If the family had opted for an Ikea mirror instead of an antique, none of this would have happened -- to the Russells. But the centuries-old mirror and its embedded curse would have ended up in someone else's home.
The horror movie "Oculus" tells the story of a pair of siblings, Kaylie and Tim, whose lives and parents (Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane) fall apart when they move into a new home. The action glides back and forth between the present and 11 years earlier, and both periods are scarred by blood, deception, desperation and death.
Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites.
Rating: R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language.
As 21-year-old Tim (Brenton Thwaites) is discharged from a mental health facility, older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) informs him that she tracked down the mirror that once hung in their dad's home office. "We only have a few days to keep our promise and kill it," she reminds him of the looking glass.
She blames the sinister decoration for the events that turned wife against husband, husband against wife and parents against daughter and son.
Although there are a tell-tale barking dog, whispery voices, ghosts with glowing eyes and images that may or may not be real, "Oculus" is more upsetting than spooky. And brace yourself if you have problems with children in peril; a fictional mother trying to strangle a fictional child is still reminiscent of unspeakable acts haunting the daily headlines.
The siblings make a fruitless attempt at contacting an outsider for help, but the story never addresses why they don't reach out to relatives (if they have any) or their current or future school. They might as well be in the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining"; in fact, the filmmaker compares the mirror to a portable version of the snowbound resort.
Mike Flanagan directed, co-wrote and edited "Oculus," and he excels in matching younger and older actors sharing the roles of the siblings. Annalise Basso, as tween Kaylie, is especially good and a strong physical match for Ms. Gillan as the older Kaylie, and his editing complements the illusion.
Gruesome things happen in "Oculus," and the supernatural shows why it's called the supernatural. It's a beast to beat, and when it comes time to exhale as the lights come up, you may find you're more disturbed than relieved.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.