Saturday, October 4, 2008
I thought that Alexandre Aja was the talent to watch. I thought that he was one of the few bright, talented horror directors to know how horror films work and how to create the best possible scare. I guess I was deluding myself. Haute Tension, his first film, was intelligent and scary up until the worst twist ending ever, and his second film, The Hills Have Eyes, followed such a rigourous pattern that I was able to predict all the beats. So it was with little or no expectations that I watched his third film, Mirrors.
Kiefer Sutherland is - get this - a divorced father down on his luck who takes a job as a security guard for a burned out, abandoned mall which has hundreds of huge mirrors. As he patrols the husk of a building, he begins to see things in the mirrors that aren't really there. There's also a backstory to the mall, a mystery Sutherland must solve, and a family schism that he must try to mend. Also, he's a cop who killed a guy.
You see all the predictable bits put together? If I can think of a film it's most like, it's the American remake of The Ring, which was fairly scary, but didn't hold up to repeat viewings, that's for sure.
Mirrors is a mess of a film. Mirrors themselves are one of the most oft-used and simple metaphors in literature. They're portals, they're windows, they're a dark reflection, they're liars, they're truthtellers, they're a dark world. Mirrors can be absolutely anything, and what does this film choose to go with? The prison of a demon. It's an okay metaphor, but Amy Smart, Kiefer Sutherland's character's sister, spells out the other metaphors in one scene. Absolutely spells it out to the audience.
Instead of reviewing this mess of a film, I'm going to think of missed opportunities:
1. The mirrors could have shown dark alternate realities, dark reflections in which Sutherland's character and other character's little dark secrets become all too real. That way, the reflection metaphor is highlighted.
2. The mirrors could have been windows into the dark souls of others and still the ghost story would have worked the same. Instead of showing random images of death, Sutherland could have been looking into the dark souls of his family and friends and then finally - bum bum BUM - his own soul, revealing the horrible truth about himself.
3. The mirrors could have shown an exaggerated version of the real world, confusing Sutherland to the point of madness and then in a Twilight Zone-style ending, the real world is actually twisted and the mirrors correct the visions.
4. If the mirrors showed things that weren't in the real world, but they showed the imagination of people, it could have shown a serial killer's imagination or vision, and Sutherland could have tried to solve the murder, but in a twist ending, it turns out it was the future, and Sutherland was the killer, and he has to kill to keep everything quiet.
5. The mirrors are actually portals, and Sutherland accidentally breaks one, releasing a demon into the world. This one is the closest to the actual plot, but the breaking of a mirror as a metaphor isn't played up in Mirrors, at all. Which is strange.
I can think of more, but why bother? The film that I've been presented with is a mess of jumbled images and stolen plot devices. The only saving grace? The decent scares. There's quite a few quite little scares that are more unnerving than any jump-scare that gets thrown at us. For example, Sutherland's kid is talking to his reflection and when he gets up to walk away, the reflection stays sitting and watches the mom. Ooooh, creepy.
Otherwise, Mirrors is a pretty terrible horror movie. There's so many missed opportunities and so many ways the writer and director mixed up their metaphors. As I say, I only liked the film for its decent creepy scares and acceptable gore, but on the whole I wasn't really impressed.