"You see what it wants you to see."

I sure did, and that wasn't the most pleasant thing that ever happened to me. Hello folks, it's time for more fun in the New England gloom here at The Tagline, and I thought that to celebrate that I would talk about Oculus, a movie that proved to be a viscerally unpleasant experience for me to watch. Here is a little piece of free advice from me, that you can apply to your own life, and I really think you'll get a lot of mileage out of this. So here we go: Do not under any circumstances purchase a large, ornate, and very old mirror, with a black oak frame carved into a sinister looking design. Do not then hang that mirror on the wall next to your desk in your study. I'm not saying no mirrors at all, but if you come across any great deals on mirrors at like an estate sale or something? Maybe just keep on walking, go to IKEA or something. Frankly I shouldn't have to add this, but this rule applies to any and all old spooky music boxes, or other similar such objects (see The Possession for reasons why you don't give spooky relics to your small children). Anyway, now that I've put that little disclaimer in, let's talk about Oculus. This film was based on another short film made by director Mike Flanagan, and sort of expands on the original premise. We are introduced to siblings Tim and Kaylie Russell, who were orphaned after a series of grisly events leading up to the torture and murder of their mother, and Tim being forced to shoot his father. Tim is committed to a juvenile psychiatric facility while Kaylie, having not pulled the trigger, is free to live her life, though the siblings promise to one day return and destroy the mirror.

The movie persistently jumps between the events leading up to the death of Kaylie and Tim's parents (taking place 11 years before the 'present') and the present day, but generally the movie does a good job of keeping it apparent which time we are currently watching (except when it doesn't want that to be clear, and I'll talk about that more in a bit). Kaylie gains access to the mirror through her job (presumably she becomes an employee for an antiquities dealer specifically to get this opportunity) and sets up an elaborate plot to prove that the mirror is haunted, before then destroying it. He goal is not just to demonstrate the evil of the mirror, but also to prove that neither her brother nor her parents were responsible for their actions. While some people seemed to feel the beginning sequences of the movie were cheesy, I thought that Kaylie's on camera explanation was a kind of clever way to fit in exposition about the mirror without just having two characters spout exposition at each other about a thing they already know. So while recording Kaylie details her safeguards, methods, and the gruesome history of the mirror. Tim of course is trying to convince Kaylie that she is crazy, because he has been taught by psychiatric science that all the freaky shit he experienced was just a product of his fevered imagination. Yeah you fucking wish Timbo.

As the evening wears on, the wheels start to come off the cart as the siblings begin having crazy hallucinations and Kaylie's safeguards prove increasingly inadequate. In particular, she has set a timer to drop an anchor on the mirror, but this just makes the mirror constantly trick the two into positioning themselves in front of it so they will be killed. I'm just saying, maybe pick something that can go clean through 2 people so that even if it manages to kill you the mirror is still destroyed. JUST AN IDEA. The movie shifts back and forth between the past and present, as Tim and Kaylie relive the horrific past they left in the house, and have a variety of other disturbing hallucinations. This sense of blending the real with the illusory, and also the present with the past, creates an unreliable narration that began to inspire genuine anxiety in me. Even as I was appreciating how well done the movie was I was thinking to myself "man at first I wasn't really feeling it, but now this movie is genuinely kind of freaking me the fuck out". The has a few gross out scare moments but for the most part it focuses on just being freaky and disorienting, drawing you slowly into its narrative and then stranding you somewhere inside it, without giving you any hint as to where you really are.

PSA: Light bulbs are not for eating.
I found that this movie didn't have a lasting creep out effect on me, as I don't own any terrifying ornate mirrors, but it was a singularly unpleasant experience while I was watching it, and made me feel kind of like I was trapped in a box at the bottom of the ocean. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the ending, but I thought that it was at least acceptable (it just wasn't exactly how I wanted things to end). It was also kind of weird watching a mirror drive Starbuck crazy (Katee Sackhoff plays the mom in the flashback sequences) and then watch her grownup daughter Amy Pond try to put an anchor through the mirror, when she probably should have called the Doctor for backup (Karen Gillan plays grown up Kaylie, and assumes a very convincing American accent in this movie, so kudos to her, sorry about the neck and your fiance). Ultimately my only real problem with the movie, other than it scaring the pee out of me, was that Kaylie's plan was super dumb. Whatever precautions aside, she had studied up and discovered that this thing convincingly deluded and killed anyone who'd ever come near it, but she still decided to lock herself in a house with it and her brother. a better plan might have involved leaving it wrapped up and setting it on fire in hole she dug, or just burying it deep underground. Not staring directly into it and hanging a yacht anchor behind her head. Zero points.

All that aside, this movie did a fantastic job from a pure horror perspective, so it gets top marks from me. Admittedly if I had another chance, I probably would not go see it, just because it made me feel super anxious while I was watching it. That's all for now folks! Join me next week for excitement, explosions, and sexually charged violence!

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