Directed by: Marina Sargenti
Written by: Annette Cascone & Gina Cascone and Marina Sargenti & Yuri Zeltser
Starring: Rainbow Harvest, Yvonne De Carlo, Karen Black, Kristin Dattilo, and William Sanderson
Reviewed by: Wes R.
ďLighten up. This is a joke for God sakes. Itís not like weíre going to cover her in pigís blood or anything.Ē
With the boom of the home video market in the 1980s came the slow and eventual demise of the drive-in. Why drive someplace to make out with your girl in public, when you could stay home, rent a flick, and not risk getting caught? With films like Blood Cult and Puppet Master pioneering the direct-to-video movement, it wasnít long before other filmmakers soon decided to cash in on the cheaply produced but highly profitable craze. Soon, hundreds of films released exclusively on home video began littering video store shelves. Some were actually pretty decent in quality, but most were forgettable garbage. Let us now take a look at one of the more interesting, if not entirely successful entries in the history of direct-to-video horror; 1990ís Mirror Mirror.
Megan Gordon (Rainbow Harvest) and her mother Susan (Karen Black) move into a brand new house following the death of her father. The previous owners of the house left behind a spooky full-length mirror, and because sheís sort of a gothic outcast, Megan really wants to keep it in her room. Soon after moving in, though, her dog dies mysteriously and she begins having nightmares about her father. When a couple of strange occurrences happen at school, she blames the mirror. At first hesitant and fearful of the mirrorís power, Megan soon realizes that she can use the power to her advantage. She begins dressing hotter at school to woo the boy of her dreams, makes a teacher who gave her a hard time nearly have a heart attack, and eventually commits murder after murder. Emelin (Yvonne De Carlo), a gentle old lady who took many of the houseís leftover pieces of furniture for her antique store, reads in a book that was found in the house that the mirror is a gateway for demons to enter the world. Can anyone stop Megan and her demonic mirror from getting what they want?
No doubt the early meetings about the movie were positive. How could a movie about a creepy old mirror possessing an angst-ridden teen girl go wrong? The answer: it doesnít! Mirror Mirror is a fairly enjoyable and entertaining direct-to-video film. Say what you want about the more recent direct-to-video debacles like Ice Cream Man and Bloody Murder, but the initial era of DTV films contained quite a few gems. Mirrors carry many negative connotations with them, and director Marina Sargenti made good use of a truly intimidating-looking mirror. I particularly liked the blue-tinted shots seen from the mirrorís point of view. A significant sub-plot of the film deals with Meganís lack of fitting in at school, no doubt inspired by the dark teen hit from the previous year, Heathers. Because of this, it also plays out like Carrie, at times. Once Megan finds out that she can utilize the mirrorís power for her own gain, itís not much different than when Carrie White realizes that her greatest curse could be her greatest strength. Direct-to-video films often have a bad reputation, but Mirror Mirror focuses on a good performances and an interesting story for the length of its running time.
The acting is very good, overall. Rainbow Harvestís Megan character comes off as a mix between 80s popstar Boy George and Winona Ryderís character from Beetlejuice. Genre vet, Karen Black (Burnt Offerings) is on hand in a particularly quirky performance as Meganís mother. Iíve never really cared much for Black. Something about her performances usually grates my nerves, but here, sheís not that bad. It is kind of odd to see someone who was once the leading lady in an Alfred Hitchcock film (Family Plot) reduced to starring in direct-to-video fare, though. Formerly Lily on TV's "The Munsters", actress Yvonne De Carlo is effective but ultimately useless in the filmís makeshift Zelda Rubinstein role. In a smaller role, Stephen Tobolosky (Memento) shows up as one of Meganís teachers. William Sanderson (Larry of ďNewhartĒ) also appears in the fairly small role of a pet undertaker who sees to the burial of Meganís dog. Released in 1990, the film is severely dated in the areas of clothing and hairdos. If you decide to watch the movie, be warned that you will encounter many unnecessary shoulder pads and some of the worst hair styles ever captured on film. Of course, half the cheesy fun of late 80s/early 90s movies is seeing how outlandish some of the hair and clothing was. In the respect, Mirror Mirror also excels. The film also does very little to fight the stereotype that goth girls are evil, dangerous, and should be avoided at all costs.
Going against the current direct-to-video stigma, Mirror Mirror doesnít contain a great amount of blood or nudity. What little there is of each, however, is plenty sufficient. Few of the actors in the film end up escaping its high body count and most meet creative ends. The busty Charlie Spradling (Wanda in Puppet Master II)ís nude shower and death scene are among the filmís highlights. Another crowd-pleasing showstopper involves one of the main characters and a rather unfortunate incident involving a kitchen sinkís garbage disposal. The score by Jimmy Lifton and Scott Campbell rises above that of similar direct-to-video flicks. At times, it evokes Goblinís score for Suspiria and at others it takes on an eerie music box feeling. The result is a score similar to that of Christopher Youngís for Hellraiser, but quite good on its own merits. The one weak point of the film is probably its lame ending. On one hand, itís an effectively spooky head-scratcher, but on the other, itís pretty confusing; giving little to no real resolution to the story. Itís no wonder that there have been three sequels made (to date). Itís just frustrating that a story that was so involving and interesting had such a lackluster and inconclusive conclusion.
Mirror Mirror is a fun and harmless horror flick. Itís marginally better than your average direct-to video fare, and even seems to have much better production values than most. Itís not going to win anyone over on scares or gore, but if you want to discover a forgotten gem from an often overlooked era of horror history, Mirror Mirror is a recommended watch. Itís getting harder and harder to find these days, however. Anchor Bay Entertainment released a box set of the entire four-movie Mirror Mirror series a few years back, but it is now out of print. As of this writing, you can still find the entire box set at both Amazon and eBay for around $7.00 shipped. Iíve not yet had a chance to wade through the remaining three Mirror Mirror sagas, but at that price, picking up any four rare movies is definitely a steal. Mirror Mirror may not the best of its kind, but itís a great deal of fun and you will be doing yourself a world of good if youíd just Rent it!
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