You see what it wants you to see.
Immerse yourself in the depths of VR! No, that's the wrong Oculus. Check out this eyeball shaped opening! Nope, still the wrong Oculus. Check out this spooky haunted item movie with shiny eyed ghosts who can make you see things! Yeah, now thats the Oculus! Will you come out of this one not believing your eyes, or wishing that you saw something else?
There is a lot of back and forth during this movie between the past and present, so be aware that although the two do mirror each other a decent amount, this review is going to be a little bit more straightforward than what will be presented in screen. Granted, the true story goes back even further, as presented to us in a fact montage - you see, this Mirror has a long sordid history of dark events occurring around it. Every person to own this ancient looking mirror for hundreds of years has met with an untimely and unexplained end - which can really make a person wonder (and you'll never get an answer) how this mirror became so innately evil in the first place.
Enter the childhood of our main characters. Things are wonderful for them and their family - new job, new house, new furniture - but after the purchase of a certain "antique" mirror things start getting weird. The kids start seeing a woman who nobody else seems to be seeing, and their parents start acting strangely. The mother starts getting paranoid of her husband having an affair, and the father begins seeing things (elaborate in a rather gruesome scene of tearing a fingernail off with a staple puller), which leads to a bit of temper-shortening and fighting between the parents. The family dog, so happy and full of energy, starts acting strangely, and after being locked in the office room while the father is away for the entire day, goes missing entirely (unless you go off of the alternate 'memory' provided by the brother later on). Things continually escalate until the wife has a "psychotic episode', and the father isn't very far behind. The kids barely make it out of the house alive, when the father kills the wife and the son in turn kills the father to save his sister and himself.
Now in the present, the brother hits 21 and gets released from the mental institute he's been being kept in for most his life due to the previous mentioned events. It isn't long after that he meets up with his sister, who hasn't forgotten what the mirror did to their family and managed to track it down. The brother at first want's nothing to do with her plan of trying to destroy the mirror / thing inside, but eventually comes around in an attempt to use his years of being mentally instituted to help the sister he now feels is delusional and remembering fantasized versions of their past. As the night and experiment goes on, things get stranger and stranger, and it quickly becomes hard to tell just what is real. Will the siblings manage to make it out alive, let alone defeat the evil of the mirror that's claimed so many already?
So how's the horror in this horror flick? Well, as with anything scary it's going to be subject to a person-by-person basis. For me, it would be very well sanctioned into the jump scare category primarily, with psychological terror being in the background mainly for the fact that you don't really know at any given time just what being presented is real or fabricated. Jump scares, obviously, are going to be the more effective terror form on the average viewer - and of that there are many moments to thrill and tingle - but there is certainly a bit more depth to it than just things jumping out at the screen at you again and again. There are a few moments that are gonna be rough for the squeamish (such as the before mentioned fingernail scene), and yet overall violence levels are more tolerable than many of it's modern day kin.
Acting here has it's ups and downs, but for the most part it is pretty good. The scares themselves come off as rather effective, although the movie itself is pretty slow burn for the most part (in part due to the back-and-forth between past and present). The plot works fine, and yet by the end yields a pretty predictable result - in actuality, the strongest point of the plot is the fact that by it's very nature of presentation and rules set by the accursed object inform you that anything you see in the movie could be fake, not excluding the beginning or ending.
Effects work and audio effects are pretty what you'd expect. The audio has it's moments of discord, but thankfully for a lot of times will then go silent before it delivers it's punch line (as opposed to the films that like to use the loudest and most unpleasant sounds to cause the fear). The effects are generally nothing too crazy - breaking objects, some stabbings or gunshots, and some overall personal grime. Of all of those, the one I find myself enjoying the most is the silver-eyes of the ghostly residents of the mirror, which lends them an animalistic night-time eye reflection quality that lends to the idea of these things being predatory. That being said, naming the movie Oculus as opposed to naming it after the mirror that seems to be the centerpiece seems like a missed opportunity, as the mirror seems to mess more with the mind then your actual eyes.
How was it then? I was satisfied with watching it once, although feel no real desire to go and check it out again. It's rather mediocre in most respects - it fills out a lot of events to remove questions for the viewer as it progresses, but at the same time the very nature of how everything is presented means the entire movie itself is absolutely possible to question. By far, the most stand-out feature to me is the number of jump scare moments within it, as from all the trailers I expected a much more... almost gorey, i guess... approach to movie. It's no pant-soiler in my opinion, but I've certainly watched more laughable movies labeled as horror.