It’s late. I’m sitting on the couch, Sierra Nevada in one hand, other hand petting a cat named after my favorite journalist. The explosions and marvel comics-like fight have just ended. The horrified but now safe and through-the-storm mother bleeds a little but is visibly joyous to be back with her children, both of whom are now safe. All over New York the dawn is chasing away a dark and terrible night and Ben Carson is just now slowly beginning to climb from the rubble of the old Mayflower/Hospital-of-extreme-mental-solutions. I suck down the remainder of the contents of the bottle of perfectly cooled Pale Ale and set it aside, both hands now reaching for my laptop to begin a mixed but mostly disappointed review. And then, just as I am about to start my venomous fingers on the keyboard I see the first of the backwards words and suddenly a 40,000 Kilo hand grenade of beautiful, twisted ingenuity goes off and Mirrors rockets, in my mind, from being a fairly poorly executed knapsack of wonderful ideas and images to an eventual must-own. Seriously, those last two minutes or so are like a light bulb blinks into glorious existence over the movie and Alexander Aja and crew pull out the most last minute last minute save I have perhaps ever seen in a film.
Well, The Mist did it too, but not even the wicked fucking ending there could make me want to own that piece of garbage.
But Mirrors. Wow. Awesome. But literally, just.
The entire time I watched this flick I wanted more. Not from the camera. No na-no no. What is on screen is beautiful from start to finish. And conceptually the movie has some titillatingly occult things going on. Where we start to run into trouble however is with the acting. I want to like Kiefer, a man possibly named after a by-product of marijuana consumption that is a very pleasurable way to have your face and lungs kicked in. Usually though, of late at least, I just do not.
I hate 24 and most of what he’s done in the last ten years or so, but I
remember a time. A time when I thought he was awesome. It seemed to
culminate with DARK CITY, but was also highlighted by his brief but
wonderfully quirky role as Sam Stanley in David Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS FIRE
WALK WITH ME. And those glory days of ol’ Mr. (or actually young Mr.)
Sutherland, for me, began with FLATLINERS*, something I’ll come back to in a moment. But like I said, his roles of late, ah, not so much.
Now with Mirrors I’ll definitely cut him some slack because I have the feeling a lot of it has to do with the script. Aja makes some pretty movies, but since being funneled into American horror production I have a feeling he doesn’t quite recognize the sometimes ominous level of cliche’ that can make a film, despite all it’s visual assets, empty and frustrating. But talented he is and if this is any indication, I’ll be watching what he does and hoping it just gets better and better. Regardless of all my criticisms of either of these fine lads I can say that I’m glad that Aja made this and that he chose Mr. Sutherland, because that is one of the main reasons I have been anticipating this flick. See, it goes back to an interview I read in Rue Morgue or Penny Blood or Fango where Aja talked about the awesome concept for the film and then ruminated at length about loving Flatliners and wanting to put KS in something like that again.
After that I was in.
So did it live up? No, not quite. But again, it definitely is at the top third of recent horror that I’d recommend**. And that ending – Mirrors is fantastic in a lot of ways, but I’m telling you, if the ending hadn’t done what it did, I would’ve had to shoot it down. I mean, it would have been a rent, yes. Buy it or watch it more than once because you’re excited to turn someone new onto it? No.
This is the power of an ending, especially for a horror movie. You can eschew all expectations you’ve built and really kick the audience in the head. Problem is not enough filmmakers like to do that. And Mr. Shamalangadingdong, it doesn’t have to involve a twist!
* I’ve always been amazed at still how awesome of a flick I think this one is considering how absolutely god awful the rest of Joel Schumacher’s catalogue is. But yeah, Flatliners, to me, is a masterpiece. Maybe not a Shining or There Will Be Blood type masterpiece, but a masterpiece nevertheless.
** And not to take away, but part of this is because we haven’t had anything that really lit it up for me in a while. No DOG SOLDIERS, No MAY, No HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. So good becomes relative. Just like when you only have an FM radio in your car – even droll crap like stone temple pilots starts to sound good when running in comparison to some of the other shit out there. God help me… not good, but you know, listenable.***
*** thank god for LA’s wonderfully entertaining and informative, round the clock not 1 but 2 NPR stations.