Judge Gordon Sullivan feels like he's burning. Bad movies do that to him.
Our review of Mirrors, published January 13th, 2009, is also available.
There is evil…on the other side.
Alexandre Aja made a name for himself in America with his blood-soaked love letter to the slasher, High Tension. After that triumph, he was handpicked by Wes Craven to direct a remake of the classic The Hills have Eyes, which soaked even more blood into the desert of the film's plot. While both of these horror films had their high points (mainly gore and visual style to spare), they were not without their problems (logic and narrative strength chief among them). The fact that his third film Mirrors is a remake of an obscure Korean horror film set in a department story covered in possessed mirrors shouldn't get anyone's hopes up. The story allows for little of the gore that made him famous and relies too much on his seemingly nonexistent skills at creating a logical story. Despite the film's problems, Fox has given fans a fairly decent Blu-ray of the film.
Facts of the Case
Cop Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland, 24) accidentally killed another cop in the line of duty. Unsurprisingly this has lead to heavy drinking, estrangement from his wife and kids, and a suspension of his duties as a police office. However, Ben tries to turn his life around, taking drugs to help with the drinking and accepting a position as night watchman for an abandoned department store that had been gutted by a fire. While making his rounds the first night, Ben hears numerous strange sounds and sees people in the mirrors being eaten away by fire. Then he begins to feel the flames himself, even though he isn't burned. Being a cop, Ben decides to investigate and discovers links between the department store and an old hospital. But little does he know that his investigation will have dire consequences for his family.
I watch a lot of bad movies, and usually it's a painful process. As soon as it becomes obvious that the film is (or is going to be) bad there is usually wailing and gnashing of teeth. However, there are those rare films that can mask how bad they are until the end. It was only during the Army of Darkness-on-crack final battle that I realized how truly bad Mirrors was. The whole mess doesn't make a lick of sense. From the very beginning there are plot holes you could drive a truck through, with little attention to narrative or character logic. For instance, as someone pointed out in the Jury Room, why would anyone, even a cop, go back to the department store a second time? Eventually Ben's family gets involved, but even before that he feels a compelling desire to understand the mystery of the mirrors. I just don't get it: if mirrors make me feel like I'm on fire, then I'm avoiding them.
Speaking of the titular mirrors, there is no attempt at creating any sort of "rules" for how the mirrors operate. Their use in the film seems to relate exclusively to plot convenience. Considering how wide their influence grows, it makes no sense that they'd need Ben to do their bidding. Also, it makes no sense that they kill their initial agent in the film's first scene. Oh wait, it makes perfect sense: it's all about plot convenience.
It doesn't help any that the mirrors are merely a red herring for some pseudo-psychological demon crap. It's never made entirely clear what's possessing the mirrors, or what it wants. What made it possess the mirrors in the first place? I don't know after watching the film, and I suspect that Mr. Aja doesn't have a clue either. All of these ideas coalesce into a knockdown drag-out fight between Ben and the force, and it's just sad. The film's final scene aims for The Twilight Zone, but because the mechanics of the mirrors are never explained, the creep factor is squandered.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's not all bad. The acting in the film is generally better than most horror films. Kiefer has the most heavy-lifting to do, and I found him surprisingly likable in the role. He rocks the Jack Bauer growl here and there, but overall he's sympathetic. The rest of the cast don't have much to do, but they bring enough credibility to their roles to make the ridiculous aspects of the plot semi-believable.
Even in this unrated version of the film there isn't much gore. However, what's there is executed pretty well. The film's visual style is all that makes it stand above the many direct-to-video horror films populating video store shelves. Considering the number of reflective surfaces, the film is a technical triumph, and Aja has a knack for always putting the camera in an interesting place.
The Blu-ray disc from Fox succeeds where the film fails. The 2.40:1 AVC-encoded image does a fine job handling the film's many dark scenes fairly well with only the occasional distracting grain/noise. The film has a blue, muted tone to it, and that translates well to home video. I was especially impressed with the film's audio. The clarity was high, and the balance was perfect. Jump-scare cues didn't give me a headache and the ambient effects were balanced perfectly with the dialogue. The extras are fairly extensive for a film that did minimal box office numbers. There's the standard making-of that's almost 50 minutes long and covers the film from its remake origins to the final product. There are also a number of deleted and extended scenes, including an alternate ending and some more footage of Anna. For a film that was already too long, these are hardly essential pieces of the puzzle. There are also a number of storyboard featurettes, one which covers the jaw-ripping scene, and another which is available via BonusView. The other BonusView feature is a picture-in-picture commentary with Aja and crew. They discuss much of the same material as the documentary, but it's a little more informal. For those who still have a burning desire to carry Mirrors around with them, this Blu-ray disc comes with a Digital Copy of the film on the second.
Mirrors really could have been a great film. Aja has a good eye, Sutherland delivers a decent performance, and mirrors are creepy enough that the film could have offered some old-fashioned frights, if someone had possessed the discipline to cut the whole mess down to 80 or 90 minutes. Instead we get a bloated mishmash of random effects scenes interspersed with a patently illogical story. Mirrors might be worth a watch between seasons of 24 for the hardcore Jack Bauer fans, but otherwise there's nothing to really recommend the film.
Upon further reflection, Mirrors is found guilty.
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