OCULUS Right to left: Oculus (THE MIRROR THAT KILLS), Amy Pond, not Doctor Who.

THE PREMISE of Oculus is ridiculously stupid. Introducing... Oculus, the mirror that kills, haunted with the ghosts of centuries of tormented souls—look into its depths and you, too, will go mad, bloodthirsty for mayhem and gore! Oculus will lure you in when you need to check your hair or makeup, or exploit your paunchy self-doubt regarding that breakfast of doughnuts. Yes, that is schmutz on your face—now go kill! Kill! KILL! OCULUS!

Strangely enough, Oculus—thanks to good pacing, a smart script, and a solid cast—is much better than any flick about a murderous mirror has any right to be. The story opens on go-getter Kaylie (Doctor Who's Karen Gillan) as she prepares to greet her younger brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites), who's being released from a mental hospital on his 21st birthday—11 years after the horrible murder of their parents. Only Kaylie knows that Tim isn't some psycho killer—their parents were really murdered by that damned Oculus, the mirror that kills, an antique acquisition crafted out of old wood and even older souls (and a nice centerpiece of their father's office). Armed with research and video cameras, Kaylie sets out to prove the existence of the mirror's murderous ways.

What makes Oculus work is its gradual melding of past and present as the mirror works its sinister magic on the minds of Kaylie and Tim: Is what they're experiencing real or illusion? Past or present? Sane or psychotic? It becomes an unsettling jumble of a mindfuck—and a clever bit of filmmaking. True, it's not without some backstory issues—the mirror's eeevil history is as murky as its reflecting glass—but even so, this little horror movie is a pleasant surprise... unlike that green bit of gunk in my teeth. OCULUS! Why didn't you tell me?!