ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, APRIL 9, 2014
My 12-year-old son saw the trailer for Oculus recently and wasn’t impressed. “A haunted mirror?” snarked the pint-size critic. “Really? Why don’t they just smash it?”
When I explained to him that this particular mirror wasn’t smashable—and that repeated poundings on its surface don’t even cause a crack—he countered sensibly that they should just get rid of it then, take it to the dump.
I don’t foresee a successful Hollywood career for this kid.
Oculus opens with a grim scene in which two frantic children, Kaylie and Tim (Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan), are stalked in their home by a deranged man with a gun, who turns out to be their antique-dealer dad (Rory Cochrane). He’s apparently been possessed by an evil old mirror he’s acquired, and things don’t end well for either him or his similarly whacked-out wife (Riddick’s Katee Sackhoff).
Fastforward 11 years and grown-up auction-house employee Kaylie (Karen Gillan) tracks down the mirror, now known as “the Lasser Glass”. Convinced that it’s responsible for 45 deaths over the years, she brings it back to the childhood home for elaborately recorded scientific tests. She hopes to prove its supernatural power and exonerate her brother Tim, who was blamed for their parents’ deaths and recently released from a mental institution.
The rest of the film is a tedious flitting back and forth between the kids’ traumatic childhood experience and the endless tests the obsessed Kaylie conducts in the present. Scenes of loose fingernails being detached and teeth chomping on light bulbs are tossed in for shock effect.
After viewing Oculus I’m gonna agree with my boy that haunted-mirror movies suck—just like the last one I saw, 2008’s Mirrors. That hokey Kiefer Sutherland time-waster made me question the abilities of director Alexandre Aja, even though he’d blown me away with the French shocker High Tension and his manic remake of The Hills Have Eyes.
I fully expect horror fans impressed by Oculus director Mike Flanagan’s previous feature, the well-received Absentia, to have similar second thoughts.