As a movie, Oculus was fresh, unique, and interesting. As a concept, it made me a little nervous. The metaphorical sun this star system of spooks orbits is an antique mirror haunted by a particularly nasty spirit that gets its rocks off by screwing with people’s minds before driving them to suicide. You might think, “But if the spirit’s power is connected to the mirror, why can’t the protagonists just smash it?” First of all, this is a horror movie. How dare you suggest the obvious solution. Secondly, the mirror doesn’t just mess with minds; it peels them apart and drags out your deepest, darkest memories, tormenting you at a growing pace via vivid hallucinations. You thought you were smashing the mirror? Nah, you were just watering a plant. Have a gun pointed at it? Double check you’re not pointing it at yourself. Lock and load!
Tim Russel (Brenton Thwaites) just got released from a mental institution, supposedly fixed after suffering a particularly nasty and mirror-oriented childhood trauma. His big sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has followed the Lasser Glass to an auction house, and marks it for “repair” so she can transport it to their old family home and set the record straight. With recorded evidence of ol’ Lassie Glassie’s supernatural nature, big sister can finally prove to the world that in fact the mirror killed her mother, not their father, who was driven to violent insanity by Lassie’s aura. See, the problem there is, Kaylie is afflicted by the teenage delusion that she’s invincible to Lassie’s influence, and Tim has been mentally “fixed” so meticulously that he initially doesn’t want anything to do with the project when his sister lays down the brass tacks.
Through a system of timers, cameras, and one weighted mirror-cracking killswitch on a timer, Kaylie hopes to threaten the mirror into defending itself against the threat of destruction, consequently recording tangible proof of its supernatural influence. It sure seems like a great idea, until the siblings start experiencing none other than violent, vivid hallucinations that take them right back to the darkest days of their childhood. And yes, they’re not allowed to leave. Not until the haunt is done with them.
See, due to the psychological nature of the Lasser Glass’s power, the backstory and the present are interwoven seamlessly, to the point where you wonder what’s real and what isn’t. Not only are Kaylie and Tim having flashbacks that shut off their awareness of the present, they’re also prone to normal hallucinations that screw with them to the same extent. Seriously, Kaylie goes to take a bite out of an apple and it turns out to be a light bulb. Or does it? I’m not gonna tell you because it would be spoiling one of my favorite moments.
You can get your hopes up for the Russel siblings, but you probably shouldn’t. Oftentimes the human mind is the only thing that can conquer deranged killers and spooks, but without that… You’re even more screwed than the idiots who keep leaving machetes and chainsaws next to the supposedly dead murderer’s body. Basically spoiled the nature of the ending, but at least you get to wonder just how catastrophically they fail!
Kofi Outlaw of ScreenRant was none too happy with the ending, saying that it went out with a fizzle instead of a bang. I’m on the same page, but I do think Oculus is creative enough to warrant a curiosity watch and a rewatch for clarity at the very least. Kofi explains the origin of the film in his review, so if you want the full Oculus review experience, take a dive through here: http://screenrant.com/oculus-reviews-movie-2014/