Sunday, February 1, 2009

DVD Review: "Mirrors"

French director Alexandre Aja made one of the most terrifying and frustrating horror films ever; the aptly named High Tension. The film's downfall was it's logic-defying plot twist, which while unexpected, was physically impossible. Aja fared slightly better with his first American film, 2006's remake of the Wes Craven classic, The Hills Have Eyes, which wasn't terrible so much as boring. James Wan, Leigh Whannel and Eli Roth all got to the torture porn alter before Aja, and it showed. Aja's most recent film, Mirrors is a mixed-bag, at best.
Keifer Sutherland (Lost Boys; "24") plays Ben Carson, an NYPD detective on disability after being shot by and killing a suspect. He's taken a job as a security guard at a once-magnificent Manhattan department store, 'Mayflowers,' nearly destroyed by fire and now vacant while litigation drags on. A month sober, no one believes Ben when he starts to see weird things in the mirrors at Mayflowers, which had once been a psychiatric hospital before transformation into the "grandest department store of them all," least of all his estranged wife Amy (Paula Patton), who is afraid to allow Ben time with their children because she believes he is still emotionally unstable. Even Ben's sister (Amy Smart) thinks it time he sought help.
Aja has previously proven his skills at piling on suspense and for the first hour or so, Mirrors is a creepy, suspenseful thriller with a central mystery that needs solving in order to break the cycle of death or evil or whatever. Sadly, the film breaks down in the third act, becoming downright ridiculous when SPOILER ALERT - SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS Sutherland kidnaps a nun at gunpoint and NO ONE CALLS THE FRIGGIN' POLICE!!!!! To clarify - he tracks the woman down to her hiding spot in the black hills of Pennsylvania (and hey - I live in Pennsylvania - it isn't a bit like West Virginia at all, despite what horror movies would have one believe), a monastery (?!!) where the nuns communicate only while behind screens, like some sort of Catholic Taliban who's ass Jack Bauer would have kicked into oblivion. Jack... uh, I mean Ben, then forces his way into her room at gunpoint and makes her come back to New York with him, knowing full well that it will mean her death. Oh - maybe this is WWJBD (What Would Jack Bauer Do?), after all.
Whatever atmosphere Aja manages to create in the first 2/3 of the film is sadly ruined by outlandish predicaments and a predictable and weirdly melancholy ending. The stuff in the ruined store is very creepy and disturbing (in particular, the screaming woman in the fitting room). Sutherland, no stranger to the genre, actually plays a schlubbier version of Jack Bauer and does it without pretense. The rest is the cast is fine and everyone does a terrific job of keeping a straight face, throughout. There are one or two terrifically scary moments early on, and some of the FX harken back to 80's horror, but none of it is enough to sustain our interest or even try to care about this quasi-religious psycho-babble twaddle. Much like Lewis Carroll's Alice, our trip through the looking glass is more nonsense, than anything else. *1/2 (One and a Half out of Four Stars)
More (in fact - a special tribute to Cheesy 70's Horror), anon.

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