Oculus tackles the stories Hollywood is too afraid to discuss: evil antiques or the mutability of perception and memory. In this particular case, the antique is a mirror that inspires self-harm and violence – or possibly trauma from the violent end of a marriage has led two children to twist their memories into a horror story so that they can somehow come to grips with the horrors that befell them.
The movie starts by showing us some of the tragic events that build the obsession of our heroes, Kaylie and Tim Russell. After twelve years of living in an asylum, Tim Russell is released back into society. Kaylie is now a successful antiques collector bent on proving that her brother wasn’t insane and didn’t murder their parents. Her plan is simple: prove that the mirror not only killed scores of people throughout its history, but also killed their parents.
To do this, she has set up numerous recording devices to track the mirror’s sinister powers. Throughout the movie, we bounce between past and present. Kaylie walks through the supernatural events while Tim examines the same outcomes with much more mundane explanations. Both of them go through experiences that make them question reality and their sanity as the mirror reflects darkly on a haunted period of their life.
Oculus has a strong cast, some wonderfully tense moments, and a dark tone. Geeks will rejoice at seeing Katee Sackhoff (from Battlestar Galactica) and Karen Gillan (from Doctor Who) together in a movie, although Karen Gillan’s American accent was frequently distracting. Brenton Thwaites (in the upcoming The Signal, The Giver, and Maleficent) is settling nicely into geek-related roles. Oculus has a high geek factor and has strong, suspenseful moments as well as a few touches of horror, but will likely not be to the taste of many die-hard horror fans. In many ways, the movie played out like a short season of American Horror Story, although not nearly as shocking.