A crazy, killer mirror causes problems for a family portrayed by a mix of mediocre actors in Oculus, a horror film that offers a couple of creepy moments—that are surrounded by an incoherent mess.
Kaylie and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites) lost their mother, father, family dog and a bunch of houseplants in a strange incident that involved a mirror in their father’s home office. Their dad (Rory Cochrane) had started his own company, and was working out of that home office most of the time. His behavior got increasingly strange, much like that of Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and much to the dismay of his wife, Marie (Katee Sackhoff).
The film starts off years after the deaths. Tim is leaving a mental-health facility after killing his suddenly insane father, and Kaylie is hatching a plan to “Kill the mirror!” that was in their dad’s office, determined to prove that both Tim’s actions and her dad’s strange behavior were the results of the mischievous mirror.
While we do see strange reflections in the mirror, ghostly apparitions with white eyes walking around the house, and people behaving strangely, it’s never apparent why all of this is happening. Kaylie’s research reveals that the mirror has been sucking up souls for centuries, but how and why? Who knows?
Kaylie and Tim return to their home and set up a bunch of Apple products in the room with the killer mirror. Kaylie makes a long-winded speech to the cameras to show that she has it all mapped out, and she’s going to get to the bottom of all this evil, dammit. It was somewhere during this speech that I started to not give a crap about anything she had to say.
Director and co-writer Mike Flanagan uses a lot of flashbacks to show what happened to the Russell family; it’s all quite disorientating and unnecessary. I will say that the two kids (Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan) are far more interesting than the adults playing the same characters. I found myself getting bummed out when the story would flash back to the irritating adult actors.
Sackhoff, who made a name for herself in TV extravaganzas such as Battlestar Galactica and 24, does decent work as the tortured mom. Her performance, as well as that of Basso as young Kaylie, are the film’s best.
The Most Annoying Award goes to Gillan, who delivers almost every line as the adult Kaylie with a snarky, “I told you so!” tone that grinds on the nerves. Thwaites is required to carry some of the film’s heavier moments—and he drops said heavier moments through the floor and straight into bad acting hell.
The film does score a couple of OK scares and gross-out moments, including one involving a light bulb that’s pretty hard to watch. The ghosts in the film—the ghosts of prior people the mirror has killed or sucked in or whatever—can be a little chilling, too. However, they occupy very little time in the film. There’s a sequence involving a Boston terrier in which the doggie just runs out the door, never to be seen again. As a Boston terrier owner, and major fan of that particular breed, I want to know what happened to that dog!
But as for the people in this movie, I could care less. Oculus leaves the door open for a sequel, but there’s no need for such a thing. No need at all.
Oculus is playing at theaters across the valley.