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Mirrors (2008)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/13/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/13/2009

Dive into any book about horror movies, and you'll inevitably read about how horror films run in cycles. Some of the more obvious examples would be the Universal monsters of the 1930s, the atomic monsters of the 1950s, the slasher films of the late 1979 and early 80s, and the slasher revival in the late 1990s. In the late 1990s, hardcore U.S. horror fans began to import scary movies from Asia. These Japanese, Chinese, and Korean movies offered a supernatural alternative to American movies. Hollywood got wind of his, and with 2002's The Ring, the Asian horror remake cycle began. Despite the fact that the original films were often far superior, the success of The Ring and The Grudge led to more and more remakes. Hopefully, Mirrors marks the beginning of the end of the cycle.

Kiefer Sutherland stars in Mirrors as Ben Carson, a veteran NYPD officer who has been suspended after he accidentally shot an undercover policeman. The event caused Ben to spiral into depression and drinking. Because of this, he has left his wife, Amy (Paula Patton) and moved in with his sister, Angela (Amy Smart). While Ben waits to see if he'll be re-instated to the force, he takes a job as a security guard at the Mayflower, a once opulent department store which was closed after a devastating fire. Despite the damage and deaths involved, all of the original furnishings are still in the store, including the mirrors. As Ben patrols on his first night, he hears and sees many strange things (screams, people burning), most of which comes from the mirrors. As the bizarre incidents escalate, he begins to research the history of the store, and soon realizes that an evil has been unleashed which will stop at nothing to hurt those around him.

Mirrors is based on the 2003 South Korean film Into the Mirror, which I have not seen. (It's not available in Region 1 and my importing days are behind me.) Based on some comments made by the filmmakers in the DVD extras, changes were made between the two films. From that, I must conclude that Into the Mirror is a better movie, because Mirrors fails to deliver.

Mirrors comes to us from French Director Alexandre Aja and his writing/producing partner Gregory Levasseur, who were responsible for High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake. This pair certainly knows about grueling, visceral horror, but they've decided to try their hand at supernatural and the result is a missed opportunity. There can be something inherently creepy about mirrors, they way that they show us our world in reverse, so that is a promising premise for a film. But, Aja goes about exploring this in the wrong way, and the movie never lives up to its potential.

To be fair, Aja demonstrates that he still knows how to stage a shocking scene and there are certainly some moments in Mirrors which made me jump. The problem lies in the story. The idea of the burned out department store is an interesting one, and to be honest, the mannequins left in the store were far creepier than the mirrors. (That should have been the movie!) But, Ben sees awful things his first night on the job. Why didn't he quit? The movie wants us to believe that due to his work as a police detective, he simply can't let things go. Much like The Ring, Mirrors is split into two halves -- once Ben gets an idea of what is happening in the store, he takes a road-trip to get some answers. This is not only an unoriginal idea, it takes the film away from the location which is most likely to provide any scares. And once Ben learns the truth, things become very preposterous...even for a movie about haunted mirrors. In fact, the finale become a frenetically-paced action piece which doesn't gel with the rest of the film. The coda may be the only part of the film which truly works, but it's so bleak that it will anger many viewers.

There are also elements surrounding the film's events which don't quite work. In the third act, we are finally told exactly what is happening in the mirrors. However, I couldn't help but wonder, if the "mirrors" had the power to reach out and kill people already, why go through all of the other stuff. And, why did Ben paint over the mirrors in his wife's house, instead of just removing them. (Because it was convenient for the plot, that's why.) I don't normally point this out, but I must question the dialogue in the film. Perhaps it's because English isn't the native tongue of the writers, but there are some incredibly cheesy lines here.

I hadn't expected much from Aja's remake of The Hills Have Eyes, but I was blown away by the brutality and sense of danger in that film. Thus, I was hoping that he could bring the same intensity to a ghost movie with Mirrors. While there are some graphic scenes here (especially in the unrated version), the movie is never compelling or scary. Even the ability to be creepy is mishandled, and one mildly unnerving shot looked as if it came from Silent Hill. The best thing to do with Mirrors is to simply look away.

Mirrors is reflected onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. This is a dark film, but one can't help but notice how dark this transfer is. Perhaps it was because I was watching a special screener copy, but things get a little too dark inside the store at times. On the plus side, I didn't note any overt artifacting or video noise. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the use of surround sound and subwoofer effects actually heightens the scenes inside of the store.

The Mirrors DVD contains just a few extras. "Reflections: The Making of Mirrors" (49 minutes) is a very in-depth look at the film's production. We begin with Writer/Director Alexandre Aja and Co-writer Gregory Levasseur discussing how they got involved in the film and how they re-wrote the script. The cast and characters are then examined. The bulk of the piece is comprised of a look at the shooting of the film. We see the locations and sets, shooting around the mirrors, working with water, special-effects makeup, and a discussion of the film's ending. "Behind the Mirror" (18 minutes) is an academic discussion of mirrors and how they have been portrayed in folklore. The DVD contains 8 DELETED AND ALTERNATE SCENES which run about 16 minutes and can be viewed with commentary from Aja. Most of these are brief and unsubstantial. We hear more abour Ben's reinstatement and see more on the job training. I did, however, like the alternate ending.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has also brought Mirrors to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, but notably grainy in some shots, especially those where Ben is using his flashlight in the store. Thankfully, this transfer isn't as dark as the one on the DVD. The colors are good and there's a nice level of detail here. The image shows nice depth as well. The Disc has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are quite good here and many scenes take advantage of this to highlight off-screen action. These effects are highly detailed and show good separation. The surround sound effects are good as well, most notably when Ben came hear screaming coming from somewhere inside the store. The "shock" scenes offer good subwoofer effects.

The Mirrors Blu-ray Disc does contain some extras which weren't on the DVD review copy which I was sent. "Anna Esseker Hospital Footage" offers nearly 6 minutes of "home movie" footage explaining the background of one of the characters. We saw some of this as flashbacks in the movie. This is accompanied by music, but has no dialogue. "Animated Storyboard Sequence" (1 minutes) shows how the bathroom death was planned. "BonusView" brings us an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Alexandre Aja and co-writer Gregory Levasseur, who give a great deal of detailed information about the film. This is accompanied by picture-in-picture footage which offers a behind-the-scene look at each scene that they are describing.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long