The true mirror-reflection battle in Alexandre Aja's disappointing Mirrors is between the two faces of Aja: the gifted, chilling director and the shaky, hit-or-miss screenwriter. Unfortunately, the evil Aja wins out here, and genuine scares and excellent atmosphere are wasted on a sloppy, laughable script. And before we go any further, yes – there is a horrible "Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear" pun.
By Sean Collier
August 22, 2008
Kiefer Sutherland, who really likes to yell swear words after he's done saying his lines, stars as the tormented protagonist with a back story no one's going to tell you much about. When he takes a night job at as a security guard at a burned-out department store (guarding all the valuable mannequins and smoke-damaged cosmetics, presumably,) he starts seeing freaky things in the mirrors. A mystery that was definitely made up as things went along ensues, at some point someone has to pull a pistol on a nun, Amy Smart gets naked, and don't ask for more detail, it just gets more ridiculous.
Aja is a truly talented artist. His ultra-violent thriller in the French countryside, High Tension, came out of nowhere to shake up the horror scene; his war allegory by way of Wes Craven remake, The Hills Have Eyes, was engaging and terrifying. Both of those films were written by Aja and longtime collaborator Grégory Levasseur, as was Mirrors; the subtext and care that went into the earlier scripts, however, is utterly missing, in favor of slapdash suspense. The bad horror trifecta – unmotivated action, unjustified developments, and contradictory plot – is in full effect here.
Aja's directing flourishes do shine, from time to time. Almost every shot in the film contains a reflection of some kind; since that's what we're meant to fear, a constant threat is established, and accordingly, the tension remains...well, high. Many of the sequences are genuinely scary, and the mirrors-doing-different-things gimmick is played well and spookily. But these positives are balanced out by too many dull twists and horror movie clichés (someone's in the back seat!) After the climactic demon fight (yes, demon fight,) we get one more unnecessary twist-for-the-sake-of-twisting, but you should've long checked out mentally by then.
Sutherland doesn't contribute much, and Smart's role is little more than a representation of how far down her career has spiraled. Paula Patton, as Sutherland's estranged wife, is a big ball of freewheeling emotion, and child actors Cameron Boyce and Erica Gluck can't handle the demands the script puts on them. Javier Navarette's score helps a bit, as does Baxter's tense editing. (Baxter is his whole name. Like Cher.) The technical side of things makes Mirrors fair enough for a quick horror fix, but in the end, things just fall apart. Don't waste your strength on Mirrors – October's only six weeks away. We've got a lot of bad horror to slog through yet.