April 11, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Oculus' is tightly told tale of a murderous mirror

Rory Cochrane plays a father being influenced by a mirror in 'Oculus.' (John Estes / Lasser Productions)

Tightly paced between two time periods, and edited so they become a blur, “Oculus” is a hallucinatory ghost story that packs serious punch.

In the present, we have Tim (Brenton Thwaites), getting out of a mental hospital at age 21, having shot his father dead 10 years earlier. Greeting him is his slightly older sister, Kaylie (Karen Gillan), who grew up in foster homes after the killing.

Tim has been told that everything he remembers about the shooting is false. Kaylie is there to remind him of the truth.

And so we go back 10 years, when young Tim (Garrett Ryan) and young Kaylie (Annalise Basso) are moving into a new house with their father (Rory Cochrane) and mother (Katee Sackhoff). Dad has bought an antique mirror for his office. That mirror, or what it contains, starts driving Dad mad.

In the present, Kaylie has found the mirror and brought it back to their old house. In an effort to prove it’s haunted, she has rigged the place with all sorts of monitors and cameras.

So while Dad is going crazy and Mom is under fire and the kids are terrified in the past, the grown kids are confronting the demon mirror in the present. None of this seems likely to end well.

The key to director and co-writer Mike Flanagan’s great success here is the momentum he builds switching back and forth between then and now. He moves so seamlessly — at one point, the past walks down a staircase, passing the present moving up — that time eventually blends and he’s telling both stories at once.

Yes, there’s a bit of blood, and Sackhoff takes some terrible turns here, but “Oculus” is haunting because it messes with your head. That’s where the ghosts are.

'Oculus'

GRADE: B

Rated R for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language

Running time: 105 minutes

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