On the surface Oculus seems like a good creepy movie about a haunted mirror. The mirror possesses people and corrupts them, making them do horrible things as if it was the One Ring. I recently had the chance to re-watch this movie and I picked up on some nuances that I missed before. This led me to a theory, which is really up to the audience to conclude.
Is the mirror haunted or is the Russell family mentally insane?
The movie jumps around a lot between the present and 11 years ago. In the beginning of the film we discover that Tim is being released from a mental institution for killing his father and blaming the mirror. His sister, Kaylie, has been plotting to reveal the supernatural nature of the mirror, which led to their father killing their mother and inevitably forcing Tim to kill their Father. She has researched the past of the mirror as well as set up a way to test the overall ability of the mirror’s influence.
At this point, Tim has received psychological help. He no longer believes that the mirror is haunted or possesses a power over anyone. In fact, he is able to rationalize every statement Kaylie says with the facts that the parents were having marital troubles and that the deaths of many of the previous owners of the mirror were merely coincidence. On the other hand, Kaylie has not received any psychological help and her delusions have been allowed to grow over many years.
The parents could have easily been mentally unstable before they encountered the mirror. The mother was clearly very depressed, thinking that her husband was unfaithful. Meanwhile, her husband had become obsessed with the mirror. He even began hallucinating. The stress caused her to snap and to hallucinate as well. Her hallucinations ended in an attempt to kill the children. The father, who was already losing his grip on reality, killed his wife. Kaylie and Tim were already paranoid- a result of experiencing their parents’ spiral into madness. Their stress pushed them well over the edge.
Finally, presently Kaylie has her chance to prove the mirror is really supernatural. It doesn’t take a lot to push Tim back into his old psychosis. Soon they are both seeing and hearing things that aren’t really there. These illusions continue until Tim accidentally kills Kaylie when they are both experiencing separate hallucinations. As Tim is taken away by the police he “sees” the ghosts of the victims from the mirror. He then yells that the mirror is responsible for everything.
Is the mirror supernatural in this movie? It might be. Could the entire family simply be deluded because of mental illness, to think the object is the cause of all their suffering? It’s possible. Either way, Oculus is a damn good movie that is worth seeing and worth making that decision on your own.