Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mirrors, The Playthings of Men's Vanity

I was not particularly optimistic about seeing Mirrors, the latest Asian horror remade American-style, but the initial buzz was pretty good and, as I've pointed out before, horror movies are substantially better in the theater.

OK, so, Kiefer Sutherland is a down-on-his-luck cop whose life fell apart after shooting another cop the previous year. He's estranged from his life, sleeping on the couch at his sister's, and working as the night watchman in a burnt out department store where the former night watchman (seen gruesomely dispatched in the opening scene) kept the store mirrors meticulously clean.

Shortly after beginning his new job, weird things start happening to him, and he's ultimately forced to go on a sort of mini-quest to save his family. Think The Ring.

This movie initially annoyed me as it seemed to not have a consistent internal logic. The opening scene suggess what happens in the mirror happens in the real world: Just as you control your reflection, generally, your reflection controls you. But in other situations merely the effect shows up in our world.

The effect seems less egregious as time goes on, and the movie builds nicely to a somewhat odd action-y climax. (This modern trend of ending horror flicks with explosions is not that appearling to me.) Then there's a stinger.

The stinger is often the worst part of horror movies, as filmmakers try to recapture that feeling they had when they were ten and first saw "The Twilight Zone". This one was not so bad, though I felt it was either pointless or a set up for a sequel. The Boy liked it because, as he said, it didn't undo the entire movie.

Yeah, that's a real problem. "It was all a dream" or "If only I had thought of that sooner" tends to feel like a rip off.

Plus, it was new to The Boy, and I have to admit, I haven't seen that twist used in 30 years or so.

Anyway, Keifer pretty much dominates the film, though Paula Patton does a good job as his wife--who thankfully gets on board sooner than in most horror films. They shouldn't have put her in so many low-cut outfits, though. It was distracting. (They were distracting?) The children were beautiful and did their parts well, too.

One thing that makes this work, I think, is the change-up of horror "effects". (Not as in "special effects" but as in "effects used to create fright"). Any movie is a series of scenes, and in horror movies, there are certain clichés used to pad things out till the real action starts. Things like the frightened cat, the phone ring, the door slam, etc. This movie rather successfully keeps you uncertain as to when you're getting a fake-out versus when you're getting the goods. It's not always sensible, but it's fairly entertaining.

The Boy liked it quite a bit. And if you like Sutherland II, he does his thing here. Since only a few characters know what's going on, it's up to them to sell the horror--and Kiefer most of all--and they do a good job.

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