I never knew you could be scared of a mirror until I read R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps novel Let’s Get Invisible! (1993). This is not to say that Stine’s tale of a mirror replacing its viewers with evil duplicates left me terrified of that far too familiar bastard staring back at me from every mirror for the rest of my life. It’s simply that before Let’s Get Invisible I had no idea there was such a thing as stories about haunted mirrors. I had yet to learn the joys of the “Bloody Mary” folktale, which I ultimately experienced by having my brothers telling me to go the bathroom, turn off the lights, spin around and say “Bloody Mary” three times, and then a ghost would appear in the mirror. Of course, they stormed in wearing scary masks right as I finished my third utterance of “Bloody Mary.” Well played, older brothers. Well played.
Jump to today, and since Let’s Get Invisible was my first exposure to the terror of a demonic reflection it’s the first thing I thought of when I saw the following trailer:
So, how does Oculus stack up against Let’s Get Invisible?
[Spoilers for both Oculus and Let’s Get Invisible Await You Below]
The Type of Mirror
Let’s Get Invisible: A wall-sized antique mirror with a slight light fixture at the top, which can be turned on or off view an attached chain. It is discovered in the attic of the house by the main characters.
Oculus: Basically the same minus the light and chain thing. It’s purchased from an antiques store by the characters’ parents, and then tracked by down 11 years later for the purposes of being destroyed.
Advantage: Let’s Get Invisible. Eh. They’re both the same, really, except one has a light and the other doesn’t.
What the Mirror Does
Let’s Get Invisible: It allows people to become invisible by standing in front of the mirror and pulling the light chain, re-appearing once you pull the chain again. The longer you stay invisible the weaker you become. Eventually, you become so weakened the mirror replaces you with a mirror reflection alter ego who’s inevitably a tad on the evil side.
Oculus: It’s basically The Shining but with a haunted mirror instead of a haunted hotel. After prolonged exposure, the mirror manipulates those in its vicinity to perform tasks of self-mutilation and murder, eventually claiming their soul upon their grisly death and using their specter to manipulate the actions of future victims. It also somehow absorbs pets, causes electricity blackouts in at least a 30 ft. radius, makes you see things that aren’t there, and hijacks all telephone calls you make in the house to lie to you. If you try to break the mirror it won’t let you, making you think you’re hitting it with golf clubs when in fact you’re actually hitting the wall on each side of it.
Advantage: Oculus. Oh, come on, Let’s Get Invisible just makes you invisible and replaces you with visible but evil reflections. Oculus’ mirror eats pets, controls electricity, and generally seriously messes with your head.
Let’s Get Invisible: 12-year-old Max Thompson and his younger brother Noah, called Lefty because he’s left-handed (and also because R.L. Stine needed some way to set up his twist ending), are the main characters. They are joined by friends April, Erin, and Zack, and Max’s dog Whitney.
Oculus: 23-year-old Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and her 21-year 0ld brother Tim (Brenton Thwaites) are the primary characters in the present, along with Kaylie’s husband and dog she’s simply named “dog.” The film cuts back and forth between the present and 11 years in the past when Kaylie and Tim’s mother (Katee Sackhoff, long live Starbuck!) and father (Rory Cochrane) both went crazy within 2 weeks of moving into a new house and purchasing the antique mirror.
Advantage: Oculus. Both stories center on a pair of siblings, but Oculus masterfully cuts back and forth between the younger and older versions of the character to emphasize just how much the mirror is altering their perception.
The Big Twist
Let’s Get Invisible: That Max’s friends have all been replaced by evil mirror reflections By the end, the mirror is shattered by Lefty thus sucking the mirror reflection back into the shards on the ground and releasing Max, Erin, and Zack from their captivity. But, wait, there’s one more twist. As Max and Lefty toss a baseball around at the end, Max notices that Lefty is throwing the ball with his right hand. What the hell you say!
Oculus: Kaylie kills her husband, who has come to the house to check on her and Tim, and eventually tricks Tim into releasing a mechanism meant to destroy the mirror, not allowing him to see that Kaylie was standing in front of the mirror. She ends up with a blade through her noggin, and the cops arrest Tim for her murder, turning a deaf ear to his cries of, “It wasn’t me – it was the mirror!” That should hold up pretty well in court, right?
Advantage: Let’s Get Invisible. Why? At least they break the dang mirror. Kaylie could have easily destroyed the mirror at any point during Oculus but doesn’t, and ultimately dies a meaningless death as a result.
Not surprisingly, the R-rated Oculus seems far superior to me now than Let’s Get Invisible, which comes from a novel series meant for pre-teens and younger. Beyond superiority, though, it’s fairly obvious the only reason anyone would ever compare Oculus to an old Goosebumps novel is because both feature a haunted mirror and a sibling pair as the central characters. Or, if they’re like me, they oddly only ever discovered haunted mirrors through a wildly popular series of novels meant for little kids.
Note: Apparently, Stine re-used the haunted mirror thing in a spiritual sequel Ghost in the Mirror (2000), at which point I had long since left Goosebumps behind. Plus, “Let’s Get Invisible” was adapted into an episode of the Goosebumps TV show – a show I never actually watched.