After the spectacular failure that was The Mirror, I went into watching Oculus with some trepidation. Seeing the WWE Studios logo at the start did not help any. At least this movie about an evil mirror isn’t found footage and also features two actresses that I know at least have the capacity to act. Also I’m fairly certain that any movie with even a modest budget can afford to have something happen during the movie. Of course the movie leans as heavily as it can on the unreliable nature of what is happening so maybe nothing actually happened at all. OR DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND?
This time around we actually end up getting two stories in one that intertwine around the two main characters when they were kids and now that they’re grown up. As children their family got a big antique mirror that ended up driving both their parents insane and ended with the son Tim shooting the father. As grownups, the sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) manages to track down the mirror and sets up a thing to prove that the mirror is the one that was responsible for their parents death. Now, I have to wonder about Kaylie’s plan here. She knows that the mirror can influence people, make them see things that aren’t real, and can defend itself from attack. Why you would then think that hanging out with some cameras pointed at it would make a difference is beyond me. Sure you could check the cameras for proof that what you’re seeing is real or not but then it could just make it so that you see what it wants you to on the playback anyway.
This is going to be the main issue anytime I watch something where the main premise of the movie is that you can’t trust anything you see on screen. When it’s a couple weird tricks or ghost illusions or whatever but for the most part we know that what we see is reality, then those moments become disorienting and horrific. When the entire movie is spent jumping around in time with near constant fake outs and illusions by the end of it, I begin to stop caring. While the things jumping out at people might be good for cheap scare, I lose all sense of there being stakes or repercussions. If someone dies or is attacked, after too many unreliable scenes I just assume that nothing is actually happening and that the dead guy is an illusion and you aren’t actually running for your life but instead just flailing on the floor or something.
I did like that the flashbacks ended up becoming more and more overlapped with what was happening in the present. Also, Katee Sackhoff does a great job of portraying the descent into madness as the mom. In fact, I’d say I preferred the flashback story to the present day story if only because that made slightly more sense. The present day story was just the mirror being this omnipotent force of evil that can make you see or do anything it wants. The flashback, at least, seemed like a standard horror film with the mirror exerting more of an insidious influence than just directly controlling everything. If you’re going to have an invincible antagonist a la Freddy or Jason, then they need to be more charismatic than a hunk of glass and wood hanging on a wall since we can at least watch those monsters in action.
I did end up liking the film overall but I think that had much more to do with the actors and the flashback than the main storyline. I’d give it a 3 out of 5.
Favorite part of the movie: Katee Sackhoff being batshit crazy and chasing her kids on all fours.
Least favorite part: The mirror becoming an all-powerful illusionist by the end of the film.