RIP Miguel Ferrer
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Former NYPD detective (and boozer) Ben Carson is hired to work as night watchman for a burned down department store as one of those opportunities you get to rebuild your life after you accidentally kill a guy. On his first night at the store, he finds some squeaky clean showroom mirrors, which his colleague explains were the previous watchman's obsession. Right before he slit his own throat. Soon Ben learns that there's an evil force in the mirror, hunting him and his family.
After witnessing some truly awesome work in HAUTE TENSION and THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake, I expected director Alex Aja to keep on trucking with MIRRORS, an 'is it or isn't it' remake of the 2003 South Korean horror film INTO THE MIRROR. Unfortunately, it seems that things kind of fell down the hill once MIRRORS reached the top.
Things start off nicely with the establishing of one of the most important aspects of a film: the atmosphere. Aja and his crew designed a delightfully dank and dirty department...store (dammit) that really had me going. Even during the day scenes, the store had some beautiful lighting to it, and it was still creepy as hell. Sound-wise, the score by Javier Navarrete was great, with a few of those extended stings that Aja used previously to round out the unpleasantness onscreen.
Acting was satisfactory, though a little rough around the edges. Now, I know some folks thought of 24 when they saw Kiefer Sutherland with a gun, but since I don't watch 24, I never saw anything for the most part but a sympathetic guy struggling to get his shite back together, and who really didn't want to deal with the bullcrap he's forced to endure. I will say that Kief needs to work on his 'being on fire' acting, though. Paula Patton (Amy) was delicious and nutritious in various forms of dryness, and gave a good performance as the non-believing estranged wife. Amy Smart seems to only be in this film for the flesh and the plasma, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The gore goes like this: it's Alex Aja, so it's nasty stuff. Like Arrow said in his review, I'm not going to spoil things for you, but there's no shortage of plasma and oh-so-lovely nasties for you to see. That said, you can tell what's practical and what's CG, which is kind of unfortunate, but it's still groovy.
While the film certainly had it going in the first half, it seems that the fear factor went out the window when it came time to follow through to the conclusion. Speaking of the ending, it turned from a ghost story into a frickin' monster movie pretty quickly (almost like the ending to EVIL DEAD with its cycle of chaos), and even before that, people just went on about their jibba-jabba way too much. Also, the kids in the film turned into something that I absolutely hate in horror films: stupid. Seriously, these kids did the dumbest things for someone their age (would you side with your imaginary friend over your parents?) that had me shouting at my TV. Furthermore, even after everyone figures out what's going on, why'd they continue to stay in the house?
It's f*ck-ups like these and lapses in judgement that had me wondering what happened to all the cool stuff I saw Aja pull off in THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Instead, you're left with a film that falls over itself in the second half, trying to figure out what to do before the clock runs out. I really hate it when this happens, especially to a director I know can do so much better.
Video: Being that this 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen belongs to one of those oh-so-lovely screener disks from FOX (asshats...), this may not be the absolute retail version, but what's here is pretty good, albeit with a compressed bitrate, annoying FOX logo popups and an overly noisy picture. Still, the gloomy look of the vacant department store and details are intact, with great colour saturation.
Audio: Again, it's a screener disc, so it might not be final. Still, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track offers some great movement and action from the rear speakers, as well as clean, crisp dialogue. Plus, you have to love those extended music stings that help up the discomfort onscreen.
When the DVD starts up, you have the choice of watching the theatrical version or the unrated cut. There's really no difference in terms of quality, but the unrated cut has more of the red stuff.
While there is no commentary for the main film, the deleted and alternate scenes gallery (made up of raw, non-anamorphic widescreen footage) comes with an optional commentary by director Alexandre Aja. The reasoning behind why some of these scenes makes sense (read: too many gums flapping, too much exposition, etc.), but some of these scenes probably should've remained in the film. I also liked the alternate ending, even if it reminded me of THE SKELETON KEY.
Following that is an almost hour-long making-of doc entitled Reflections: The Making Of MIRRORS. This is actually a pretty thorough look at the film, from the writing to the FX (yay for KNB!) and post. I'm still bothered by the line that Aja wanted to make a film in the vein of THE SHINING, since MIRRORS is kind of caught in the middle of that film and Aja's past work.
Bringing up the rear of the extras is an 18-minute ditty Behind The Mirror, which looks at the literary significance as well as the folklore behind mirrors. Very interesting but annoying for me. Damn Literary Theory class...
A good set of extras, though the film screams for a commentary and a friggin' theatrical trailer! Dammit FOX, why must you piss me off?
If anything, MIRRORS is like going to the dentist: Everything's okay at the start, but by the end you're left with bloody gauze in your mouth and your wallet feels lighter. While it's not disaster that some critics have said it was, it's certainly not one of Aja's best. Other than the creepy atmosphere and the delightful gore, it feels poorly executed in spots. Rent before you buy.