18 May 2009

Movie Review: Mirrors


2008, 111mins, R
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writer (s): Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
Cast includes: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Erica Gluck, Amy Smart, Jason Flemying, Cameron Boyce
Release Date: 15th August 2008

Everyone knows that asides from “Prison Break” there is no show on television more ridiculous and mind bogglingly crazy than “24”. That program’s star Kiefer Sutherland is also the leading man for Alexandre Aja’s “Mirrors” an Americanized version of an Asian original, neither of which I knew too much about prior to viewing this, the former. Just as well, following his television sensibility Sutherland appears to have opted for the most illogically dumb feature length screenplay he could find, if this represents the current status of the man’s discerning career taste, he can stay as Jack Bauer until the end of all that is holy. “Mirrors” is not only a stupid idea but also a horror film that cheats the audience, rarely in my life have I seen a picture so firmly worked around the directors and writers fancy, at the expense of plot holes and basic intelligence.

Just how slavishly this remake follows its predecessor is unclear, as stated above I’ve never seen and would have little desire to check out the 2003 original. Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) is an ex-NYPD man and former alcoholic, slowly starting to rebuild his life after accidently shooting a man in a policing incident. As a result of his past errors Ben has lost his marriage and the respect of wife Amy (Paula Patton) and has suffered the ultimate punishment a man can face, limited access to his beloved kids. In an effort to convince everyone he is back on the straight and narrow Ben takes a night watchmen’s post at a local and burnt out department store, the previous job holder having mysteriously vanished not long before. Whilst on watch Ben starts to notice something funny about the many mirrors that layer the old buildings interior, until eventually they start showing him terrifying visions and hallucinations. It quickly transpires that the mirrors want something from Ben and until they get it, they’ll use every reflective surface at their disposal to kill the people he loves.

To give credit where it’s due the first 30 minutes of “Mirrors” are actually semi-decent, making a reasonable stab at building a central character and racking up a few moments of palm sweating suspense. It’s everything that comes after which is a laughable mess, and at times self indulgent and lazy to boot. In searching for scares Aja is so laid back with plot consistencies that he’s practically horizontal, meaning that whilst he can splash around blood like cheap soup, there is no sense of logic or impending dread in his directorial handling of the product.

Sutherland is unexceptional in the lead role, moving through the motions but with no real force or focus. I suppose from a purely story driven perspective he does a fair job, keeping a straight face as he battles homicidal reflections, but the audience never really cares about him or his family. Paula Patton never stops playing scared, and the chemistry between her and Sutherland is poisonously rank. Patton in the few projects she’s appeared in has exuded an unquestionable woodenness, a reputation “Mirrors” won’t distort. Elsewhere Amy Smart is given nothing to do as Ben’s sympathetic sister (though she does have the key part in the film’s most visceral moment) and the child acting is rotten. The fact that youngsters Cameron Boyce and Erica Gluck are so poor just further reflects badly on Aja’s direction, it takes good helming to cast child actors and help them deliver a believable turn, Aja seemingly having failed at both junctions.

The film is technically stylish and features a plethora of well constructed gore effects but interms building a sense of dread or impending horror, it’s a disaster. Much of this lies in the director and writers utter inability to conform to a set of horror rules, the monster in this movie seemingly doing whatever it pleases to claim victims, the mechanism blazing a trail of idiocy as the story carries on. When Aja refuses to set in any sort of barrier to add an extra level of suspense or viability to the fear, what is there for the audience to bother getting scared over? If as a filmmaker he simply wants to sit and do as he pleases with no regard for cohesion, that’s fine, just don’t expect an audience to care or find much empathy with the characters. The final half hour is also peppered with some truly hysterical sequences masquerading as adrenaline pumping terror. The final showdown in “Mirrors” is in excusably silly and a supposed twist at the end might even be this turkey’s low point.

People are constantly bitching about remakes today, moaning about how they pollute the cinematic landscape for a fast buck whilst shamelessly encouraging unimaginative story telling. I personally don’t subscribe to that view, but even if I did the fact that “Mirrors” is a retread is the very least of its problems. A bumbling and badly executed horror film, “Mirrors” throws out the blood like there’s no tomorrow, and sadly all sense of intelligence and indeed enjoyment seems to have gone with it.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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