Mirrors was pretty much doomed for terrible critical reviews from the start. Horror never scores big with film critics; in fact I can't remember the last horror film that got more positive reviews than negative. If the horror film in question is a remake, especially of a foreign movie, it's almost destined for critical failure. There's a reason for that: most horror remakes are utter garbage and are solely created so studios can make a quick buck. However, once in a while, a horror film remake will come along that actually isn't half bad, yet will still suffer negative reviews based on the fact that it's a horror film remake. It happened several years ago with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and more recently, with The Hills Have Eyes.
Mirrors has suffered a similar fate. Directed by French horror director Alexandre Aja, the same man behind The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors is a remake of a Korean horror film, as well as the best wide-release horror film of the year thus far. While I'll admit I probably enjoyed the film much more than most will, it's still miles better than the critic's lousy reviews or lackluster promotion would have you believe.
Kiefer Sutherland stars as Ben Carson, an ex-cop suffering from emotional issues after a "workplace accident" and a messy divorce. Sick of sleeping on his sister's couch, he takes up a job as a security guard at an abandoned department store that was devastated by a fire many years back. The job seems easy enough, primarily consisting of walking through the building every couple hours, making sure there are no trespassers. Things take a turn for the worse though, after several strange encounters involving the mirrors in the building, and Ben begins to find that his own reflection is haunting him, not only at the job, but in any mirror or reflective object (or liquid) he comes across. Soon enough, Ben find his life, as well as his families, in danger.
Mirrors biggest strength is the storyline, easily one of the best horror premises to hit the screen in years (even if it is recycled). Reflections are practically inescapable, not only appearing just in mirrors, but in doorknobs, windows and water. The inescapability of reflections is what makes the idea of one's reflection out to get them so chilling. They're everywhere. You can't escape them. Not since Nightmare on Elm Street, where ones own dreams were the cause of death, has there been a supernatural premise that has gotten so much under my skin. The fact that whatever the mirror images do to themselves happens to their real life counterparts, only heightens the hopelessness of Carson and his family.
Alexandre Aja has already proved his ability to create genuine scares with previous films, but most have been of the brutal, violent kind, as opposed to the atmospheric chills usually employed in supernatural horror movies that are more reliant on the mood and feeling than shocking acts of brutality for scares. Surprisingly, Aja's penchant for gore and violence complements the film surprisingly well. The sequences inside the derelict department store at night build up suspense very well, utilizing the eerie location with corpses manifesting themselves within the mirrors and screams emitting from within deep recesses of the building. It's fairly generic stuff for movies like this, but Aja is talented enough stylistically to pull them off. However, it's the sequences where Aja really lets loose that prove to be the most frightening. One sequence that takes place in a bathtub ends up being one of the most brutal and unsettling death scenes of the year. There are several of these sequences sprinkled throughout the film and they are extremely effective, utilizing a combination of brutality and atmospheric suspense that are, at the least, shocking. When a ghost pops out in one scene, it isn't a pale, long black haired Asian woman, nor a semi-transparent floating apparition: it's a half-naked female with half her body burned off, the flesh still sizzling off her burnt carcass as she wails in pain. That's the difference between Mirrors and most other ghost films.
The biggest downfall of the film is when it tries to provide an explanation for the horrific events taking place in the second half. The idea of one's image terrorizing oneself is horrifying on one level, but at the same time, it's extremely unrealistic. Trying to explain why this happened back fires on the film, as no explanation is going to make sense and instead, will just draw attention to the fact that this would never happen in real life, destroying a bit of the film's effect. The audience doesn't need to know why this happens. Ambiguity in this case would be much more frightening and wouldn't take away from any of the other scares. Once you throw in a sub-plot about mental institution experiments and haunting tragedies taking place in the building, you lose a lot of the suspense. Despite the unwise direction the movie takes in its second half, it's still entertaining and manages to retain a few good scares here and there, while finally rebounding in the last act.
Mirrors isn't perfect (what film is?), but its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses and in the end, it's the most enjoyable wide-release horror film of the year (although personally, the only other decent wide-release horror film this year would be The Strangers). Benefiting from a brilliant premise and the unlikely combination of French director Alexandre Aja's love of blood and brutality with an atmospheric, supernatural storyline, Mirrors is definitely much better than what one would expect of a typical Korean horror movie remake, let alone any horror movie that hits theaters.
- Dylan, allhorrorfilms.com
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