Oculus (2013) – 31 Days of Horror: Oct 02

by Jovial Jay

Today I move to a more modern film, Oculus, which I not heard about until recently, while discussing this project with a co-worker. I like to find a balance of horror film types while doing this blog, picking films that I’ve not seen in the past couple years, or never at all. Also I like to pick films from different eras, and genres to explore the history of horror in a way.

Oculus: a circular or oval window. Oculus is also the name of a 2013 horror film starring Karen Gillan (Doctor Who, Guardians of the Galaxy).

Before Viewing

The trailer presents the story of a brother and sister who had a traumatic childhood, when their father went crazy and killed their mother. The girl believes that the mirror the family owned was possessed and was responsible for scores of deaths in its lifetime. From there it seems like the two try to document the evils of the mirror, but get caught up in the reality-warping powers that the mirror holds. As an example, she grabs an apple, which is next to a light bulb, taking a bite only to realize she’s bitten into the light bulb and now has a mouthful of glass! Ugh! Some of the shots sparked the memory of a film about a similar sort of evil object, Time Lapse, which is about a camera/device that takes pictures 24 hours into the future, showing the viewer a potential reality. Not that this is similar, but there appear to be scenes where the mirror is showing the characters different things, and not only inside the mirror’s oculus, but also outside of it!

Presented below is the Trailer for the film.


Spoiler Warning - HalloweenAfter Viewing

The premise of Oculus (2013) is that 11 years ago a ten-year old boy kills his father, who has seemingly gone insane and murdered the mother. The boy, Tim (Brenton Thwaites), is now released from a mental facility into the care of his sister, Kaylie (Karen Gillan). The film intercuts the events after Tim’s release and his reconnection with Kaylie, who has a mission to prove that her father was not a murderer, but was a victim of possession by this haunted mirror, with the events of 11 years prior, when the family first adopted the Lasser Glass, and the creepy turn of events that occurred.

Kaylie has done much research on the Lasser Glass, dating back centuries, and has some strict, scientific methodology in which to prove the mirror is haunted or possessed. Her plan is to record this information, and then destroy the mirror. Tim, having been “cured” of the trauma of having shot his father, and coping with the odd events a decade before, is less than pleased to help out. He has many critical misgivings about her theories.

These moments are intercut with the father and mother (Rory Cochrane & Katee Sackhoff) becoming affected by the mirror’s aura, and slowly losing their grip on reality. Alan is the first to break with reality, since the mirror was placed in his office, but Marie soon follows.

Kaylie and Tim’s present day events, get mixed up with their recollection of past events (sometimes intercutting between a young Kaylie/older Tim, and vice versa), as the mirror gets stronger. The ending is a shocking finale that plays on the mis-perceptions provided by the arcane glass, leading to a tragic outcome for all the characters.

We only have few days.”
“A few days for what?”
“To keep our promise. And kill it.” – Kaylie & Tim Russell

Based on the trailer for this film, I knew it would be scary, but the tension induced caused me to stop playback several times just to maintain a grip on myself. There’s a scene, on par with the the one I describe from the trailer, where Alan removes a bandage from his fingernail, only to realize it’s still there. This is one of the mirror’s tricks – making you believe what you’re seeing is different than reality. He cannot remove the band aid, no matter how hard he tries, to he decides to pull out a staple remover to grab and pull the band aid off. Not a scene for the faint of heart!

I thought the inclusion of the mirror as a character, which made decisions and moved the direction of the story along, was very interesting. Kaylie actually knows much of the mirror’s history and talks to it, as if it was really a character. While it never says a word, the mirror does make its pleasure or displeasure known by sending out the spirits of those it has previously claimed to do its bidding.

Since horror films are never just about the thing they appear to be about, I started to ponder the theme of this film. It seems to be about the longing of childhood, and either focusing on the past (as in nostalgia) or regretting past events and wanting to put them right. It’s not a coincidence that this film focuses on a mirror, which displays a reflection, but “reflection” can also be a “serious thought or consideration,” similar to what Kaylie has spent the last decade of her life doing.

While Tim has moved on through therapy and counseling, Kaylie has had no one to talk with about the horrors that took place in her family’s house, and has spent the last ten years plotting the revenge on the Lasser Glass. Going so far as to work at an auction house, and follow the sales of the mirror, so that it would end up in her auction house’s inventory just as Tim was released from the hospital. Her mania on proving the innocence of her father in the destruction of the family, supersedes her intellect, as she fails to just destroy the mirror when she has the chance. The assorted plans and recordings she makes to prove the evil machinations of this oculus, provides the object with the time it needs to gain the strength needed to defeat her (and Tim) in the end.

Overall, this is a great film that exceeded my expectations. The actors all did a wonderful job, and the editing provides a substantial pace that keeps the viewer guessing about what is real, and what is just a pale reflection of reality.

Assorted Musings

  • The director, Mike Flanigan, directed the thriller Hush, which I reviewed last year, with much enthusiasm.
  • This was Karen Gillan’s 1st American production, just before she started working in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Accept Privacy Policy