By Gary Murray

Starring Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff and a mean mirror

Written by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Running time 104 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating Cable


“Mirror, mirror on the wall; who’s the most evil of them all?”  That would be the mirror that hangs around the set of the new thriller/horror flick Oculus.  This new film is made by WWE Productions, the guys who bring the world professional wrestling.  And like professional wrestling, there is a heavy degree of over-acting and fakery.

The story takes place in both the present and the past of 11 years ago.  The audience sees two kids run around a house, chased by something.  It is revealed that it is a dream by Tim (Brenton Thwaites).  He’s been held in the crazy house for 10 years after the death of his parents.  It seems that he killed one of them but is now rehabilitated. 

His older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) works in an auction house.  In the last decade, she has gone from foster home to foster home all the time doing research on the demon mirror.  She believes that her father was a victim of the mirror and not a killer. 

After an exhaustive search, Kaylie has found the mirror, a mirror that adorned the wall of her father’s study.  With Tim out of incarceration, she tells him that he must do what he promised to do—destroy the mirror called the Lasser Glass.

Tim, through the ten years of therapy, remembers the events of a decade ago very differently.  He believes that his parents were in a troubled marriage and things just got out of control.  To show the two different set of memories, there are flashbacks to moving into the house and the same event seen through different eyes. 

Mom Marie (Katee Sackhoff) and Dad Alan (Rory Cochrane) exist in the new house with the two kids.  While young Kaylie (Annalise Basso) remembers the supernatural elements, young Tim (Garrett Ryan) remembers infidelity.  The night of the murders is a chaotic and distant memory.

The film slides back and forth from these two different times, with characters floating back into the past while keeping their current bodies.  Older Kaylie has set up a series of elaborate traps to prove that the mirror is possessed and evil.  She plans to capture what happens when the mirror begins its wicked entrapment.

The film uses confusion to build tensions both with the past and with the siblings.  In the world of Oculus, no one is exactly sure what is going on or what is going to happen next. That confusion seems to go all the way to the cast and crew.

 Karen Gillan is basically a television actress who is breaking into films.  Her next big role is the blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, a part that should put her on the A-list of young actresses.  This is just a role to establish herself from the pack, the victim of unseen forces.  She does a great job in the role but does not have that much to do other than react to shifting shadows.

Katee Sackhoff was great in the last Riddick film, kicking butt with Vin Diesel.  While working mostly on television, she has been trying to break into major Hollywood films.  Here, she plays a mom who has either gone crazy or is yet another victim of the mirror.  This is probably the best single performance of the work and the only element that is truly creepy.

Director Mike Flanagan is best known as a television editor who is breaking into mainstream directing by going the horror route.  His skills as an editor keep this complicated screenplay twisting while not getting itself into an untangled bind.  With multiple time lines and different people playing the same character at different ages, it could become a confusing mess.  Flanagan has a firm grip on the screenplay and gets the most from his cast.

The big problem with Oculus is that it is just not that scary.  There were not those moments where the nerves scamper like a rat crawling up the back of the spine.  It needed more tingling moments and fewer plot twists.  By being too cleaver for itself, it violates the first rule of a horror film, to be frightening. 

Oculus truly is not a film that needs to be rushed out to see but something that is more of a watch on a rainy day.  It is an interesting idea that may have been done a time or two but still manages to entertain more than it does to bore.  It is not a great film or any kind of masterpiece, just something to kill a few hours with when there is nothing else to do. 

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