Geek Highs & Lows of 2014: Oculus


Kaylie (Karen Gillan of Doctor Who–great to see her in a movie) has obtained a mirror from her family home from the time when her parents became paranoid, psychotic and were killed. Her brother, Tim, was admitted into psychiatric care for killing their father, who had killed their mother. Upon release, Kaylie collects Tim and takes him back to the family home and reveals her suspicion that the mirror, now reinstated, is cursed–that it can alter the perception of those around it, causing them to die or be killed.

Great premise and setup. The build up to Kaylie getting the mirror was effectively creepy. Gillan’s obsessive and methodical approach to proving the mirror’s abilities and in protecting her and her brother from it are convincing, and ramp up the discomfort around this object. Kaylie is no horror film victim, she’s a survivor determined on payback, and as such I was really behind her.

The mirror itself has the ability to twist your perspective, giving you false experiences, immersing you in a virtual reality–causing people to neglect eating and drinking, trick people into distrusting others and into doing horrible things to others or themselves. Kaylie has setup elaborate monitoring measures to prove the mirror’s darkside, regular alarms to break her and her brother from any delusions, and a whacking great axe-like anchor that will swing down and smash the mirror if they don’t reset a timer every hour.

Despite seeming like she’s thought of everything, quite soon after Kaylie has explained this and her plans, the mirror demonstrates in a chilling way that it’s up for a challenge and that Kaylie may not be as prepared as she thinks.

The film tells the story of Kaylie and Tim as children, experiencing the effects the mirror is having on their parents, but not understanding it, and the older siblings in the present working against the mirror. It was great to see Katee Sackoff make an appearance as the mother, but the switching back and forth between the two times was frustrating. It would have been fine if this was the only chopping back and forth, but this movie is about twisting perceptions, so alternative realities are experienced in the past and the present plot threads, and I found the film quickly became muddled. There were creepy and grim bits throughout (nail and teeth pulling for instance), but it got to a point where I didn’t know whether what I was seeing was going to be real or a trick, so I became detached from it and then the chills were lost on me.

I had really looked forward to this film, but was glad I missed at the cinema and caught it on Netflix. I found myself surfing the Internet in the last third.

Good opening, and while it’s premise was intriguing it ultimately worked against it.  As soon as I saw that anchor poised to swing down at that mirror I knew what was coming, so it ended up being a twisty journey to a predictable ending. Can’t recommend this film and it was another horror low of 2014.


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