“When one starts to perceive one’s own reflection as a completely separate being, one is suddenly confronted with two entirely separate egos, two entirely separate worlds that can surface at any given moment. A feeling of self hatred usually triggered by a psychological shock can split the personality in two, hence creating two or more personalities with distinct memories and distinct behavior patterns within the same individual. The patient has the false perception of the existence of two distinct worlds, the real world and the world inside the mirror.”
Or maybe not so false, at least according to the 20th Century Fox thriller, Mirrors.
As long as there have been reflective surfaces, which is forever, some cultures have fantasized about whether what we see was really just a reflection or in reality a window to some parallel world.. When we glance at our own reflection, is that really us looking back at us, or some alternate reality doppelganger stranger whose thoughts and emotions would be completely alien to us. What would that world be like? Alice stepped through the looking glass to enter Wonderland. No good fairy tale wicked witch would be caught dead without a magical mirror. And Who knows what Tommy saw in the mirror. We hear that it’s 7 years of bad luck to break one. Most of us openly scoff at such things, but how many of us would dare to break one deliberately. The idea of what could be waiting behind that smooth surface can be thought provoking, to be sure. Now Mirrors, the movie, presents us with a clever twist on the alternative realities that are mirrors.
Ben Carson (Sutherland) is a cop who has accidentally shot an undercover detective. He is currently on suspension, pending an investigation. It’s eating him up and causing stress in his family. The stress gets so bad that he has to move out of the home his wife and kids share and move in with his little sister, Angela (Smart). To make ends meet he takes a night watchman’s job. He patrols an old building that once housed the famous Mayflower department store. The place is in shambles except for the plentiful mirrors that adorn the otherwise broken down innards of the building. It seems his predecessor was obsessed with polishing and cleaning the relics. Before long Ben is having some rather vivid visions courtesy of the said mirrors. He has flashbacks to a burnt woman and even experiences the heat. The visions continue, until he begins to see them in any reflective surface, anywhere at all. When his sister is horribly murdered, he begins to suspect the menace behind the mirrors. They can’t be destroyed and, of course, everyone thinks his guilt over the shooting is driving him over the edge. He tries to protect his family and discover what it is the mirrors demand that he do. It turns out the department store wasn’t the only purpose this building ever had. By discovering the building’s history he might have a chance to stop the evil from spreading.
This is actually a pretty fun horror film. Many of the standard conventions are here, and it does tend toward predictable, but in spite of all of that I had a lot of fun watching the movie. It’s based, like so many recent horror movies, on an Asian film. This time it’s the Korean Into The Mirror that has been remade for Western audiences, and you’ll find it one of the more successful in that trend. It’s actually a very atmospheric and moody film. The Mayflower set is phenomenal and more than a little bit creepy. The f/x are, for the most part, pretty cool. I did not like some of the mirror images. A few of them are too distorted and look like you’re watching a 3D film without the glasses. It gets a bit hard on the eyes. The final creature effects are somewhat hokey, however. The climax plays out like an episode of 24. I no longer saw Ben Carson, but Jack as he made his way through a series of explosions and fireballs, all the while pumping lead into anything around him. I’m not sure if the effect was intended, but it did tend to remove me from the reality of this film which I was enjoying so much up until that time. I guess fans of 24 will get a particular kick out of it, and it will make the film even more marketable to that core audience, no small group. Finally I was impressed with what I took to be a clever ending. Pay attention, because they won’t hit you over the head. I won’t reveal it here, but I ask you to pay careful attention to every detail of the last couple of minutes before the end credits. It will be worth it.
Kiefer Sutherland is pretty good in the role here. At first he’s nothing like the Jack Bower character. He’s unsure of himself and ends up totally obsessed with the mirrors. Until the climax where he does channel the popular television character, Sutherland runs a tight performance. Unfortunately some of the supporting cast is pretty weak. Paula Patton appears to be sleepwalking through the part of Ben’s wife. She’s relegated to the worried spouse who thinks her husband is nuts and only gets one scene to really show her range. There’s a moment where Ben’s shooting out their mirrors to show her how they heal. Of course, they don’t at that moment, and she finally gets an emotion to sink her teeth into. For the rest of the film she’s pretty much set dressing. This is all about the Sutherland character. This is really all his journey we’re witnessing. Fortunately, he can carry the burden pretty well. I do have to give my hat’s off to the young actress Adina Rapiteanu. She is very creepy in the role of young Anna.
There is perhaps a better reason I found the film compelling. In the interest of full disclosure, I know how creepy a department store in an old building can be. In my days of being a detective I had to, on occasion, babysit a 100 year old department store in downtown Tampa. Maas Brothers was a lot like The Mayflower in those days. During severe tropical weather the alarm systems were unreliable, so I would be asked to remain in the store overnight. It was a 7 story building that had a lot of history, plenty of mirrors, and a lot of eerie sounds, particularly with 35 mile an hour wind rattling around outside, and there were the standard urban legends about the building making the sounds. I would never have admitted it at the time, but some of those nights I was pretty glad when the morning shift began to filter in at 7:00 A.M. It’s boring, and there’s not much to do but watch Star Trek: The Next Generation video tapes and let your imagination run wild. So, I will admit to seeing, perhaps, more in this film as far as atmosphere than might actually be there. The Maas Brothers building is gone now, so I can’t ask you to hang out with me there for a night, but I can point you in the direction of the next best thing. Check it out for yourself, I double dog dare ya.
Mirrors is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. There’s no doubt that this is a very good 1080p presentation. You get it from a solid AVC/MPEG-4 codec at a significantly high bit rate. At times light causes colors to be oversaturated as in the Carson home. But most of this film is dark, and it benefits from some solid black levels. The HD detail comes in handy inside of the Mayflower Building. Here the set designers really did their jobs, and it takes this kind of detail to truly appreciate it. The front of the building looks too much like a matte painting in this presentation. Here we might have been better off with a lower resolution image. Everything is crisp and sharp, allowing the creepy atmosphere to get a strong grip on you. There were a lot of artistic choices here that you might, wrongly, consider a flawed transfer. Often colors are under or oversaturated. It’s not a colorful film at all. There are some grain issues, but for me, they only enhance the overall effect. Whether you agree or not, rest assured you are seeing the film exactly the way director Aja intends for you to see it.
The DTS-HD 5.1 track does a fine job of building upon the atmosphere. With all of these mirror explosions the high frequencies needed to deliver crisp solid ambients, and they do just that. The major flaw here was balance. There were times that explosive sounds came out far too loud, and then you had to turn it up some to hear the dialog. This was epidemic in the early days of surround, but it’s been quite a while since a film required volume monitoring like this one did. The bass will come alive, particularly during the final confrontation. Sutherland is at times so soft-spoken I had to strain to hear him. The score is a weak link in the entire production as far as its quality was concerned, but the presentation was clear.
You have a choice of the theatrical edit or an unedited version of the film. I viewed the unrated cut for the purposes of this review. The extras all appear to be standard definition.
Anna Essker Hospital Footage: This is an extended version of the flashbacks with Anna. You see her being taken to the hospital and some disturbing footage of her there. She has the creepiest pair of eyes in the business. It’s presented as if it were home movies. Most of it is silent with just score music. It’s just over 5 minutes but very spooky.
Reflections – The Making Of Mirrors: This 48 minute feature covers many aspects of the production from Casting, Script, F/X, and Post Production. Many of the French crew have pretty thick accents or are speaking French. Still, they provide subtitles even when speaking English, and you’ll need them. Most of the cast and crew are a bit too high on themselves. They appear like they were making a classic. It was good. It wasn’t that good. Sutherland tells us that he actually hates mirrors and only owns 2 in his entire house. What’s strange is that he needs one to put on his socks. What’s up with that?
Behind The Mirror: This 18 minute piece features folklorists and occultists to explore the mythology of mirrors.
Animated Storyboard: Just about a minute.
Deleted and Alternative Scenes: There are 16 minutes of footage in all. You get to use the handy play all feature and have the option of an Aja commentary. Mostly we learn more details of Ben’s shooting incident. The alternative ending is pretty flat. They picked the correct one in the film, no doubt.
Bonus View: This Blu-ray feature is only available if you watch the theatrical cut of the film. I only checked out a few snippets of the picture in picture comments and storyboards you can have pop up during the film. I usually find these features distracting anyway. Stick to the unrated version and skip this stuff.
Digital Copy is on a 2nd disc.
Like Kiefer Sutherland, my wife hates mirrors in spite of her own beauty. I guess I never realized just how many mirrors we have in our lives. I guess that means that she and Kiefer are uncomfortable a lot. Let’s hope these things aren’t really haunted. You could try, like Ben Carson, to get rid of them all, but driving could be a bit of a problem. After all “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear”.