Mirrors (2008)

Mirrors review (click for larger imageReviewed 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.

Mirrors review (click for larger imageTruth 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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  • Terminal

    “Mirrors” is one of the funniest horror movies I’ve seen in a while. It’s desperate to be taken seriously, but it’s just so darn comedic from minute one. I know, I’m late to the game.
    “We are bad guys. That means we’ve got more to do other than bullying companies. It’s fun to lead a bad man’s life.”

  • Sirand

    “Worst of the year” is pushing it. Not when we’ve had Prom Night, Lost Boys II, Shutter, One Missed Call, and The Eye. But, yea, it’s a big mess.

    • Uncle Creepy

      I think the review is dead on in terms of what’s wrong with it. It’s a middle of the road type flick for sure.

      • Tristan Sinns

        I gotta say it’s a little lower than middle of the road, to me. The film screws up its own internal logic; its filled with sophomoric “scary” footage (e.g., all of the “flashback” shots of the possessed girl bobbling her head back and forth) that lack the context to make it actually scary; the characters and their actions are absurd, not sympathetic, and flat; the “story” is a weak shell of a script that makes the entire thing feel as vacant as the burnt out hotel the film features.

        I agree that all of this still doesn’t quite make it “top five worst film of the year” material, given that there’s so much other horrible stuff. However, factor in the disappoint to this being sent out by a director who’s had such a strong track record, and I think it at least deserves a nomination. I’d been looking forward to this thing, and that’s the greatest sin.

        We’ll see come December.

        • Nomad

          It goes a long way to try and beat those other’s that’s for sure…but kind of hard to top a director that admits he was trying to make you feel bad for a pedophilic psycho slasher. The acting in this one comes close though. And geez…dont even get me started on the atrocious special effects. i dont want to go into details and wreck it for someone who is still going to see it but man…could have used a little rethinking and a lot more tests to make sure they worked first!!

  • Chainsaw

    Wow, is it really that bad?

    Man, this really makes me sad. I was putting a lot on this to be a shot in the arm of original horror. I need to reserve judgement for this one, but things don’t sound too good for it.

    This feels like such a blow for our passion.

  • Tristan Sinns

    Holy crap did this thing suck. It’s feardotcom bad. This review was extremely generous; this is quite likely one of the top five worst of the year.

  • Uncle Creepy

    Never in a million years did I ever think that this movie would end up as bad as it was. I’m stunned.

  • Nomad

    Ok true, the pacing is just fine but the plot is nonsense, the FX was not well executed…a+ for using some practical effects but C for a lot of it looking bad. The finale includes an effect that will go down as the worst looking baddie in a film in some time. On top of all that, they set up some horror movie rules half way into the movie and then pretty much threw them all away. Big mess.