finds it increasingly difficult to discern what’s reality and what isn’t. The narrative shifts between past and present as Kaylie and Tim simultaneously relive that horrific night while attempting to last the night in the house, as their continued attempts at destroying the mirror fail. Despite their steeled wills and objective knowledge, the two are forced to regress to their younger selves. By the end of Oculus, everything is one continuous realization that this indeed was a huge mistake.

As with any horror movie, whether you find Oculus scary is, of course, completely subjective, but there is a little bit of everything in this one: some good ol’ fashioned body horror (apples!), regular supernatural haunting courtesy of a creepy spirit who has flashlight eyes and no teeth, and straight up disturbing domestic violence. You never do discover the origin of the Lasser Glass or the force that lurks within it, but it’s clear that it’s evil and clever, as seen by its psychological warfare against the siblings, as it constantly tricks them by manipulating physical reality and their minds.

Brother and sister hug while watching offscreen horror.
Photo courtesy of Vancity Buzz

Some may criticize the headstrong Kaylie as being too unrelenting and insensitive to Tim’s needs. It’s true that her plan has some severely gaping holes, and she’s a tad too emotional despite knowing what she’s up against, but this is part of her being an actual person. Some have pointed out that Tim should have had more backbone to stand up against his domineering sister, but it’s — also realistically — pretty tough for a little brother to say “no” to a charismatic older sister. That dynamic is firmly and believably fleshed out by young stars Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, who play the childhood versions of the siblings. While viewers will be drawn to Oculus for the presence of nerdy leading ladies Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff, who play their roles as daughter and mother with aplomb, it’s actually the young Basso who’s the true star. She plays the young Kaylie with smarts, steel, and a determined ferocity, all without being precocious or unbelievable.

That being said, while there aren’t outright scream-out-loud moments during Oculus, it’s a perfect movie for those who prefer their horror movies to be subtly and gradually creepy, and to be quietly disturbed.

Lois gives it: Two thumbs up.

This post originally appeared on Geekquality and is reposted with permission.

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