French director Alexandre Aja has been one of the most promising new horror directors over the past few years. He was responsible for 2003s High Tension (Haute Tension), where he created an intense and very gory horror film with female lead roles and a much debated twist ending. He followed that up with doing the unthinkable: remaking the classic Wes Craven film The Hills Have Eyes, and surprised even more by doing it very well. He has spent his career so far making a name for himself as a risk-taking horror director with a gritty, violent, bloody look to his films. In his latest film Mirrors, Aja tackles a different sub-genre of horror (the supernatural thriller) with a little of the signature Aja gore thrown in for good measure.
Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland, taking a break from 24) has a lot of problems. Hes a recovering alcoholic, laid off from the police force and going through a divorce/separation. Hes just landed the night security job at what is possibly the creepiest department store ever, a Bloomingdales size store called The Mayflower. Before Bens first shift, hes advised by the day security guard to stay away from the mirrors. In a few hours hell find out why. Strange things begin to happen in the mirrors, playing tricks on Ben. Things that look like they should be really happening arent. At first, Ben shrugs this off ,thinking that it must have something to do with his recent decision to stop drinking. But it doesnt take long for him to realize that theres something supernatural going on at the Mayflower.
This is one of the coolest ideas for a horror film, I have to admit. Anytime there are things going on with mirrors in horror movies, I get creeped out. You dont realize just how many mirrors are in your house until you see a film about mirrors and the stuff that could be going on within them. Such a cool idea deserves a better film than this. First of all, the script just plain sucks. The dialogue between the characters is ridiculous. Most of the time, theyre just stating the obvious; blatantly pointing out the course of events in the movie as if the audience couldnt figure it out for ourselves. The conversations between Ben and his estranged wife Amy (Paula Patton, Swing Vote) are especially redundant. For example:
Ben Carson: What if the mirrors are showing us something that’s not really happening?
Amy Carson: What are you talking about?
Ben Carson: Just listen to me. What if the mirrors are reflecting something that’s beyond our reality? What if the mirrors can actually make us do things that we don’t want to do
Really? Do we really need that to be pounded into our heads when we just watched it happen?
Aja knows how to direct horror really well though. Those are the best parts in the film. Its just too bad that theyre so few and far between. The already famous bathroom scene, in which Bens sister Angela (Amy Smart) gets her jaw ripped off, is really well done. Even more impressive is the fact that Aja used very very little CGI in the entire film. In the old-school fashion that has really helped with his credibility, Aja uses mostly make-up to create his effects. Every scene that has violence or gore in it – all 4 of them – are done really well. But in those scenes, the actors arent really required to interact with other actors. The scenes in which they are, are almost painful to watch. The horror is impressive and the drama is painful. What an accomplishment.
In addition to the acting being bad, the storyline is pretty bad too. First, we see the mirrors in the Mayflower reflecting what looks like the people who were hurt in the fire. Then, when Ben asks what the mirrors want from him (clichÃ©, I know), the mirror writes the word “Esseker” on itself. So Ben has to research and figure out what Esseker means. It turns out that the Mayflower was built on top of and around an old psychiatric hospital and Anna Esseker was a patient there. Ben has to travel to the convent where Anna Esseker is now a nun, and try to get her to return there to appease the mirrors. It turns out that Anna had multiple personality disorder and her demons literally were taken out of her and put in the mirrors. And THEN, at the very end, we get an M. Night Shyamalan type twist ending. Thats three storylines. None of which fit together very well.
Alexandre Aja has been a very promising horror director. Even though hes responsible for this stinker, he still did a lot of things right. The effects, the art direction, and the gore were the highlights of this movie. Ajas next project is a re-make of the 1978 B-movie Piranha, entitled Piranha 3-D. Im still looking forward to the release of that movie later this year. I havent lost faith in him yet.
This is a beautifully looking movie. The cinematography is very nice, especially within the Mayflower. Aspect ratio is 2.40:1. The sound is high quality as well, highlighting the brilliant original score. Yes, brilliant original score. Yes, in this movie. In Dolby Digital surround sound.
Reflections: The Making of Mirrors – Quite possibly the longest making of a movie that was not very good that I’ve ever seen. This clocks in at over 48 minutes long and goes through the following: Casting, Production, The Mayflower, The Mirrors, The Flood, Make-Up, The Twist, and Post-Production. Even though after watching this, I have more of an appreciation for the film, I still don’t like the film. (48:38)
Behind the Mirror – This featurette is very interesting. They’ve assembled a group of people to talk about the mythology of mirrors. There’s a museum curator, an occultist, a historian, and several others who discuss throughout history the superstitions involving mirrors and where they come from. I was fascinated by this. (18:20)
Deleted and Alternate Scenes – These can be viewed with or without commentary. The best alternate scene was the ending without the big corny fight between Ben and the demon. I think the ending works out better this way. Total run time for all deleted and alternate scenes is (15:36).
It’s such a shame that this movie isn’t better than it is. The potential for what you could do with this idea is limitless. Aja fans will most likely see this if they haven’t already. He’s got some pretty loyal fans. Horror fans shouldn’t really even bother since the horror takes a backseat to the family drama between Ben and Amy and the multiple storylines going on. Mirrors is supposed to be based on the Korean film Into the Mirror. I haven’t seen that one yet and I’d be more likely to recommend that one than Aja’s version.
20th Century Fox presents Mirrors. Directed by Alexandre Aja. Starring Keifer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Amy Smart. Written by Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur, Sung-ho Kim. Running time: 110 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: January 13, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Alexandre Aja, Paula Patton