Watching Mirrors you will go through stages. Stage one is slight
interest – the pre-credits sequence is well done, and promises
something intriguing. Stage two will be mild disbelief – could the
movie actually have gone this badly off the rails only ten minutes in?
Surely it has to pick up from here. Stage three is giggling, especially
whenever Kiefer Sutherland opens his mouth and delivers another FURIOUS
line of Jack Bauer-esque dialogue. Stage four is actual guffawing,
probably more loudly than you laughed during Step Brothers. Stage five
is realizing that this goddamned movie is almost two hours long and the
joke is on you.
I really like Alex Aja and his previous movies, but he has not only
made the worst film of his career in Mirrors, he’s made possibly the
worst film of the year. There’s nothing about Mirrors that works
outside of a couple of gore scenes, and it’s obvious that Aja can do
great gore in his sleep at this point. And when I say nothing works, I
mean everything stinks – the acting is horrible, the story is
ludicrous, the central conceit is beyond ill-defined. Even the
production design is bad – large portions of the film take place inside
an abandoned department store that completely burned… yet the store
is filled with mannequins and the walls, which are scorched, are
covered in untouched curtains.
Kiefer Sutherland plays a traumatized ex-cop who takes a job as the
night security guard at that department store, which for plot reasons,
has remained untouched since the fire that killed 20+ people five years
earlier. While wandering the store he discovers that the mirrors inside
are evil, and they have ghosts and they show him things that aren’t
true, and they can hurt him via reflection, and they can make him think
he’s being hurt via reflection and… well, who knows? The movie never
sets up any sort of cohesive rules for what the mirrors can or can’t
do. In every scene the mirrors are capable of different things, without any rhyme or reason.
The evil mirrors aren’t just in the store – all mirrors can house the
evil. Actually, all reflections can house the evil, leading to one of
the greatest lines in movie history, as Kiefer shouts (he’s always
growling or shouting) at his estranged wife on the phone ‘Be careful of
the water! It can create reflections!’ And the mirrors have an agenda,
one that they make difficult to understand, even though later
exposition indicates that they would know exactly how to find what
they’re looking for. Again, no rules here.
It’s worth noting that Kiefer Sutherland plays his character as an
extension of Jack Bauer. It’s impossible not to laugh every time he
shouts ‘Dammit!’ (he even shouts ‘Dammit!’ after he gets a dossier of
information he desperately needs. It’s like a Tourettic response or
something), or how he tries to solve every problem with a gun. That bit
of lunacy reaches its pinnacle when he actually kidnaps a nun at
gunpoint – I desperately wish I was making this up, but the plot of
this movie calls for Kiefer to engage in nunnapping.
Kiefer has an aforementioned estranged wife and two kids, and he’s
always hanging around trying to protect them by painting over mirrors
but leaving every other shiny surface in the house untouched. He also
has a sister, Amy Smart, who shows up long enough to get naked in a
bathtub and die spectacularly – but if you’ve seen the red band clip,
you’ve already seen the best part of the entire film.
What Kiefer doesn’t have is ‘good acting.’ His performance is
shockingly bad, and his FURIOUS reactions to everything turn most
scenes into laugh factories. The entire film is kind of a joke, but
it’s Kiefer who brings it to the level of being the funniest comedy
released this year. Also terrible: everybody else, especially Paula
Patton as the wife. Were she any more wooden she’d be sprouting pine
needles, and her character appears to have more nipples than brains, so
there’s a big disbelieving laugh when it’s revealed that she’s a
coroner. She’s certainly attractive enough, so I’d be interested in a
prequel where it’s revealed how her character ‘earned’ her medical
I don’t know what Aja was thinking here. I’ve been on the record as a major supporter of his, through the reviled ending of High Tension and the controversial nastiness of The Hills Have Eyes. He has a nice shot or two here, but otherwise this is a movie made by someone with no control and little vision. The film is filled with plot holes that are obviously the result of last minute rewrites and fucking around in editing; Mirrors feels like the usually gifted director is bumbling around in the dark, trying to find something, anything that will work. And nothing does. I’m hoping that this is just a misstep for Aja, and that his next film, a 3D remake of Piranha, returns him to the great trajectory he was previously on.
It’s tempting to recommend this as a ‘So bad it’s good’ movie, but at
one hour and fifty minutes, Mirrors is too much of a tedious slog. At
90 minutes this would be the perfect film to catch with a six pack, but
at almost two hours it’s punishing. Walking in I didn’t realize that
Mirrors was a remake of a Korean film, but looking back it makes sense
– the first hour is the sort of boring nonsense that seems to be the
hallmark of Asian ghost stories. At least the movie is free of scary
little girls with stringy black hair… oh, until the very end when the kidnapped nun, Sister Mary Shredded By Glass, turns into a possessed little girl
who has a kung fu fight with Kiefer in a flooded utility tunnel. I
know, this sounds terrific (especially the scene where
nun-turned-possessed-girl licks Kiefer’s face, or when she gets a steam
pipe through her chest a la Commando), but restrain yourself this
weekend! Mirrors is likely best experienced at home, where the fast
forward button can come in handy, and where you can pretend it’s an
especially weird season of 24.
If you disregard my warning, go liquored up. Sneak in enough booze to
maintain that buzz throughout. You’re going to be in there a while, and
you’ll need all the fortitude you can get. But be careful – that bottle
can create reflections.