The entirety of "Oculus" revolves around the Lasser Glass. This haunted mirror burns at the center of the film like a black hole, steadily draining life and sanity from the human characters trapped in its orbit.
By the end of the film, I felt its abysmal tug as well.
Playing on a legacy of supernatural mirrors in fiction, "Oculus" employs an effective plot line: Ten years ago, a haunted mirror killed the parents of young Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites). Now they're adults and, as Tim emerges from long-term psychiatric care, his sister pulls him into a scheme to exonerate their family name, prove the mirror's power and destroy the Lasser Glass.
It's cool set-up, and in another filmmaker's hands it could have landed (good or bad) in predictably generic waters. But director Mike Flanagan takes things in a darker, more surreal direction.
Stuff to Blow Your Mind fans will appreciate the themes of memory and perception in the film. Early discussions between Kaylie and Tim circle around the fallible nature of memory, especially in the face of traumatic events. While Kaylie's mind fixates on a vanishing dog and phantom mirror woman, Tim remembers a terminally-ill pet and signs of their father's extramarital affair.
The siblings struggle to maintain their grip on reality as the Lasser Glass draws characters and viewers alike into its nihilistic, specular depths.
This is a well-crafted horror film, though don't expect a fun summer thrill ride. There's nothing cathartic about the journey.
"Oculus," like its mysterious mirror, plays for keeps.