Film review: Mirrors

2008-09-01 00:00

The Hollywood horror is dead. It’s throw-a-dog-a-bone time in Tinseltown now as we’re being fed a series of bland remakes of some classic Chinese, Japanese and South Korean films. That these movies do not translate well into English and that much of their eeriness is compromised in this process has gone unnoticed by the powers that be escapes me. It may be that these films are just being churned out to satisfy the need for ticket sales, or maybe they do cater for some niche market — the leftover horror fans out there clinging on to days gone by. Sadly, it seems scare-fests like Carrie and The Shining could never again be rivalled as horror films of the modern age just don’t cut it.

Mirrors, the remake of 2003’s Into the Mirror — a South Korean film — is another example (and there are a lot of these), why Asian horror flicks should remain just that.

The film stars Kiefer Sutherland as Ben Carson, a suspended detective whose wait to be reinstated has proved financially taxing. This leaves him little alternative but to seek employment elsewhere. He takes on the rather less prestigious post of security guard at a building that now only vaguely resembles the once bustling mall that it used to be — it’s been gutted by a lethal fire and all that remains is debris and a few mirrors here and there.

Why such a structure should require protecting in the first instance baffles me, especially since its owner intends demolishing it. Well, the good that comes of this is that it sets the tone for the rest of the movie — simply pointless and baffling.

The plot isn’t a complicated one. Beneath these mirrors lies an insatiable evil whose thirst for the blood of people requires constant quenching. There’s a little more to it than that (including a “twist” at the end), but I don’t want to give too much away, all that’s going to keep you watching is sheer curiosity really as the genuine scares are few and far between.

There are some positives to take away from this experience though, but these are just strokes of technical genius. The make-up special effects, for example, are phenomenal and reminiscent of some of the great work done on the sets of the Saw franchise, and director Alexendre Aja’s use of confined spaces reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock classics like Psycho and The Birds.

Why Hitchcock succeeded and Aja fails is a matter of substance. Hitchcock’s multiple scares were layered neatly beneath a dark, compelling surface, whereas Aja employs a string of scares as his surface — there are gaping holes in the plot. Maybe we’ve just been exposed to too much already, maybe there just isn’t any material out there that’ll genuinely terrify us any longer.

It’s sad, though I do hope that the horror genre gets the boost that it desperately requires through an original idea, an adult-orientated animated film is perhaps worth looking into, but even that seems far-fetched. For now though, if you aren’t a die-hard fan of the horror, it’s best you avoid Mirrors. **

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