Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Written by: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard, Jeff Seidman
Produced by: Marc D. Evans, Trevor Macy
Other cast: Brenton Thwaites
Release date: 11 April 2014 (USA)
Genre: Horror, Mystery
The twenty-one year-old Timothy "Tim" Allen Russell is discharged from a mental institution by his psychiatric Dr. Shawn Graham completely healed from a childhood trauma where his father purportedly tortured and killed his mother before being killed himself by Tim. His sister Kaylie welcomes him in the parking area and brings him home. Then she tells that they need to destroy an ancient mirror that she has found through working at an auction house. She then steals the mirror and the reluctant Tim follows his sister and has fragmented recollections from their childhood, going back to when his father Alan buys a mirror for the home office of their new family home. Kaylie and Tim see a woman with their father in his office and the behaviors of Alan and Marie change, ending in a family tragedy. Kaylie blames the mirror and now she wants to destroy it with Tim. Will they succeed?
Synopsis (Warning: contains spoilers!)
The movie begins with two young children trying to open the front door in the middle of the night. The children are Kaylie (Annalise Basso) and her younger brother Tim Russell (Garrett Ryan). The pair are obviously trying to escape from the house. They hear footsteps and turn around to see someone carrying a gun approaching. Kaylie steps between the menacing figure and her brother, staring up defiantly at the gunman. The camera rotates so we see a young man holding the gun, looking horrified. The gun fires and…
The young man holding the gun wakes up from his nightmare. We soon learn that this young man is a grown up Tim (Brenton Thwaites). He is in a mental hospital. He tells his doctor that this is the first time that he, and not his dad, was holding the gun in his dream. The doctor says that this is Tim’s final breakthrough (it signifies that he has finally taken responsibility for past actions) and will recommend that he be released.
Meanwhile, we see his now grown sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan). She works for an auction firm and is overseeing an auction with her fiancée and co-worker, Michael Dumont (James Lafferty). They watch as an antique mirror is auctioned off. The mirror, called the “Lasser Glass,” is in near mint condition except for a crack in the bottom right-hand corner. The mirror is sold for tens of thousands of dollars.
Tim tells his doctor that Kaylie has found him an apartment and is helping him get a job. The doctor says that it is good for he and Kaylie to reconnect, but also reminds Tim that Kaylie did not receive treatment after the incident but was instead sent into foster care. He says Tim must guard himself and make sure Kaylie doesn’t undo his recovery. Tim walks out and Kaylie is waiting for him, a smile on her face.
She takes Tim out for lunch and they catch up. Suddenly, Kaylie tells Tim she found “it” and they only have a few days to keep their promise. Tim questions what promise she’s talking about. Kaylie replies, “To kill it.”
In a flashback to 11 years ago, the Russell family is moving into a new house. Tim and Kaylie play happily with each other and their family dog. They are watched by their mother Marie (Katee Sackhoff) while their father Alan (Rory Cochrane) begins setting up his new home office and is on the phone with his boss. Although Alan is a workaholic, he loves his kids, calling them by affectionate nicknames. The movers carry the Lasser Glass into the home and place it into Alan’s office. Marie is surprised that Alan bought this mirror, but does admire the mirror’s beauty.
Back in the present, Kaylie drops Tim off at what looks to be a hotel room, saying he could stay with them instead. He insists on staying at the hotel and Kaylie says he promised to not forget what had happened. Tim says he was only ten at the time. Kaylie says she is “doing it” the following night and would like his help. She then leaves.
11 years in the past, we see Marie looking in her new bathroom mirror. She lifts up her nightgown to look at her C-section scar. She gets into bed and complains to Alan that her scar looks worse. He asks to look at it and begins kissing her belly while asking “what scar?” Marie is pleased at her husband’s flattery and the two make love in their new home.
We later see Alan downstairs getting a midnight snack. As he journeys back to the bedroom, he thinks he sees a ghoulish woman in the hallway. He turns on the light and walks into his office, where all he sees is the mirror.
Present: Kaylie sleeps in her bed. She is awakened by a dog barking and goes into the hall to find the mirror hanging in one of the rooms. She steps in and examines it, then turns and is attacked by her father, strangling her with a demonic grin. She begins screaming… then wakes up in bed next to Michael who is comforting her. He says she was having one of her night terrors.
The next morning, Kaylie is confronted by Michael at work. He notes that she submitted an order to have the Lasser Glass repaired before it is delivered to the winning bidder. Michael says that when he last spoke to the head of the company, the boss had not wanted to repair the mirror. Kaylie says the boss changed his mind. Michael also says that the I.T. department also found images of corpses on her computer. She asks him to have patience with her for a couple of days and then everything will be back to normal. He agrees to stand by her.
We see Kaylie walk into the warehouse, where the Lasser Glass is covered by a sheet. She gives the warehouse employee the repair order and tells him she will personally drive the mirror to the repair center. The warehouse employee leaves to process the form and Kaylie takes off the sheet covering the mirror. She sees her reflection and two covered objects behind her. She runs her hand over the crack and then asks the mirror if it remembers her. She also notes that it is probably hungry. She looks up and now sees three objects covered in sheets behind her, and one of the objects moves. She looks behind her and sees only two figures. She turns back to the mirror and says she will be destroying it. Kaylie then sees all three figures behind her move. Kaylie turns around and now there are three objects behind her. She walks over and pulls the sheets off the first two objects, revealing statues underneath. She begins to tug at the third sheet when the warehouse employee comes back in and distracts her. Kaylie looks back and once again sees only two statues. They load the Lasser Glass into her car (covered once again) and Kaylie drives off. Tim calls up Kaylie and says he apologizes for the other day. He wants to see her and asks where they can meet. Kaylie says to meet them at their old home.
Past: We see Marie going to water her plants only to find they’re all dead. It then cuts to young Kaylie running through the yard, playing laser-tag with her brother. She looks in her dad’s office and thinks she sees a woman rubbing Alan’s chest. She blinks and the woman disappears. Later at dinner they sit around talking. Alan seems distant and is chewing his nails. Marie says that she always hated that habit. Alan accidentally chews his nail completely off. He goes and puts on a bandage. Kaylie asks him who the woman in his office was. He responds that there was no woman in his office.
Present: Tim and Kaylie arrive at the house, Kaylie letting a small dog out of a carrying cage. She tells Tim to look around. Kaylie tells him the house sat on the market until she leased it when she turned 18. She asks him to help her with something before he goes. Tim helps her carry the mirror, still covered, inside their father’s old office where there are numerous computers and cameras set up, and some kind of device on the ceiling. Kaylie tells him it’s a kill switch. She tells Tim he can leave if he’d like, but she needs to get started. He says he will stay for a while.
Kaylie turns on one of the cameras and introduces herself and her brother before detailing her numerous precautions she has set up. She explains the cameras and computers all have their own power source, that there is an alarm to remind her to change the tapes, another alarm to remind them to eat and drink, and that there are thermometers in each room which will go off if there is a significant change. She explains the point of the experiment is to prove the mirror possesses a paranormal entity. She also receives a phone call from her fiancée and explains that she has requested he call her each hour.
She has researched the history of the Lasser Glass and begins telling it to the cameras. Every person who has owned the mirror ended up dying a gruesome death, often mutilating their own bodies or being driven to madness. Many of the victims were found dehydrated or malnourished. With each victim, she holds up photos of the victims, crime scenes and locations, which were the pictures previously printed off of her work computer.
One of the timers goes off. The two sit down and eat. Tim asks her who the tapes are meant for. She says everyone who ever accused Tim and her father of being murderers. Tim says their father was a murderer and a sick man. Kaylie slaps him and tells him not to speak of their father that way. She then resumes detailing the mirror’s history for the camera. We learn that their father had tortured and killed their mother before Tim shot their father in front of Kaylie. She says she intends to prove that they were all victims of the mirror and not responsible for their actions.
Tim asks why they don’t just destroy the mirror now. Kaylie tells him to do so if he can. We see a quick flashback of Kaylie and Tim swinging golf clubs at something. Tim takes a stool and walks over to the mirror to smash it. He then puts the stool down and tries to convince Kaylie that she is delusional and this is just her trying to cope with what happened. Kaylie points out that Tim has put the stool down and asks if he remembers putting it down. He doesn’t answer, but Kaylie says that the mirror has defenses against a direct human attack. She says in its recorded history only one person ever tried to attack the mirror. He tried to hit it with a fire poker, but stopped just before he struck it. After staring at it for some time, the man left his home and walked into traffic where he was killed. Tim says he did not destroy the mirror because Kaylie must break her own delusions.
Kaylie then demonstrates the kill switch rigged to the ceiling, which is an axe connected to an egg timer. If the timer isn’t reset every half hour, the axe will swing down from the ceiling right into the center of the mirror.
Past: Alan types away at his computer in his office. The bandage is still on his injured finger and is bothering him. He takes it off and begins typing again, only to see the bandage is still on his finger. He tries to take it off, but it is stuck. He uses a staple remover to try and grip it, but ends up digging it into his own finger, drawing blood. Alan realizes that the bandage had not been on his finger after all. He looks up and approaches the mirror. He then calls the children into his office and accuses them of moving his things around, though the children deny it. He tells them they are not allowed in the office.
Present: Kaylie is telling Tim that the mirror feeds off of life force, starting with plants and animals. Thus, she has healthy, live plants and the dog in the house so that the mirror can begin feeding from them while she records it. Tim says the plants in their house likely died due to poor water quality, and notes the plants throughout the house are all alive and well. Kaylie tells him to give it time and places the dog she brought back in the cage, placing both in the front of the mirror and covering it. The Lasser Glass also interferes with electricity, which is why she has plenty of spare light bulbs and battery-powered devices. Its power also causes extreme changes in temperature (thus the thermometers). It eventually consumes its owners, dehydrating and feeding off them, often after driving them to madness in the process (thus the timers to remind them to eat and drink). She says that she has a couple other safeguards. First Michael has agreed to call Kaylie every hour (though he is unaware of her plan, her belief that the mirror is evil, or why Kaylie wants him to call) and if she doesn’t answer, to call the police.
Past: We see the Russell’s family dog, Mason, laying on the ground, looking very ill. It then cuts to Alan and Marie discussing the gun he has bought for safety. Marie is very upset and he agrees to lock it up. As she leaves the room, she hears Alan call her a “grotesque cow.” When questioned, he says he did not say anything. Her already sensitive psyche is wounded.
Later, Marie is woken by the sound of their dog barking outside Alan’s closed office. She goes to let him in and he bites her and runs away. She pulls on the door again and yells for Alan, who yells back that he is working. Marie hears him talking to someone and she attempts to listen in when Alan suddenly opens the door. She asks who he is talking to and he says he isn’t talking to anyone. Marie, upset, says there is something wrong with the dog and that Alan is lost in his own world. They begin arguing loudly.
The next day, Alan leaves to go golfing with a client and tells the children to stay out of his office. Marie becomes annoyed with Mason, who is once again barking outside Alan’s office and lets him in, closing the door behind him. The dog begins to whimper but Marie is unable to open the doors. When Alan gets home, Marie says she had to lock the dog in the office, telling the kids he was “grounded.” Alan unlocks the door but the dog has disappeared.
Present: Tim tells Kaylie she is remembering the events wrong and that Mason got sick and had to be taken to the vet. Kaylie insists they sat outside the door and that Tim has been brainwashed.
Past: Marie and Alan are fighting again, Alan telling Marie she is losing her mind. They are loud enough to wake up the kids. When tucking her in, Kaylie asks Marie if they’re fighting because of the woman in the office.
Present: Tim tells Kaylie their father was having an affair and her memories regarding the mirror are fabricated; that it was a bad marriage and that was it. Kaylie argues she went through everything in the estate and there was no proof of an affair. The two continue arguing until Tim gets frustrated and lets the dog out of its cage and out of the house. He points out that the plants are still alive and the only one endangering the dog is Kaylie. He then begs Kaylie to leave the house with him, saying they can go somewhere and deal with everything together. Kaylie agrees to disarm the trap and take the cameras down, but just as they are about to do so Kaylie sees that the plants in the house are dead and the cameras have been turned away from the mirror. They replay the tape and see that during their argument they were subconsciously moving the video cameras. Kaylie also knows that the temperature has gone up over five degrees but the alarms have not gone off. Tim goes to call his doctor but Kaylie stops him and says to make any calls outside, as the mirror can mimic voices on the phone so long as they are within its range.
Tim runs outside and attempts to call his doctor, getting an error message each time. He is suddenly distracted by Kaylie saying his name. It turns out he never left the house but had crouched in the hallway and spoke to nobody.
Past: Young Kaylie walks into the office to find her mother there with the vacuum, gently swaying in front of the mirror but otherwise not moving.
Later, Marie, Tim, and Kaylie sit at the dinner table without Alan. Marie is drinking an entire bottle of wine herself and has made toast for dinner. She looks physically ill. Marie asks the kids to tell her more about the woman in Alan’s office. Kaylie lies and says she didn’t see a woman after all, but Tim says that he has now seen the woman. Tim says the woman was standing on the stairs the previous night and it scared him. He says he thinks she lives in the office. Marie tells them to go upstairs and play.
Marie enters the office and sits at Alan’s desk, where she sees a paper covered with scribbles and the name “Marisol.” Devastated, she shoves the items off of Alan’s desk. While cleaning the mess, she runs her fingers over a family portrait before yelling and throwing a pen holder at the mirror. It misses and hits the wall. The lights suddenly dim and Marie sees a smiling reflection of herself in the mirror. The reflection looks down and undoes the buttons on her dress, revealing her C-section scar has reopened. Marie screams and Tim and Kaylie run downstairs.
Marie turns around and tries to strangle Tim. Kaylie pulls him free and they run away, Marie chasing them. They lock themselves in their bedroom while Marie slams on the door. Alan comes home and runs upstairs. Marie grabs his head and he pulls her arms away. She begins slapping and fighting him. He gets her in a chokehold until she seems to pass out. Kaylie sticks her head out and Alan tells her to go back inside. Alan pulls his cellphone out and dials 911. We hear whispered voices from the mirror and Alan hangs up his phone. He pushes Marie off of him and drags her away. Kaylie opens the door again and sees her father walking down the hall with chains in his hand.
Present: Kaylie is comforting Tim, who seemed to be having a flashback. They return to the room with the mirror, where Kaylie is turning the cameras back on. On the computers, Tim sees Kaylie approaching the screen. The lights dim and we see brief flashbacks of him and Kaylie.
Past: Tim and Kaylie are in their father’s office, where he tells them their mother is very sick and will need to rest for a while but that they are not to bother her. Kaylie asks what’s wrong with her, but Alan does not answer, instead telling them they can hang out in the office and play video games. Tim says he thought they weren’t allowed in there. One of the lights goes out.
Present: The alarm goes off for them to eat. Kaylie hands Tim an apple and asks him to help her replace the lights that have gone out. We see a brief flashback of Kaylie yelling at Tim, who seems to be in a trance, as well as Alan going up the stairs with a plate of food. The light Tim just replaced goes out. Kaylie replaces another light, which immediately goes out. She replaces it again and picks up the apple she had set down. When she takes a bite out of it, she finds she has bitten into a light bulb. She pulls the bloody piece of glass out of her mouth in horror. Tim then appears and she finds that it was in fact the apple she had bitten. She tells Tim they should stay together.
Past: Tim watches cartoons when the TV suddenly turns to static. He and Kaylie hear pounding from upstairs and Tim says he’s hungry. They look in the fridge but it has barely anything in it. Kaylie storms into her dad’s office and tells him that he needs to go grocery shopping. She also tells him the TV is out and they need to call a doctor for their mother. Alan simply stares at the mirror, distracted, and says it’s on his list. Kaylie becomes frustrated and leaves.
The two go upstairs and Kaylie decides to tell their mother they are out of food. She opens the door where their mom is. It’s filthy and there’s broken glass on the floor. When Kaylie approaches the glass, Marie suddenly lunges at her. She is chained to the wall by her neck and is missing most of her teeth. Kaylie runs out of the room.
Back in the office, Kaylie demands they call a doctor. Alan becomes angry and says Kaylie’s problem is that she does not listen. He says she and Tim are not to set foot outside the house.
Kaylie later calls a doctor. When she gets off the phone, Tim asks what he said. She said he told her to have their father call and had the same voice as the last doctor they called.
We cut to Kaylie walking up the lawn and knocking on their front door with one of their neighbors. Alan apologizes and tells their neighbor Kaylie is upset about Marie’s illness and is acting out. We also see Alan has chewed his nails almost completely off. He looks up at Kaylie and goes into his office.
Present: Kaylie leans against the mirror with her eyes closed. She opens them to find the timer for the kill switch is about to go off and runs to reset it. She yells for Tim and one of the timers goes off. She throws it on the ground.
Tim is upstairs, looking at his younger self, who looks up at him. The lights go out and older Tim disappears. Young Tim walks down the hall and yells for Kaylie. We see older Kaylie walking downstairs with a lamp. The power has gone out so she turns on some emergency lamps throughout the house, kicking and smashing a pot in anger as she does so. As she goes upstairs, young Tim walks down the stairs past her. While turning on one of the lights, she see broken ceramic and chains. She tells herself it isn’t real and leaves the room.
Young Tim opens the office door and asks his dad to fix the lights. He sees a gruesome woman hunched behind Alan, and she comes to the door. Young Tim screams and runs back upstairs, where he locks himself in his room and hides in the corner. Older Tim is on the other side of the room watching.
Kaylie is back downstairs, where she sees broken plates all over the floor. She picks up a piece, pulls out her cellphone and uses the camera to scan the floor. The shards do not show up on the camera. She turns and sees her mother standing behind her. She screams and instinctively stabs her mother in the neck with the broken plate. Her mother is shown to actually be her fiancée, who drops to the ground, bleeding. Tim comes downstairs and Kaylie asks if he sees him, unsure if he’s real or not. Tim crouches by him and Kaylie’s phone rings. She answers it and it’s her fiancée on the other line. Kaylie says she couldn’t have killed him because the plate wasn’t real. Tim looks at the floor and sees the broken pot. Kaylie uses the camera on her phone to look at the body and finds it shows up on camera. She begins to sob.
Tim takes Kaylie outside and calls 911. Kaylie tries to run back in and Tim stops her, telling her they just have to wait for the kill switch to go off. Suddenly all the lights in the house come back on and they see themselves in the room with the mirror, standing in front of it. Tim says it’s a trick to get them back inside, and Kaylie says it may be a trick to keep them standing there. She tells Tim to call for help again. He calls 911 again and gets the response that he’s going to have to have his father call. Kaylie breaks the phone and asks Tim what they should do.
Past: Alan is in the office, leaning on the mirror. He then sits at his desk, pulls out a gun and begins loading it. Tim, outside watching, runs upstairs and tells Kaylie. Kaylie says they’re going to have to smash the mirror.
Present: Tim and Kaylie enter the room with the mirror, seeing themselves still standing in front of it. There is now also the woman from before, speaking with their father’s voice. Kaylie keeps repeating that it’s not real. She looks down and sees young Tim holding her hand. He pulls away and runs. The woman smiles at Kaylie and she follows Tim.
Past: Kaylie and Tim run upstairs, locking themselves in their room. We then see their mother break a plate and begin eating one of the pieces. The door opens and Alan enters with the gun. Marie crawls towards him and tries to lunge at him. He puts the gun under her chin and she freezes. He unlocks the chain around her neck and she slowly stands.
Present: Tim and Kaylie are in the bathroom, Kaylie on the floor. Kaylie asks if he’s still there. Tim says he was never there, that he’s upstairs. Kaylie asks how he can be sure. He tries to reassure her and opens the door but their mother is standing on the other side.
Past: Kaylie and Tim hold the door shut. Kaylie says they have to get downstairs. Tim says she’s not gone. Kaylie says they have to open the door and run downstairs. She opens the door and the two run down the hall. Marie lunges at them from the down the hall and Kaylie hits her with a golf club. Tim runs downstairs only to find Alan in front of the office, while Kaylie runs down the hall into the room their mother had been in. She opens the window and jumps out, hurting her leg on the landing. She gets up and limps to the front yard, where she sees two ghastly people standing in the window, smiling.
Present: Tim watches Alan walk down the hall, telling himself it’s not real. Alan fires the gun.
Past: Kaylie goes back into the house.
Present: Kaylie walks into the room with the mirror where she sees her fiancée’s corpse standing in front of it with a smile. She walks down the hall, calling for Tim.
Past: Kaylie walks down the hall. Tim gestures to her but she doesn’t understand. Suddenly Marie lunges at her and knocks her to the ground, where she begins strangling her. After a few moments, she loosens her grip, seeming to return to normal. She is then shot from behind by Alan. Kaylie grabs Tim and runs while Alan, surrounded by the corpses of the past victims of the mirror, kills her.
Kaylie and Tim hide behind a door, watching until their father is gone. They then run, grabbing golf clubs and head into the office where they begin to strike the mirror, only to find that they are only hitting the wall. Alan enters the room, gun in hand, and points it at Kaylie. Tim strikes his arm with the golf club, knocking the gun down. Alan starts to strangle Kaylie, but lets go when Tim picks up the gun and yells at him. Alan turns around and kneels in front of Tim. He points the gun at himself, wraps his finger around the trigger and nods. The gun goes off and Alan falls, dead.
The corpses of the past victims approach them from behind, cornering them against the wall. They open their mouths and the sounds of the alarms are heard.
Present: Tim is in the room with the mirror on the floor, covering his ears to block out the alarms. He yells for Kaylie.
We cut to young Kaylie in the office. She sees her mother in the mirror. She walks towards her, her mother holding her arms out to hug her. They embrace.
Tim walks to the kill switch and sets it off, only seeing afterwards that Kaylie was in front of it and has been killed by the kill switch. The mirror appears unharmed.
Past: Kaylie makes Tim promise they will destroy the mirror and make things right.
Present: Tim is arrested. As he is driving away, he sees the corpses of his entire family in the window of the house.
- Garrett Ryan, the actor who plays the younger Tim, is in two movies where he senses his future, older self. The first, is this movie. The second, is Insidious: Chapitre 2 (2013) where he plays a young Josh.
- Filmed in 24 days.
- During the auction where the mirror is sold the auctioneer mentions that the mirror was acquired from the Levesque Estate. WWE Superstar HHH’s real name is Paul Levesque and WWE Studios is one of the producers of this film. This is, however, just a strange coincidence… as WWE was not involved with the film at all until after it was completed and had already premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.
- The definition of “oculus” is 1) a circular or oval window; 2) a circular opening at the top of a dome; 3) eye.
- Filmed in October 2012, first shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2013, but not given a proper release until April 2014.
- Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff have both worked with Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista. Karen Gillan would star opposite Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Katee Sackhoff starred opposite Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista in Riddick (2013).
- Most of the pictures in the house show either reflections or water. For example in the upstairs hall there is a black and white photo of a lake reflecting some trees. Another picture shows two identical white boats.
Alan Russell: I’ve met my demons and they are many. I’ve seen the devil, and he is me.
Kaylie Russell: [after uncovering the mirror] Hello again! You must be hungry.
Tim Russell: It was the mirror!
Kaylie Russell: I found it!
Tim Russell: What do you mean?
Kaylie Russell: We only have few days.
Tim Russell: A few days for what?
Kaylie Russell: To keep our promise. And kill it.
On July 21, Karen Gillan attended the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Los Angeles premiere. 3 days later, on July 24, she attended the London premiere, followed by the photocall the next day.