Pain in the glass
A crazy killer mirror causes problems for a family portrayed by a mix of awful and OK actors in Oculus, a muddled horror film that amounts to a couple of creepy moments surrounded by an incoherent mess.
Kaylie and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites) lost their mom, dad, family dog and a bunch of houseplants in a strange incident that involved a mirror in their dad’s office. Their dad (Rory Cochrane) had started his own company at home, and was working out of the office most of the time. His behavior got increasingly strange, much like Jack Nicholson’s in The Shining, and much to the dismay of his wife, Marie (Katee Sackhoff).
The film starts off years after the deaths, with Tim is leaving a mental health facility and Kaylie hatching a plan to “Kill the mirror!” that was in their dad’s office and seemed to have evil powers. Tim killed their suddenly insane dad—resulting in his hospital stay—and Kaylie is determined to prove that both Tim’s actions, and their dad’s strange behavior, were the results of the mischievous mirror, mirror on the wall.
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 really 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? Well, who knows?
Kaylie and Tim return to their home and set up a bunch of Apple products to record their interactions in a room with the killer mirror. Gillan’s Kaylie makes a 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. She delivers a long-winded, hissy speech about how the mirror has killed people and how she plans to outsmart it. It was sometime 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 us what happened to the Russell family, and 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, especially Basso. I found myself getting bummed out when the story would flash forward to the irritating adult actors.
Sackhoff, who made a name for herself in such TV extravaganzas as Battlestar Galactica and 24 (which, coincidentally, co-starred Kiefer Sutherland, who starred in his own scary mirror movie, the aptly titled Mirrors), does decent work as the tortured mom. I will go ahead and dub her and Basso’s performances as the film’s best.
The most annoying award goes to Gillan, who delivers almost every line with a snarky, “I told you so!” tone that grinds the nerves. Thwaites is required to carry some of the film’s heavier moments, and he drops said heavier moments down the stairs and through the floor and straight into Bad Acting Hell.
The film does score a couple of OK scares and gross-out moments, one involving a light bulb that’s pretty hard to watch. The ghosts in the film, which I guess are the ghosts of prior people the mirror has killed or sucked in or whatever, can be a little chilling to the eyes. Since they occupy very little time in the film, I’m not going to allow them to boost my overall feelings for this turd.
There’s a sequence involving a Boston Terrier where 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!
As for the people in this movie, I could care less. Oculus leaves the door open for a sequel, but there’s really no need for such a thing. No need at all.