Yes, he's talking to you: Writer/director Alexandre Aja is clearly addressing the stereotypical bloodthirsty horror fan with his latest slash n' gore piece, Mirrors. It's not meant for the casual filmgoer, or fans of star Kiefer Sutherland's hit television show, "24". However, for those with an open mind (or generally bored enough), the mystery elements will lure them into Mirrors' story, and/or Sutherland's unwavering Jack Bauer styled performance will at least entertain.
The actor plays Ben Carson, a harried, down-on-his-luck, trigger-happy alcoholic NYPD detective who's forced to take a night watchman job while he awaits a decision from Internal Affairs. In other internal affairs, his wife Amy (Paula Patton) has kicked him out of the home they once shared, and he's moved into his bartender sister's (Amy Smart) upscale apartment.
The job he has taken places him inside the burnt-out, but still very valuable, Mayflower Department Store. While the insurance companies decide whether to salvage or scrap, pay or play games, there's not a lot for Ben to do there but walk among charred mannequin remains and stare into smoke-burnished mirrors. But it's a living. Well, maybe not so much living as dying, when Ben begins to have some strange experiences and quickly uncovers a major clue which opens a can of ghostly worms.
When compared with High Tension (forgetting the WTF? ending, of course) and The Hills Have Eyes remake, Mirrors is not Aja's best film. (I haven't seen his directorial debut, Furia.) But in my popcorn scarfing, blood swilling estimation, it's far from awful. I am aware a lot of people will hate it and will refuse to go with its big, loud, and dumb runaway-train flow. It's horror at its most over the top and cresting at the apex of unbelievable (think: Fulci's The Beyond crossed with Michael Bay's Amityville Horror remake). But the day I watched it, that absurdity worked for me and I enjoyed Mirrors from beginning to end.
Aja can always be counted on for finding amazing locations, and for making sure the cinematography exploits everything from floor to ceiling. The Mayflower is fantastically beautiful and scary in its scorched grandeur, while the ultra-modern home where Ben's wife and kids live goes from innocuous to insane after the phantoms follow him there. There's blood-gushing gore by the gallon, and some fairly intense, graphic death scenes. Personally, I would have preferred a little less CGI and to have fewer big set-piece action scenes, but they really didn't bother me. Although Aja insists it is not a remake of a few years old Korean film of the same name, Mirrors does seem to follow a typical A-horror plot-path from A to Z.
Sutherland never strays from Jack Bauer / "24" mode here. (Remember when Jack had a drug problem and was all strung out? Check distressed expression. Remember when Jack was interrogating somebody and growled, "Don't make me threaten you"? Check lapel-grab. Remember when Jack got angry and shot his gun off? Check inanimate object abuse.) I like Sutherland, and I like "24", so I was OK with that. He undoubtedly has range (Dark City Special Edition DVD out now!), but here he apparently chose to keep it on the narrow.
Amy Smart is fine, but she's clearly disposable from the start. The best performances come from Ben's imperiled family: Patton displays an admirable arc as the wearied wife who goes from doubter to devout, and the young actors cast as their kids (Cameron Boyce, Erika Gluck) somehow manage to avoid being annoying or cutesy.
The mirrors themselves are used to good effect (and there's some attention to detail — the name that leads to the possible solving of the mystery, Anna, is a palindrome), with everything from sharp shards to ruinous reflections wreaking mayhem throughout the film.
If you're looking for another The Sixth Sense, The Devil's Backbone, or The Others, then Mirrors will definitely disappoint; however, if you just want to see some wild, wicked witchery and trippy trickery, you will get your money's worth.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
Read Horror.com's Comic-Con report on Mirrors, and see an exclusive pic of Aja and Sutherland
Read Horror.com's interview with writer/director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Grégory Levasseur