Mirrors: A Time to Reflect

Movie title: Mirrors (2008)
Grade: C+ (2 ½ stars)
Rated: R
Directors: Alexandre Aja
Producers: Gregory Levasseur, Alexandra Milchan, Marc Sternberg, Arnon Milchan (Exec.), Kiefer Sutherland (Exec.), Marc S. Fischer (Exec.)
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland “Ben Carson,” Paula Patton “Amy Carson,” Amy Smart “Angela Carson”
Genre: Horror
Summation: Cop-turned-security guard Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) discovers that the mirrors in a closed-down department store mall that he is guarding are possessed of evil spirits and threaten him and his family.
Spoilers ahead: No


My hat goes off to horror moviemakers. It’s a tough job. If you do it right, you make something that is memorably scary, that is unique, and that is in some sense logically plausible, causing the viewer to get the chills and say: “Wow! What if that happened to me?” You may be dealing with the supernatural, but the flow and details of the story still have to make sense. And think about it…how often does good, original horror movie material come along? Not often at all!

Horror movies that fail end up failing for a number of reasons, and these reasons usually fall into a select few categories; one, they are knock-offs of older, more successful films (i.e. I Am legend, 2008); two, they have too much gore, but not enough suspense and fear (i.e. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 2006); three, they use good special affects in place of fear created from a good storyline (i.e. The haunting, 1999); fourth, they use pseudo-suspenseful garbage (i.e. graphic monsters or zombies loudly yelling and attacking, dead girls popping up and screaming, The Strangers, 2008). Perhaps it’s a combination of these factors, but in any case, when a horror movie bombs, it usually emanates from these things.

When a horror movie succeeds, on the other hand, it is always because the movie builds rock-solid suspense off of unknowns in the plot and (temporarily at least) “wows” the viewer into imagining said horrifying act(s) happening to them and making them cringe at the thought. Good horror doesn’t come from lots of blood and guts, nor from pretty special affects, nor from yelling and screaming, nor yet from evil hell-beasts chasing people from screenshot to screenshot. Good horror movies come from good writing.

Unfortunately, there is so much trash writing making the rounds that a great vacuum has been created on the big screen for worthily scary flicks. Most outright suck from the get-go and the rest leave somewhat of a fair amount to be desired. In Mirrors, we have a perfect example of the latter, with shotty, troublesome writing and mediocre everything else.

Was I scared? Yes, I’ll say I was. Seeing a reflection in a mirror of a boy refusing to follow the actions of the real boy is kind of scary. The ending gave me the creeps, as did seeing Sutherland acting like a madman, running around the house to get all the mirrors covered before more disaster struck. That was scary. The movie does generate some level of fear. The storyline is where most of the trouble lies. For instance, it is never really clear why the demon(s) got trapped in the mirrors. And what did the mirrors have to do with those who died in the burnt-down department store? See if you can figure it out. One thing I did figure out is that the horror premises in this movie suffered from a serious lack of structural support!

Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) plays a former cop-turned-security guard recovering from alcoholism who ends up working security for the fallen store. He starts to hear noises and disturbing sounds, and soon finds the mirrors, mirrors that give him tormenting messages. More so at first than later on, the story moves rather slowly. And Sutherland’s acting was disappointing. He could have done better. Instead, he had the same mannerisms and behavioral characteristics that he has as Jack Bauer on 24. Even the repeated “damnit” swear and his grading panic voice sounded the same. Maybe this was done on purpose, but it only cheapened his performance. This was definitely a step down for him.

When the movie does manage to pick up the pace, it gets clumsy. Much of the story, while not cliché, is just bizarre, like indestructible mirrors that demons scribble messages onto, charging and attacking supernatural entities with great strength who desire to repossess devout nuns, evil beings who take on the mirror images of a woman and then proceed to ripping her mouth open in order to kill her…bizarre stuff.

There is a gore element in the film and a story that tries to hold one’s attention – and it does the job – but mostly just makes the audience squint with a “huh?” sort of reaction some of the time. Though not ridiculous, the plot borders on becoming so. It may have enough of a spook factor to become a memorable horror movie, but I doubt it. But let me be clear in saying that this was the scariest movie I can recall seeing in the last three years, and for that it gets a grade bump!

The ending is very chilling. On the fear scale, it’s way scarier than Friday the 13th and about as scary as The Village or The Blair Witch Project. Overall, the acting is fair, the choreography is okay, and the dialogue isn’t too bad. The special affects are very good. Riddled with bizarreness and some obstinate imperfections, Mirrors is still scary enough so that less-critical, dyed-in-the-wool horror fans might actually enjoy it. But for the rest of us, don’t expect too much.