By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Outstanding horror flick has gore, children in peril.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though the characters quickly get themselves in too deep (and resort to stealing, lying, and violence), Oculus has a very strong, interesting sibling relationship. Yes, they argue, but they also clearly care for each other and try to help and protect each other. But in the flashback sequences, the younger children are in peril, and their situation looks pretty hopeless.
Positive Role Models
While the brother and sister characters are well-written and interact in realistic ways -- working together, fighting, and trying to help each other -- overall, their behavior in the film isn't very admirable. Their plan requires stealing, lying, and resorting to violence and destruction.
Violence & Scariness
Several very bloody, gory scenes. A man rips off his fingernails. A woman accidentally bites into a light bulb (she thinks it's an apple). A woman's scar turns into a bloody, gaping wound. In one scene, a woman shows photographs of grisly deaths and crime scenes. A gun is used. But the main issue here is in the flashbacks, showing two younger children in peril. They're neglected, ignored, tricked, trapped, and eventually attacked -- though viewers do know that they both lived to grow up.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Both a married couple and an engaged couple are shown kissing. A mom wears a sheer nightie around the house.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"S--t" is heard a few times, and "f--k" is used a couple of times. "Damn," "hell," "Jesus," and "oh my God" are also heard a few times.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Apple computers are shown during a scene featuring surveillance equipment.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An upset mother drinks glass after glass of wine while her kids eat dinner.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Oculus is an outstanding horror film about a haunted mirror. Expect several gory scenes that are designed to induce squirms (including photos of grisly deaths and crime scenes, fingernails being ripped off, etc.); there are also some flat-out scary images that aren't meant for the faint of heart. But while there's plenty of blood in the movie, its real focus is on story and characters (the siblings are interesting, albeit not always admirable). Language is somewhat strong, with a few uses of "s--t" and one possible use of "f--k" (spoken quietly during a noisy scene). There's a scene of heavy drinking, some minor kissing between couples, and some Apple computers shown. The movie is likely to be a must-see for horror buffs, and many teens will want to see it, too.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
Based on 7 parent reviews
Report this review
Outstanding direction with decent scary scenes
Report this review
What's the Story?
After 11 years, Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) -- who killed his father as a boy -- is released from a psychiatric hospital. His sister, Kaylie (Karen Gillan), immediately asks him to participate in a ritual: to help destroy the creepy old mirror that she thinks caused all the trouble. At first, it appears as if Kaylie may be crazy, but it soon becomes apparent that the mirror does have the power to make people see things. Before long, the siblings are flashing back to the events of their childhood, when the mirror drove their mother (Katee Sackhoff) into hysterics and turned their father (Rory Cochrane) into a homicidal maniac. Will Tim and Kaylie be able to tell reality from nightmare -- and survive?
Is It Any Good?
Creepy mirrors have been featured in horror movies plenty of times before, but none of them have been anything quite like OCULUS. It immediately turns your expectations upside via the character of Tim, a troubled but cured soul with blood on his hands. The question of whether he'll kill again quickly becomes moot as his old bond with his sister re-asserts itself. The characters are strong and interact in vivid ways, and they remain the movie's anchor; they're no horror movie amateurs, and they struggle to stay on top of the scares.
But Oculus' real weapon is its flashbacks, which aren't specifically used as flashbacks but rather as illusions and nightmares forced upon the characters by the mirror's evil. They fold over into reality as younger and older versions of the same characters regard one another, and it's clear that they shouldn't be taken literally. This is a breakthrough for director Mike Flanagan, and (apologies for the pun) a most reflective horror movie.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Oculus' violence and gore. Which scenes were meant to make you squeal and squirm, and which had a more visceral effect? What's the difference between these moments? Do bloody scenes make a movie more frightening?
How scary is Oculus compared to other horror movies you've seen? What's scary about it? How did you feel about the scenes with the young children in peril? Did it make a difference knowing that they were only flashbacks or nightmares and that the children survive to grow up?
What's the relationship between the central brother and sister like? Is it realistic? Is it stereotypical? If you have siblings, how does it compare to your relationship with them?
- In theaters: April 11, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: August 5, 2014
- Cast: Karen Gillan, Katee Sackhoff, Brenton Thwaites
- Director: Mike Flanagan
- Studio: Relativity Media
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language
- Last updated: March 2, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Best Horror Movies
Scary Movies for Kids
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate