Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Written by: Alexandre Aja & Gegory Levasseur (screenplay), Sung-ho Kim (original story)
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, and Amy Smart
Reviewed by: Brett G.
Two years ago, Alexandre Aja reconfigured Wes Craven's gritty classic The Hills Have Eyes into a tour de force of suspense, stylish direction, and unrelenting gore. As a huge fan of the original film, Aja certainly exceeded any expectations I had for his remake, and that effort, combined with his somewhat promising debut, High Tension, had me eagerly anticipating the French director's next effort, Mirrors, which has recently arrived in theaters. Technically a remake of the 2003 Korean film, Into the Mirror, this film represents Aja's first venture into the world of supernatural horror. While I can't say the hype for Mirrors has been huge in the horror community, I personally have was pumped to see what Aja had up his sleeve; add in the fact that Kiefer Sutherland signed on in the lead role, and the film looked promising.
In the film, Sutherland plays Ben Carson, a New York police detective who recently resigned after accidentally killing a fellow officer. Because of the ensuing emotional trauma, Carson's relationship with his wife and children becomes estranged, which forces him to move in with his younger sister. In an effort to recoup his life, Carson takes a job as a night watchman at the ruins of a department store that burned down five years ago. This seems innocuous enough, but the store was built upon the site of a psychiatric hospital that housed victims of schizophrenia over 50 years ago. Now, it seems that the tragic events that lead to the hospital's closing have come back to haunt those who guard the building, as Carson begins to notice some strange events surrounding the mirrors in the building. He feels as if his reflection is not quite as it seems, and it soon becomes clear that this is the case, as the evil spirits behind the mirrors begin to terrorize him and his family.
I found the premise of Mirrors to be interesting because I thought it could be the stage for some very imaginative and creepy horror imagery, especially when you consider Aja's visual talents. As such, I was expecting a bit of a subtle thriller, but Mirrors is anything but; instead, the film is generally loud and bombastic, relying on shrieking music and jarring jump scares. There are some creepy and moody bits, but the film is not as atmospheric as it should be. At its core, the film ultimately ends up being a standard ghost story before shifting its focus to demonic possession. Going into the film, most of the appeal was built around the mystery of the malevolent forces within the mirrors, and this is pretty much the film's focus for half of its running time. The answer to the mystery isn't nearly as interesting as I would like it to be, and, honestly, by the time the film got around to the answer, I didn't care very much.
This is because Mirrors, while solidly done, just isn't as interesting as it could have been, as it just sort of lumbers along to a rather predictable conclusion. The plot plays out just as you'd expect it to: Kiefer is painted as the victim of the stress surrounding a traumatic event, and no one believes him as a result until it's far too late. Everything plays out by the numbers from there, as some exposition fills in some historical blanks, which rushes us to the inevitable conclusion. As a result, it just feels like Mirrors is missing some sort of spark to set it over the top, as the whole film just feels a bit sluggish and lifeless overall. From a technical standpoint, the film is very well done, and Aja's visual flair really shines here, so the film at least looks good. In the hands of a less capable director, the film would have suffered even more. The film's score is also well-done and is reminiscent of some of its more famous gothic predecessors in Phantasm and The Exorcist.
As far as the cast goes, Kiefer is without a doubt the bright spot, even if it does feel like he's pretty much just playing Jack Bauer on the big screen (which isn't altogether bad, considering I'm a huge fan of 24). However, the chemistry between him and his on-screen wife, Paula Patton, is nearly non-existent, and I found it hard to care about her character for the most part. Considering that the film's third act revolves around her and the children being threatened, such character development causes the film to fall a bit flat. Add in the fact that there are a few stilted performances (especially from Mary Beth Peil's character), and the acting isn't anything to write home about. Amy Smart does a good job in her limited time as Kiefer's little sister, however.
So, what does the film get right besides Aja's stylish direction? In short, the gore. Anyone familiar with Aja's previous efforts know about his penchant for gore, but it isn't exactly unrelenting here; however, when it's there, it's absolutely brutal. Let's just say this puppy hit "gorific" within the first three minutes, and the film's biggest gore set-piece oozed the grue all on its own. These two scenes actually represent the entirety of the film's big gore scenes, but they're very effective and will have some squirming in their seat. After the second big scene, the entire audience was buzzing, and I couldn't tell if they were in awe or if they were disgusted. While I wouldn't categorize the film as a gorefest, I do think this one scene will be what the film will be remembered for. Besides this gore, I also enjoyed the ending quite a bit, which reminded me a bit of Silent Hill and The Beyond, and the music made the final scene very effective.
Overall, I suppose I would categorize Mirrors as a bit of a disappointment considering the talent involved. It's certainly not a terrible film, but it's probably my least favorite film Aja has been associated with (including P2, which he produced). That said, I still find him to be one of the better modern horror directors from a technical standpoint, and I am very much looking forward to his next effort, which happens to be another remake (Piranha, which will be given the 3D treatment). It's a very solid effort overall, but I don't think it warrants a trip to the theater unless you're a die-hard Aja fan. All others would be advised to wait until the film hits DVD in a few months and take a trek down to a local store and Rent it!
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