Mirrors: Film Review

It's Jack Bauer versus a bunch of creepy mirrors.

That's one fact that you've got to swallow down if you're going to enjoy Alexandre Aja's Mirrors; once that's understood, you can soak back into a comfy couch, grab a bowl of popcorn, and enjoy it for exactly what it is: illogical, CG-infused horror gibberish, all of which somehow becomes enthralling in the process. Just don't expect the director of the breathless horror mindscrew High Tension (Haute Tension) to falter from the paint-by-numbers formula that's been drawn out for the modern spook spectrum of cinema, because that'll leave you endlessly scanning deep into the mirror for something that's not going to pop out. Aja's not at the top of his game with this outing, but it's not without its moments of harrowing indulgence.

"24" star Kiefer Sutherland lends himself to this loose adaptation of the lessen-known Korean chiller, Into the Mirror. As former police detective Ben Carson, he's relegated himself to night watchman's position in an effort to stick his head under the sand. Following an accident while on-duty, he has come close to losing his wife Amy (Paula Patton, Déjà Vu) and two children due to a blend of grief and alcoholism. Ben's assigned to an old burned-down department store, one filled with ... you guessed it, mirrors, though they're all spotless, undamaged, and moving. As the supernatural forces grow more aggressive and outreaching, he realizes that the only way to keep this thing away from his family, including his sister Angela (Amy Smart, Butterfly Effect), is to discover exactly what these spirits want and uncover who, or what, "Esseker" is.

Once we've had some face time with Ben's wife and kids and learned his backstory, Aja's film progresses forward with its meat and potatoes: following Ben around in the dark as he discovers more about the violent haunted mirrors, both face-on and through some document-digging. Mirrors certainly ignites into an atmospheric jolt of energy, as it blends Aja-regular cinematographer Maxime Alexandre's eye for contrast with a dynamic set-decoration/production duo. Considering all the gothic and art deco remnants surrounding Ben, it's easy to see how this reflective darkness can have a dark and haunting personality all its own. It's an admirable villain when there's nothing tangible to work with, while easily outdoing the humdrum efforts from 1999's The Haunting by a country mile. Even once it starts to trickle into brighter environments -- such as in Angela's bathroom during one of the more intense scenes in the film -- the stomach-churning qualities follow appropriately.

But instead of utilizing cold corners and shadowy silhouettes as instruments to construct a subtle horror film, Aja can't restrain himself from using the same style of aggression that he infuses in Haute Tension and The Hills Have Eyes by trying to mutilate each mirror's focal subject. Instead, Mirrors becomes a gore-heavy supernatural mystery with plenty of traditional popcorn-flinging jolts and screams -- and that's fine, especially with the ways he uses Kiefer Sutherland's face recognition. Aja doesn't try to force him to not be Jack Bauer; instead, he lights a fire underneath him and allows for his signature thrilling aggression to interact with the supernatural world. It makes the parallel mystery plot where he skirts around using his police connections much more interesting, even if the buzzing energy that he creates somewhat diminishes the mood once he's plopped back in the dark. Aja could have leaned more on a Shining style of "infinite claustrophobia", something that he seems to want for Mirrors, but instead he transforms it into a robust mood scrambler that masks its potential by running on a set of explosive cylinders.

It's as if Mirrors becomes a video game style reflection on its Korean influence, constantly trying to both entertain and scare with every heartbeat instead of meticulously stringing along its audience into a weave of chills and suspense. This becomes more observable as it inches towards its discombobulating, nonsensical conclusion, one that leaves a bit of a sour aftertaste amid all its self-implicated cleverness. As cliché as the sentiment is, Alexandre Aja's Mirrors falls short of pulling a Verbinski's Ring on its audience by orchestrating a stronger companion to the original; instead, it nails down exactly what the direction sets out to do -- make us jump a little, get us fairly jittery about looking into a mirror, and relish in its simple successes as it fades back into the darkness.


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