Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mirrors (2008)

Alexandre Aja has given us a few great horror films, like his debut film Haute Tension and his brutal remake of The Hills Have Eyes (one of the few remakes that actually improves on the original). Those two films were survivalist tales of people stuck in the middle of nowhere fighting bloodthirsty killers. Those films were gritty, frightening and moved at a manic pace. With Aja’s new film, Mirrors, he decided to try his hand at a supernatural thriller, but the result is quite disappointing, not just in relation to Aja’s past films but also in comparison to any good horror film.

Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) has had a rough past year. He resigned from the New York City police force after accidentally killing another cop. He turned to pain killers and lost his wife and kids and now lives with his sister (Amy Smart) as he tries to get his life back together. He takes a job as a night security guard at a burned-out shell of a once grand department store. He soon starts seeing weird things in the mirrors of the department store, including hand prints all over the mirrors and reflections of people burning to death. He soon comes to the realization that the building holds terrible secrets, secrets that threaten the safety of him and his family.

Ok, along with The Happening I would say that Mirrors is one of the most ridiculous and unentertaining movies of 2008. The weak story just feels silly, not scary, and there are too many different loose ends that don’t get tied up. It also feels like there are three different, underdeveloped storylines, each that really goes nowhere. In the beginning it is all about the people that Ben sees in the mirrors…but that part of the story never really gets developed and doesn’t go anywhere. Then, the movie moves into another storyline and Ben must find out who “Esseker” is before the mirrors harm his family. THEN the movie ends on a demon-possession storyline that is even sillier than the rest of the movie. The writers, Aja and Gregory Levasseur, try to cram too much into one movie and end up undermining ALL of the storylines.

Also, the characters and the actors who played them were lackluster and boring. Every time I saw Kiefer Sutherland I thought, “What would Jack Bauer do?” and I don’t even watch 24!! His estranged wife, played by Paula Patton, got on my nerves and I really wish the mirrors had gotten her instead of Amy Smart’s character (Smart’s character’s demise is the most memorable scene of the entire film…just YouTube it instead of sitting through the entire film, though). I didn’t feel any sympathy for the wife character at all. She just lacked credibility and emotion and her acting was just…bad.

One thing I did appreciate about the film was the production design. The creepy, burned-out department store filled with scorched mannequins and blackened d├ęcor was very effective. Of course, one of the sets in the “hidden” part of the store looked like it came straight from the psychologist’s office in the Exorcist 2, but other than that the building was foreboding and ominous. It’s too bad the “scare” scenes inside of it didn’t work (well, they didn’t work anywhere else in the movie, either).

Also on the positive side is the direction by Alexandre Aja. He creates some worthwhile scenes of menace, including the first night Ben spends in the department store alone. Aja leaves most of the scene swathed in shadows as Ben explores the gargantuan building with only a flashlight. Most of the tension of the first few scenes is lost when Aja leaves the brooding building and stages scenes at the wife’s house. The “big finale” with “Esseker” and Jack, er, I mean Ben, feels like it belongs in a Resident Evil film and will just make you roll your eyes.

With all of Aja’s success in his last two horror films I didn’t really believe Mirrors could be that bad…but it is. Perhaps this is Aja’s bad apple of the bunch, but I hope he doesn’t get seven years bad luck after filming Mirrors.

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