As evil mirrors go, you can't ask for one much scarier than the gothic fever dream of gnarled darkness seething menace from the Oculus
poster and app. However dispiriting the prospect of home-office décor as modern-day bogeyman, a good prop, a great director (Mike Flanagan, following up Absentia
's sizable buzz), and an ideal cast (top TV vets led by epochal nerd crushes Karen “Amy Pond” Gillan and Katee “Starbuck” Sackhoff) can still wring genuine terror from a daft premise. Gillan, as the older sister, must outfight and outwit
the antique fixture that killed her parents. There are looming absurdities that could never survive a moment's thought, but never mind: Reflection is sort of beside the point. Flanagan employs the lingering trauma of Kaylie and her brother, newly released from a psychiatric institution, just enough to heighten character fragility and loosen the audience's moorings. While flashbacks dissecting the gruesome disintegration of Mom and Dad run concurrently with the kids' frazzled attempts at vengeance, any breakthrough of buried memories or emotional truths seems an unintended consequence of the slowly tightening cinematic suffocation—a chilling airlessness as the protagonists nearly trample their younger selves. By film's end, the actual demonic presences seem relatively cheeseball in comparison to the onslaught of undimmed memories. As so often happens with these types of movies, more than a glimpse through the looking glass tends to disappoint, but visions of past innocence seen from the rear view are always creepier than you'd assume.