Reviewed by Carmen Potts
Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Amy Smart, Cameron Boyce
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Alexandre Aja’s Mirrors is one of the most frustrating horror movies to come along in a while. It skirts along the edge of greatness, but for every one thing it does right, it does another so inconceivably wrong. It’s like watching The Shining spliced together with a Platinum Dunes movie – we get spooky visuals, a lot of gore, and plenty of overblown studio bullshit.
The film is a loose remake of the 2003 Korean snooze-fest Into the Mirror, and for what it’s worth, it’s an improvement. Kiefer Sutherland plays Ben Carson, a down-on-his-luck policeman forced to take a job at an abandoned department store. Through awkward exposition we learn that he was relieved from duty due to the accidental shooting of an undercover officer (a plot point which is then abandoned). During his night shifts as a watchman, he discovers a demonic force coming from the building’s mirrors which show ghastly images and cryptic messages. It’s clear the mirrors want something from Ben and begin to systematically target his family until the malevolent force gets what it wants.
Truth be told, there is a lot to like about Mirrors, especially in the first half. Sutherland’s protagonist is a real breath of fresh air, and he’s clearly giving it his all with a tense, vulnerable performance rarely seen in modern horror movies. The dreaded department store is also one of the creepiest locales seen in horror (and worthy of an Oscar for art direction), made even scarier through Aja’s gorgeous visual style. There are several effective jolts and set-pieces along with some of the wildest kills ever put to film. But as the film grinds on, Aja resorts more and more to the kind of obnoxious CGI fakery found in every hackneyed Hollywood ghost pic.
The film is at its best when it explores the increasing paranoia of Sutherland’s character and the effects on his family, but it all too often takes a backseat to goofy jump scares and over-the-top gore. And this is the main problem with Mirrors — It’s a ghost movie in search of a tone. Aja is unsure whether he’s making a paranoid character study, a supernatural creeper, a monster movie, or a balls-to-the-wall slasher. All these elements are mindlessly packed together and wrapped up inside a generic horror movie formula, further demonstrating that Aja, while a superb stylist, is a god-awful writer (the dialogue here gets as many laughs as a Judd Apatow film).
The final act, which has Sutherland slipping into full-on Jack Bauer mode, is preposterous and feels like it came from a completely different movie. Any sense of menace built is blown to bits in an explosion of Dark Castle-movie excess and Eighties action clichés (Kiefer even dispatches someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in Commando).
But for all its faults, there’s still some enjoyment to be had with Mirrors, and the whole thing moves at a brisk pace – especially when held up to the abysmal boredom of The Eye, One Missed Call, and Shutter remakes. And, yes, Kiefer Sutherland gets to scream “Dammit!” Sadly, so will most audiences leaving the theater.
2 1/2 out of 5
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