Review by Billy Russell
Going to the ol’ drive-in is still one of the most fun ways to experience a movie. You don’t go to the drive-in if you’re obsessively concerned with having the best possible sound and audio quality surrounding you with such pristine remasterings that any flaw or error will stand out like a piece of coal on a blanket of snow. No, you go to the drive-in if you wanna kick back with a couple beers, some good friends and eat something good you brought from home while the smell of reefer is thick in the air.
Oculus is a perfect movie for the drive-in experience. It’s fun, it’s dopey and it’s altogether terrible enough that it’s not a big deal that the audio coming in through your car’s radio has a high-pitched whine in the mix somewhere. It doesn’t matter that someone came in late and they’re blinding the back of you with their headlights because whatever happened in the movie is some bizarre bit of contrivance where the mirror can now do something magical it was never able to do before because it was convenient for the writers to write themselves out of a corner.
The plot of the movie is one of those “haunted object” movies, where such misery is caused by an evil possession that people keep buying without regard to its past history (see also, the clock in that one Amityville sequel). People will drop $10k on this mirror for what is ostensibly its historical significance, but make no attempt to do any sort of research on its previous owners. A simple Google search will show you that the damn thing is evil… eeeeeevil and it kills people, or drives them to kill themselves, rather. A pretty extensive paper trail of this evil exists, so you’d think someone at an auction house would want to initiate some sort of investigation into it. I’d love to see this mirror pop up the Antiques Roadshow and drive all those nice-looking people with old WWII propaganda posters go nuts.
Why would a software engineer want to own this hundreds-of-years-old mirror that originally adorned the walls of royalty? Could he even afford it? Why does he take his clients golfing? Have the writers of this movie ever actually met a software engineer or did they need a convenient occupation for the paterfamilias that allowed him to work from home, have an easy income and not have to pay extra money to actually show him working in an office?
Twelve years ago, in 2002, a family had bought that mirror and suffered the same fate as everyone who buys that mirror does. Not a whole lot of thought went into portraying the year 2002 as the father of the family’s computer looks exactly like the computer monitors of 2014 and the daughter is complaining that she’s the only one in school who doesn’t have a cell phone. I don’t remember very many people at all having cell phones that long ago, and if someone had it, it was the “family phone.”
The movie cuts back and forth from present time to the past. The two children who survived the mirror’s evil in 2002 grew up to battle it out again and finally destroy it. The son who survived the horror had to spend 12 years in a juvenile detention center under psychiatric evaluation for the “murder” of his father. So, his sister waits for him to get out and basically tells him, “I know you just got out and that your life has been awful and terrible for all these years, but we need to go through a needlessly complicated evening together in which we challenge this mirror—which has the ability to obscure your perception of reality—and basically hang out with it and document its abilities and wire up a complicated system to ensure its destruction instead of just killing it right away. It’ll save lives this way. Or something.”
Whatever powers this mirror has are wildly inconsistent. It can make you hallucinate just about anything—or, if you’re not hallucinating, it can somehow make you get calls from someone and it does a really good impression of everyone you know. The thing is, if you were aware that this mirror was capable of this, why in the hell would you agree to spend an evening with it? I know, I know… she wanted to document all this as proof, but I’d be like, “Man, what if this mirror tricks me into a nightmare scenario? I mean, it is evil after all.” How would you know who and what to trust if you knew you were going into such a scenario? It sounds like you’d be willingly exposing yourself to a situation that everyone around you knows to be stupid. Hell, I don’t know, maybe the mirror made them do it. The mirror seems to be able to do anything.
A couple of scenes are actually effectively rather creepy. There were precisely two scenes that I thought were great, and if the whole movie had maintained that level of fear, artistry and flat-out imagination, it could have been something phenomenal. Instead, Oculus is a pretty bad movie where logic has no consequence and whatever silly plot-happening the filmmakers want to have happen can just do so because, hey, mirror. Mirror is magic.In other words, it’s a great drive-in movie.