Mirrors (2008)

For a horror movie to work, we need one of two things to happen. Either it needs to be scary enough for us to forget many of its flaws, or it needs to stay consistent in its logic so that those flaws don’t stand out as much as they might. Mirrors is an example of a horror movie that doesn’t do either of those, and as a result becomes a chore to watch by the end. It also feels the need to explain itself, which almost always ruins the pacing.

We begin with a former police detective named Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) taking a tour of a broken down department store. It had a fire years ago, and now a security guard has to patrol it every couple of hours. Why? I’m assuming because teenagers or homeless people might decide to occupy it for a while, but we never see anyone but the security guard inside. Ben needs the job because of his suspension from the force after shooting another police officer, and as a result, he became an alcoholic and separated from his wife, Amy (Paula Patton). He now lives with his sister, Angela (Amy Smart), and is trying to get back on his feet.

He gets the job, likely because nobody else wants it. He does his patrol every now and then, although things start to go wrong as soon as he begins. He notices that there are handprints on the mirrors in the burned-down store — handprints that cannot be wiped away. And then he gets set on fire, unable to put it out through the tried and true stop-drop-and-roll technique. But it’s put out anyway when we find out he wasn’t really on fire at all. It was just his reflection that was burning, and when we zoom in on Sutherland rolling around and screaming without anything being wrong, it’s quite humorous. Our villain is now established; the mirrors have it out for Ben, although we don’t know why.

The question is ever-present though. “Why are the mirrors attacking Ben, and how can he stop them?” We want to find out, and so does he. After seeing Mirrors through to the end, I’ll tell you that the explanation isn’t worth how much drivel you have to sit through to get there, mostly because it doesn’t make much sense. The mirrors constantly break their own rules, and when they do that, you wonder why they didn’t do so earlier. And then there’s the why which involves a demon and a nun and — it really doesn’t matter, just like it rarely does in a horror movie.

I’ll give you an example of how it doesn’t make sense. We’ve been told previously that you have to see your reflection in order for the mirrored image to do anything to you. But then we see later someone moves away from the mirror, and they’re killed. Another example: At one point, the mirror drags a person into the mirror world, which seemed like a good idea earlier, but apparently nobody had thought of that, so it wasn’t used yet.

It almost seemed as if writer/director Alexandre Aja was improvising as he went along, constantly trying to figure out how to top his previous scenes, even if it didn’t adhere to the previously established rules of this universe. It gets even sillier when these attempts never manage to top one of the death scenes in the middle, and most of it is done just to scare the characters, not kill them. These mirrors aren’t interested in killing people, or if they are, they’re very bad at it. They’d rather just give them a bunch of “boo!” moments because they’re aware that we’re watching them. Or something like that.

The scene coming directly before the ending was also a disaster. It involves awful CGI, a lack of clarity, and also action that felt out of place considering that this isn’t an action film. It came out of nowhere from a plot point only introduced a few moments earlier, and took away from the general feel of the rest of the film. It’s like having a car chase in an otherwise slow-paced drama — it just doesn’t fit.

However, the actual ending — the final scene of the film — throws a nice little twist your way, and also ends up being the highlight of Mirrors. It’s so good, however, that I wanted the earlier moments to have explored this new angle, as it potentially would have been more interesting. At least the reveal at the end — which admittedly does feel tacked-on just for the shock value — got me engaged once again. I was bored by the action scene that preceded it, and at least the final image I have in my head is one of positivity just because of how Mirrors ended.

Here’s something that might turn some of you off watching this film: It’s a remake of an Asian horror film by the name of Into the Mirror. Granted, it only keeps the basic premise, but it’s yet another Asian film remake that was probably unnecessary in the long run. If the idea of sadistic mirrors is interesting, I’d recommend seeking that out instead of watching this film, as it’s bound to be more fun than enduring Mirrors would be for you.

Mirrors is a mess that’s almost saved by a twist at the end, although in retrospect, it would have been better to include that twist earlier so we could view things from a different perspective for most of the time it’s playing. Instead, we get too much exposition, a great deal of time spent not being scared, but confused, as well as one interesting death scene. But it’s not worth your time, and it’s just another unnecessary remake of an Asian horror film.

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