Mirror, Mirror

Don’t look now, it’s Jack Bauer, oops I mean Kiefer Sutherland, taking on the forces of evil…that live inside mirrors.

Here’s my review from The West Australian today.

Mirrors (MA)

Kiefer Sutherland, Amy Smart, Paula Patton

Directed by Alexandre Aja

2 stars

You wouldn’t want to be a narcissist among the cast of Mirrors, a new horror thriller in which malevolent forces use the humble looking glass and other reflective surfaces to unleash evil.

Down on his luck former cop Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) takes a night job working security at the derelict Mayflower department store which was gutted by fire five years ago.

Carson, a former NYPD cop, lost his job after accidentally killing another officer, a fact revealed in a newspaper clipping among his boxes of possessions.

After the shooting Carson hit the bottle, became estranged from his wife Amy and their two children and started sleeping on his sister Angela’s couch.

A remake of the 2003 South Korean film Into the Mirror, there were times early in the film when I did have a genuine sense of fear, perhaps inspired by a nervous 10 minute stint where I was the only person in the  cinema (did that curtain just move?).

The dark atmosphere is suitably creepy and there are glaringly obvious hints in the clunking soundtrack whenever something bad is about to happen.

Dozens of charred mannequins and shop displays are in stark contrast to the magnificent gleaming mirrors, giving the first of several indicators something’s not quite right at the old Mayflower.

French director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) initially does a reasonable job of building the psychological tension and there are signs he has perhaps been schooled in the M Night Shyamalan school of storytelling (hint: supernatural overtones and a big twist).

But Aja starts to make a mess of it way earlier than the ending – probably around the time when one of the characters rips off her own jaw.

Grotesque and violent in the extreme, I watched the scene through eyes half-closed but my fear and squeamishness completely subsided once I realised just how ludicrous the plot had become.

Mirrors is at its scariest when the evil can’t really be seen or heard, with the audience and Ben’s family wondering if the bad things he is experiencing are hallucinations caused by the heavy medication he is taking to combat his drinking problem.

Once the evil follows Ben home and to his car, plausibility begins to wear thin.

In fact one of the scariest things about the film is not the mirrors but the imposing, haunting Academy of Sciences building in Bucharest which was used as the Mayflower. Commissioned by oppressive Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu and left unfinished following his death in 1989, one floor of the building was dressed to resemble a once opulent department store then burned and blackened.

Angela suggests Ben should simply quit and get a day job (why not just stop looking in the damn mirrors!) but the cop-within seems determined to crack the case of the Mayflower, which in a previous life was a hospital.

Even learning the fate of his predecessor doesn’t deter Ben, who by now is getting creepy messages in the mirrors and becoming more ostracised from his family instead of closer to them.

Golden Globe and Emmy winning Sutherland seems to be channelling his popular 24 character Jack Bauer, a conflicted but devoted family man who can be ruthless when required. Smart is underutilised and Paula Patton’s character Amy goes unconvincingly from being independent, protective and suspicious of Ben to needy and fearful.

Let’s hope audiences don’t get seven years of bad luck just by watching Mirrors.

 

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