Movie Review for Mirrors (2008)

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Review #671 of 365
Movie Review of Mirrors (2008) [R] 110 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $8.75
Where Viewed: United Artists Denver Pavilions Stadium 15, Denver, CO
When Seen: 15 August 2008 @ 2:30 pm
DVD Release Date: 13 January 2009 (click date to purchase or pre-order)
After the Credits:

Soundtrack: Download now from Javier Navarrete - Mirrors (Original Motion Picture Score)

Directed by: Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes)
Screenplay by: Alexandre Aja (P2) • Grégory Levasseur (P2) based on the Korean motion picture Into the Mirror (Sung-ho Kim)

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):
Kiefer Sutherland (The Sentinel) • Paula Patton (Swing Vote) • Cameron Boyce (debut) • Erica Gluck ("The Game") • Amy Smart (Crank) • Mary Beth Peil (Flags of Our Fathers) • John Shrapnel (Elizabeth: The Golden Age)

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Once again, Hollywood mines the cemeteries of the Asian ghost story genre and remakes a Korean horror film called Into the Mirror for USAers. The first few of these remakes were fine, but after a while, it's pretty easy to see they tend to follow a narrow formula that is as predictable now as the first were totally unpredictable. These Easter culture-derived stories were willing to go to a place that Western ghost stories were not, they were more willing to have the ghosts cross the line from lost souls into malevolent, vengeful, murderous ghosts on a mission nearly always to right some past wrong. Once you get that, though, they sort of lose their power, so to speak, the movies not the ghosts. Writer / director Alexandre Aja becomes the latest to attempt such a remake, with a twist, as there's almost always some sort of a twist as well in these films – one that will be given away here only in the spoiler – on the heels of his low-performing, victimization scary film P2. His source material is Into the Mirror; and, as the preview reveals, there's something terrifying in the mirrored universe we think are just our reflections that starts to terrorize Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) and his family. Of course, in these films it's never quite that easy. Ben Carson, of course, has a troubled past. He was an NYPD officer who apparently shot someone and proceeded to try to drown himself in alcohol to numb his pain. The further down the rabbit hole he falls, the more weary his pathologist wife, Amy (Paula Patton) refused to deal with him or allow him to have any involvement with their two children: Michael (Cameron Boyce) and Daisy (Erica Gluck) forcing him to move in with his younger sister Angela (Amy Smart) whom he raised alone when their parents died. As complicated as that sounds, it's all part of the formula for these films because, for the recipe to work, there have to be logical reasons why nobody will believe it when the victim starts to see things that can be explained away as being part of their troubled past or current depression. And so is the case for Ben who gets a spooky job as the night watchman for a NYC department store that burned down one afternoon when it was full of customers resulting in the deaths of 45 people and the wounding of over a hundred more. With the owners of the Mayflower still in dispute with the insurance companies, the place is boarded up and under watch by a day and night watchman. In no time, Ben starts to hear spooky things and see spooky things all related to the mirrors in the store, but the arrival of a package from the guy he's replaced and who was subsequently found dead by his own hand with his throat slit by a mirror shard catalyzes Ben's believe that the spooky stuff he's seeing in the mirrors is not just in his head. Of course, no one will believe him, especially not when he does things like driving to his former home in the suburbs, removing all the mirrors, and painting over the ones he cannot pry from the walls. Nope, he comes across as a complete crazy person, and his wife worries he'll never get reinstated with the police department.

Alexandre Aja does a sufficiently good job in his films of making them actually, pretty scary. He's got a keen eye for building the appropriate tension and making those proverbial hairs stand up on your neck.

…someone forgot to tell Kiefer Sutherland this wasn't "24"…
It's not his direction that sinks this film a bit. First and foremost, it's the needlessly over-complicated story with an unseen and inexplicable villain. Second, it's the still-in-"24" mode method acting of Kiefer Sutherland. You almost need a masters degree in paranormal psychology to follow this plot. Crib notes or reading a spoiler first might not be a bad thing. It's not that there are too many lose ends or that the ending propels you into an alternate reality causing wonder as to where you've been all along. It's really all of this added together. You'll just sit there thinking, "What?" Then there's our almost anti-hero, Ben Carson. Ben's a deep character, and Kiefer Sutherland has the intensity to play him. Unfortunately, he over plays him, adds needlessly convoluted layers to his character prodding one to wonder why he doesn't really, just take his family and get out of town early on. He's so overly intense sometimes you want to shout, "Hey Kiefer, this isn't '24', the President of Slovenia isn't on a collision course with a train carrying dangerous viruses in the mountains of Montana." His intensity and over-reaction are occasionally comical when they aren't meant to be. Meanwhile, he seemed tired and moody—basically not into this role or film, and it's hard to blame him. A good many people in the theatre I was in bolted when a significant character is killed by ripping off her bottom jaw in full graphic detail. Forget spooky or malevolent ghosts, this what ever it is is just plain, no-nonsense evil. Nobody wants to see that; and, probably, most people wouldn't want to be in a movie with that.

When the film reaches its tortuously long climax, be prepared for an ending that will just about leave you speechless—not because it's gruesome, but because it's just plain perplexing. Which would be the word of the day when it comes to summarizing the film: it's perplexing why Alexandre Aja would write and direct, Kiefer Sutherland and Paula Patton would agree to star, and anybody who read the script would agree to fund it.

…the perplexing ending makes things clear as mud…
It's perplexing given that no one involved is without a great deal of talent and brains, but no one seemed to catch on to this before the cameras got rolling. On the plus side, the film has a few scary, chilling moments, but it actually more of a mystery film than a pure horror or scary movie, and one, unfortunately whose ending makes things clear as mud.

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Related Products from
Other Projects Featuring Mirrors (2008)
Cast Members
Kiefer SutherlandPaula PattonCameron Boyce
Erica GluckAmy SmartMary Beth Peil
John Shrapnel
Alexandre Aja
Alexandre AgaGrégory Levasseur

Review-lite Mirrors (2008) [max of 150 words]
Kiefer Sutherland plays a defunct cop who takes a job as the night watchman at the spookiest burned out department store in Manhattan. Shortly thereafter, things in the mirror start to make him and everyone he loves think he's losing his mind. Unfortunately, he didn't get the this-isn't-"24"-memo, and completely over-reacts for this role. That and a perplexing ending make for a bad combination in this horror mystery that's needlessly complicated and overly gruesome. If you've got a bad case of "horror movie withdrawal" probably Mirrors is not going to satisfy the cravings, try Alien or Aliens instead—you cannot go wrong with those two classics.

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