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Monday, August 18, 2008

Mirrors

Critics are supposed to hate horror movies. It’s simply a given of the trade. Horror is a genre that caters to one of the basest instincts ~ fear ~ and so reviewers immediately put their noses in the air like they’ve been presented a small turd with a ribbon tied around it as soon as they see a preview for a horror movie. I don’t know why it’s any different with cop movies, for instance, where you might see a drug lord or serial killer go nuts and kill 100 people before the “star” detective(s) hunt him down, but, apparently, when there is a police officer involved it transcends being “horror” and is regarded as an “action” film, which is a whole rank higher in the food chain that defines Hollywood class. So my advice to all you budding directors in our midst, My Dear Readers, is this: If you want to machete someone’s head off in your epic, make sure you’ve got a part for DeNiro or DiCaprio already written in as a police detective who is hot to find your madman. This will get you a whole lot closer to a studio deal AND critics will look at your psycho killer as “a metaphor for societal rage at the political machine” or some such crap when all you wanted to do was make a gore-fest. How cool is that?

Anyway, now along comes
Mirrors, and it is really something to reflect upon. It’s been marketed as a thriller aka horror movie, but it has a “real” star as its lead, Kiefer Sutherland (tv’s “24”) playing Ben Carson, an ex-cop, so right here it is teetering a line between action “quality” and horror “schlock.” Hmmm. Cop, but no longer a cop. It seems Ben accidentally killed an undercover detective during a drug bust a year earlier, and the guilt and shame (along with way too much booze) led him to resign and ultimately pushed his wife Amy (Paula Patton; Swing Vote) to ask for a separation.

Now he’s living with his sister, Angie (Amy Smart; Crank) and trying to get his life back together. He’s quit drinking, and he gets a job as a night watchman at a boarded up “non-construction” site in the middle of Manhattan. The
place is a huge abandoned department store, the Mayflower, which was left in ruins by a tragic fire five years earlier, during which several dozen customers and staff were killed. A prolonged lawsuit has kept the owners from refurbishing the building or tearing it down, so here it sits, a sinister monument to death, filled with half-scorched mannequins, trashed merchandise cases, and seemingly hundreds of decorative floor to ceiling mirrors on every wall and every floor. Ben’s job seems easy enough; primarily all he is expected to do is walk through the building every couple hours to make sure there are no trespassers on the property.

Obviously, since the movie is called
Mirrors the key to all that is going to scare the bejeezus out of you is to be found lurking behind those many, many mirrors in the Mayflower. Honey, I could truly relate because there is not a morning that I am not confronted with something ghastly and otherworldly when I first look in the mirror. Fortunately, with a few trowels of Maybelline, a bucketful of Revlon, and a little (okay a LOT) of medication I can tame the demon I see, but it’s not that easy for Ben.

I can’t reveal much more about what happens without spoiling the screams but let’s just say it doesn’t take long before Benny boy discovers that once you are tagged to be haunted the spooks can find you in anything that casts a reflection (windows, water, doorknobs, etc.). Apparently, the ornery eeriness is also not above going after Ben’s family just for the giggles of it all. Why is not exactly clear, but it allows for filmmaker Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) to create the most jaw-dropping scene in the entire film, and believe me when I tell you that I am not exaggerating when I say that!

So kill me, but I sort of liked
Mirrors, at least as long as the investigation remained on the premises of the old store. When things spread out into the community and especially to include Ben’s wife, Amy, the tension built by what might be happening behind the glass is deflated entirely by alleged actress Paula Patton’s performance. There are times she turns Mirrors into a complete tragedy, but it’s not intentional. It’s the result of her acting, which is as wooden as Pinocchio. It’s bad too because if Mirrors had left out the whole sub-plot about Ben’s family the movie would have been just as well off without them. Ignoring that, though, Mirrors is some good old fashioned fun with a touch of The Exorcist, 1408, and Dark Water thrown in to set the tone. You’ll probably laugh more than scream, but as long as you’re entertained ~what the hey! Check it out and you’ll never look in a mirror the same way again.

1 comment:

Zoi said...

Great review for Mirrors! I agree wholeheartedly, especially about Paula Patton. (was she supposed to be so easy to hate as both a character and an actress?)

I personally would have liked to see more of Jason Flemyng, bit of a waste to have him in so little.