Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Mirrors is yet another Hollywood remake of a successful Asian film, here K-Horror Into The Mirror. Like many of its kind it rumbles along relatively successfully but leaves behind the sense that the original might be more rewarding.

Kiefer Sutherland, on a break from his seemingly endless Jack Bauer adventures, plays Ben Carson, an ex-cop with problems. Beyond the circumstances of his departure from the NYPD, there's his alcoholism, his estranged wife and kids, his little sister whom he raised after their parents died, the usual mix of stock expressions and motivations. Needing funds, he gets a job as a night watchman, and that's where his troubles really begin.

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The original was set around a department store, but here's it's a burnt out ruin that used to be a hospital. Time and again elements of the original are added to and built upon until they are so obfuscated as to be lost. Blame for this can be laid at the feet of writer/director Alexandre Aja and his screenwriting partner Gregory Levasseur. The pair have worked on remakes before, bearing responsibility for The Hills Have Eyes. They are probably most famous for Switchblade Romance, and Mirrors shares many features with it.

For a start, it's really quite scary in places. Aja can direct films that shock, that upset and is more than capable of working with effects teams to create unsettling images. Then there are the performances: Kiefer's up to his usual workmanlike standard, and even the more minor roles are relatively well played. Aja can't be said to be an actor's director, but he's streets in front of Lucas. The most important similarity though is that there's a point where the film just stops making any sense.

A fright is a moment, a sensation. Horror is a process, a journey to realisation. Time and again Mirrors contradicts itself, makes odd jumps, changes the rules. It doesn't feel like an unfixed horror for an uncertain world, it comes across more as a broth for the appetites of focus groups.

For every genuinely startling moment there are two where an audience schooled in horror conventions can count the beats between the red herring and the eventual revelation. Amongst its other stock features is a creepy kid who's pretty clearly the creepy kid from the moment we first glimpse his wide brown eyes and freckled cheeks.

Where it really starts to fall down is in characters' reactions to Ben's behaviour. His wife, played by Paula Patton, is a medical examiner. When he's ranting about things in the mirrors and telling her there's stuff she can't understand she asks what's wrong with him; paranoid schizophrenia. The film dances around genuine mental illness for only a few seconds. Audiences will buy multiple personalities, fragmented realities, be it a Mad Detective or a Fight Club.

However, Mirrors has a different agenda. About all it takes from the original would appear to be the immediate circumstances of the protagonist and the ending. One could see that as a bold experiment in filmmaking, but it might have more to do with the messy business of filmmaking in the modern age. In this age of online DVD rental and easy access to foreign films from a variety of other outlets, one would hope there was less of a demand for such remakes. This is a Korean film remade by a French horror team for American audiences. It's post-modern, probably, but a lot is lost in the translation. Subtitles might be scary to some, but they are usually more consistent than Mirrors.

Reviewed on: 10 Oct 2008
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Something nasty is lurking through the looking glass...
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Director: Alexandre Aja

Writer: Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur, Sung-ho Kim

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Cameron Boyce, Erica Gluck, Amy Smart, Mary Beth Peil, John Shrapnel, Jason Flemyng, Tim Ahern, Julian Glover, Josh Cole

Year: 2008

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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