Haunted mirrors with evil spirits can be very creepy, as can watching someone break down into mental illness and violence. If presented in a simple, straightforward way, it’s effective, but some of the great disturbing moments of “Oculus” get muddied up in whiplash-causing cuts between past and present in rapid succession. It’s hard to stay in the moment when you’re trying to figure what the hell is going on.

Now that I think about it, “Insidious 2” also falls into the same trap of mixing past and present and confusing viewers, or least some of us. Dear filmmakers, this does not create suspense. I kept finding myself getting frustrated with the inability to just get a straightforward timeline and story of what was going on. It’s almost as if some films don’t have enough confidence to just rely on their story without the gimmicks of intercutting between past and present to try to make the story more complex.

Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes simple is actually great.

There’s no shortage of scary moments in this movie, particularly the mirror effect of the eyes. Although it did strike me as being very similar to that first “Salem’s Lot” movie with David Soul, where the vampires had that same glint in their eye. add to that , having mommy dearest chained up like a dog in the bedroom because she’s losing her mind, and you’ve got some pretty damn scary stuff, indeed.

But then if you mix in some plot holes — which to be fair, almost any horror movie has to some extent — you start to water-down the fear factor and that, combined with confusing elements takes you out of the story while you’re lagging behind asking yourself basic questions. Why didn’t the mirror effect the kids when they were younger like it affected mom and dad? Why did it wait till the present to have an effect on them? Why did it seem to create the need for violence in mom and dad, but just cause confusion about time and place for the kids in the present?

I’m still so perplexed by what the plot was that I can barely put the confusion I felt into words. I just know that if I was in a cartoon, there would have been a big “WTF?” floating over my head for most of the second half of the movie.

Also, recognize the difference between foreshadowing and giving away your ending. Now I admit, as someone who has dabbled in creative writing, I’m pretty good at seeing foreshadowing that other people miss. But this movie went way beyond foreshadowing, completely giving away the ending to me. I won’t say exactly how in case you actually haven’t seen this movie yet, but it doesn’t take a genius to see where one of the main character’s fate lies.

There are a lot of great positive things I can say about the film in terms of atmosphere, mood, creepiness, but when all is said and done, I just feel like I’m caught up in one big creepy ball of confusion. And that’s not a satisfying ending, even for a gal who hates happy endings like me.

hba-banner-2012-e1363313918969