I think it’s obvious by now how much I love all things horror. But no matter how much I read, watch or play the thing that I will always love above everything else are ghosts. So if someone can give me a good ghost story, and I mean a GOOD ghost story. then I will love it and talk about it endlessly. My sister, who I watch most of my scary movies with, messaged me when I was out of the country and told me that when I got back home I NEEDED to see Oculus. I dismissed it of course, because she’s also the one who watches every made for tv movie on the hallmark channel. When I finally got home I was bombarded with “have you seen it yet? When are you going to watch it? Why haven’t you watched it yet!?” Now normally when she pushes something on me this hard I ignore her out of spite. But literally every time I opened Netflix it recommended it to me. At first I said, “no Netflix not you too, don’t take her side!” Then the final straw that made me cave was when my wife kept asking “are you going to watch Oculus”. I couldn’t ignore the Universe telling me to watch this movie any longer. I loaded Netflix up on my tablet, loaded up the movie and sat back for one of the BEST ghost stories I’d seen in a long long time. Here’s why….
The story involves two siblings, Kaylie and Tim, who’s parents died when they were 12 and 10 respectively as a result of a haunting caused by the mirror. The trauma surrounding their death resulted in Tim being sent to a psychiatric facility for 11 years whereas Kaylie grew up and dedicated her life to finding the haunted mirror that destroyed her family. Once Tim is released from care, Kaylie finds him and convinces him to come over that night as she’s tracked down the mirror and is going to destroy it once and for all.
The Main Characters
I immediately fell in love with the character dynamics in this movie because it was one of the best ways a movie has explained two people’s opposing views on the occult. I get frustrated in other films when one character blindly believes in the ghosts and the other one blindly believes in logic/science and the two refuse to see eye to eye even though there’s no logical reason why both of them would have such opposing views. In this one it made sense and was explained immediately. Tim, a 10 year old child, is raised in a psychiatric facility for 11 years where he discusses his experience with the mirror and is frequently diagnosed or referred to various psychology theory that explains away his trauma. He’s told his experience stemmed from creating alternative explanations to his parents failing marriage and that overtime he created fabrications that supported this theory. Over time Tim believes this and develops the mentality that each experience he had as a child can be explained away with scientific and psychological theory. Kaylie on the other hand, didn’t enter care, and as a result obsessively tracked the mirror’s history, studied the occult and strengthened her belief that her parents died as a result of a haunting. This dynamic results in both characters examining each occurrence they experienced, and are currently experience, through two different perspectives and mentalities. Kaylie remembers seeing a ghost woman in her father’s office whereas Tim remembers seeing a live woman who the dad was having an affair with. This movie is every single argument between the scientifically minded and the paranormally minded and it’s executed so well. The worst part is, that nothing is really explained in the end. The director leaves the whole story up to the viewer to decide, did it all happen? Did some of it happen? Did none of it happen? And as a result no side really wins, it just depends on the viewer and that’s the entire point of the main characters. You relate to one (I obviously related to Kaylie) and so that’s what I took from the movie whereas those who don’t believe in ghosts probably relate to Tim.
This movie focuses on the two main characters for about 98% of the film and that’s no exaggeration. Other side characters will occasionally pop up to drive the narrative but for the most part this is Kaylie and Tim’s story. During flashbacks it’s always the two of them together trying to figure out what’s happening, and when they’re adults it’s the two of them in the same house doing the same thing. While there are four actors involved in this plot device (young tim and kaylie/adult tim and kaylie) the relationship is freakishly identical. Imagine how difficult it would’ve been to find two children actors who had the exact same chemistry/dynamic as two adult actors. Eventually you start believing that these ARE young versions of Kaylie and Tim, not actors playing them. And what enfolds is two siblings who really care for each other and look out for one another. It’s quite nice seeing a movie with a young brother and sister who actually get along, it’s as if the director knew what it was like to actually have a sibling and didn’t just write it the way most sitcoms and movies do. Perhaps this is best illustrated when their mother, now possessed, is outside their door and trying to get in. Kaylie, the older sibling, grabs Tim tells him how he’s going to escape and makes him repeat the plan to her. The plan involves her throwing herself in harm’s way so he can have a safe journey to escape the house. She is only 12 years old but she takes on a very adult role here and it was so refreshing to see this in a child character. They weren’t useless and didn’t need constant saving, rather they matured when they needed to out of a need to protect one another. It was one of the more believable brother/sister relationships I’ve ever seen in a horror film that made the scene of them being separated as children all the more heart wrenching. Overall great character writing and great character development.
Immediately when I was done watching this I texted my sister. The first text I got back was “So why did it all happen!? Did I miss it? Did they explain it!?” I checked the imdb trivia to answer her question thinking maybe it was in a deleted scene that they cut out. It turns out that the director, influenced by lovecraft, chose to not explain any of it. He chose to create something evil, with no motives, objectives or reasoning. Rather it’s motives were completely left up in the air and so rather than having two characters trying to resolve this issue (ie. The Ring) you had two characters simply responding to an impossible situation with limited knowledge. This in my mind, always makes a more terrifying villain. I believe The Dark Knight said it best with “Some men just want to watch the world burn” and that’s what this mirror did, which just made it that much scarier. How can you fight something when you don’t know what it wants. The constant mind games that it plays with them is also terrifying and eventually you realize what’s about to happen before it happens as a result. [Spoiler Alert] Okay it’s not a huge spoiler, but she sets down her apple beside a lightbulb as she’s changing all of the lights in the lamp. She picks up the apple and takes a bite and all you hear is glass breaking…..By this point you KNOW what’s about to happen with the apple and lightbulb since the mirror has frequently distorted reality but that doesn’t make it any less horrific or terrifying [Spoiler Alert Ended]. It does a great job of creating psychological horror as the entire movie you’re trying to guess what’s actually happening and what the mirror is making them think. Reality distortion is always terrifying because how do you fight it? You can’t, and that just makes it that much scarier!
The climax is so amazingly done. It finally reveals the full story of what happened the night Kaylie and Tim’s parents died and it’s nothing short of horrifying. You get taken completely out of the present and forget that the entire story is about them trying to destroy the mirror in the present day. Rather you just keep thinking that the entire point is for the two kids to escape. Once they finally escape the mirror in the past you’re abruptly shot the present and you remember that this threat isn’t over at all. What ensues is something I won’t spoil as you have to see it for yourself. But it’s the ending that just caps it off beautifully. You see shots of them leaving the house as children, followed by identical shots of them leaving the house as adults. The images continuously overlap one another and show a good comparison between the two time lines as at this point they hadn’t really shown many similarities. It was a great climax that had me on the edge of my seat with an ending that left me satisfied but also not wanting it to be over.
This movie created one of the scariest ghosts I’ve seen in a long time as it’s never really seen or heard and yet it remains one of the most sinister villains in a horror movie in a long time. If you’re not a fan of horror movies you might still like this as there are no cheap scares, character archetypes or cheesy acting. If you are a fan of horror movies then why haven’t you seen it yet? Stop reading this and go watch it right now!!! Overall a great ghost movie that should make up for the unscary 18 Paranormal Activity sequels or the Poltergeist Remake that didn’t need to exist. Go watch it right now!