ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

New Review: Oculus (2014)

Updated on April 12, 2014
So, is the movie really about an evil mirror......
So, is the movie really about an evil mirror......
......or childhood trauma?
......or childhood trauma?

Director: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rorey Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, James Lafferty, Miguel Sandoval

There are two ways to look at Oculus: Either it's a horror movie about two siblings battling an evil mirror, or it's a psychological mystery about two siblings so greatly wounded as children that they created this far-fetched fantasy to make better sense out of a senselessly tragic moment in their lives. What's interesting about the movie is that it can honestly be interpreted in either way. Director Mike Flanagan has the movie play out in such a hallucinatory manner that we're not sure if what we're seeing is real, a memory, a manifestation of the the character's damaged psyche, or something else. The movie is not particularly scary, but it is an unusually captivating and haunting experience.

Eleven years ago, 12-year old Kaylie Russell (Annalise Basso) and her 10-year old brother Tim (Garrett Ryan) witnessed their father (Rory Cochrane) murder their mother (Katee Sackhoff) with a six-shooter. After the incident, Kaylie was sent to live in foster care, while Tim, who shot and killed his father, was sent to a mental institution. Kaylie has always believed that an old antique mirror, called Lasser Glass, was responsible for everything that happened that night. Now a young adult (and played by Karen Gillan), she hatches a plan to obtain the mirror, bring it back to their old childhood home, and destroy the thing with a yacht anchor after she proves of its malevolence.

She enlists the aid of her brother Tim (now played by Brenton Thwaites), who has just been released from the institution, and would like nothing more than to move on with his life. At first, he's hesitant about participating, but he eventually agrees to meet his sister at the house, if only to talk her into letting the whole thing go. A good thirty minutes of the movie focuses on Kaylie stating her case about why she believes the mirror to be haunted, while Tim acts like the voice of reason and counters every argument that she makes.

Kaylie said she saw a mysterious woman with her father in his office; Tim argues that maybe he was having an affair. Kaylie discovers that many of the mirror's previous owners have died under mysterious circumstances; Tim says "So what?" and reminds her of the many things that happened after their family purchased a living room sofa. These scenes are actually very well-written and acted, and because they precede the horror movie elements of the second half, they force us to question whether what happens is the work of some supernatural force, or hallucinations brought on by past traumas.

My, what.......dead eyes you have! o_O
My, what.......dead eyes you have! o_O

It's interesting to see how Flanagan works with the material. The first half of the movie tells two separate stories: The present day attempts made by Kaylie to destroy the mirror, and the story of when Tim and Kaylie were kids, and the events that eventually led to that fateful night. The climax takes it one step further, having the past and the present overlap, and younger and older versions of the same character acknowledge one another. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, this could have become confusing and frustrating, but there is a pattern in the way Flanagan has the movie play out, and the conclusion he reaches is not only fair, but also quite heartbreaking.

The performances are all surprisingly superb. Cochrane and Sackhoff are aces as the parents, but the best performances are, I'd argue, turned in by the youngest members of the cast. Gillan is dynamite as Kaylie, creating a character who's spunky, vulnerable, and always a joy to watch. Thwaites brings considerable depth to the role of Tim, and the sibling chemistry he shares with Gillan is solid and, at times, quite touching. The two kids Basso and Ryan, however, are phenomenal. Their characters are put through physical and emotional hell over the course of the movie, and the fear and anguish they convey is so affecting that there are moments in the film that are just a little too difficult to watch.

Oculus is not a perfect movie. For starters, it's really not that scary. Gruesome? Sometimes, very much so (not just for the light bulb munching scene; look what happens when dad tries to remove a band aid from his finger using a staple remover). Atmospheric? Unquestionably, thanks to the outstanding cinematography by Michael Fimognari. Scary? Not really (I'm sorry, but those white eyed demons just didn't do anything for me). There's also a huge flaw in Kaylie's plan to prove that the mirror is evil. She has cameras set-up in the room where the mirror is at, so that when it does something supernatural, she can catch it on film. The problem is that the mirror doesn't make things happen on its own. Instead, it manipulates people into doing things they wouldn't normally do, and without them knowing it (we learn that one mother drowned her children in a bathtub, and she thought she was simply tucking them into bed). So, technically, the only thing she'll be able to pick up on camera is her and her brother doing things without them even knowing it, right? (There is a bit about plants dying right on the spot, but the movie doesn't really explain that).

And while I do accept that the movie is about childhood trauma, there are those who might be turned off by the violence against the two young children. More than once, both children are threatened and held at gunpoint, and both children are repeatedly strangled by their parents. There is one harrowing scene where Kaylie finds her mother chained up in her bedroom with a dog collar around her neck, and the scene where young Tim is forced to shoot his father dead is particularly grueling. Because of the material, I didn't find the movie exploitative, but there are going to be those who will.

It's impossible to not feel sympathy for these kids. :(
It's impossible to not feel sympathy for these kids. :(

Some critics have said that a sequel will most certainly be in the works. I really hope that isn't the case. It would be a mistake to make one, seeing as how the highlight of the movie is its sense of mystery, and a sequel would rob this movie of that. Some of you may think that the mirror is evil and that's that. The movie certainly hints that it could very well be. Some might think the mirror has nothing to do with what happens in the film, and if one were able to discuss the movie in more detail, they might make a solid case for that. The thing is that Mike Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard, never offer any easy answers in the end.

You'll just have to see the movie and decide for yourself.

Rated R for violence, blood, some disturbing images, and a little profanity

Final Grade: *** (out of ****)

What did you think of this movie? :)

3 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Oculus (2014)


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • priley84 profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Warner Robins, Ga

      Thanks for reading. :)

      The trailers really didn't do the movie justice; even I thought the movie looked a little lame in the ads. But if you like those horror films where you're not sure if what you're seeing is real or not, then this one is definitely worth a look! :D

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      I did see the ads for this film, and it seemed like just another horror flick. I like those horror stories where there is an element of doubt about whether it is real or not. Well written review.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)