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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Movie Review: Mirrors

What commercial movie reviewers won't tell you.



One need not be reminded of the current ‘American-ized’ film predicament – and the fact that Mirrors is yet another one of those Asian rehashes makes it ripe for dismissal, but you would only be doing yourself a great disservice if you decide to let this film slip by. Mirrors is, quite simply, one of the rarest species in the film industry – a vestige of horror movies that used to be really hair-raising. Coupled with a story ever so intriguing and some impressive character development, Mirrors is thus far one of the best movies I have seen this year.

Kiefer Suntherland of television hit 24 fame stars as Ben Carson, an ex-cop who has been suspended from the force after he accidentally killed one of his colleagues. This incident sends him into depression and he is now a shadow of his former self – a man of alcohol and pills, and a man whose marriage and custody of his children are on the line. Staying with his younger sister (Amy Smart), Ben views the night-shift security guard job at Mayflower, a once opulent department store but now a derelict building ravaged by a fire which killed dozens of shoppers 5 years ago, as an opportunity for redemption and a gateway back to an ordinary life.

But it becomes certain that the almost countless number of mirrors inside the building have nightmares to tell when Ben starts to hear noises and experience preternatural visions during his regular patrols. Things aren’t as simple as they seem, however, as the mirrors everywhere start to become conduits – conduits which endanger the lives of anyone related to him, including his younger sister, wife (Paula Patton) and 2 kids.

The sinister mirrors in Mayflower want Ben to seek out one particular woman for them and he must now race against time to solve the mystery behind them and break the evil. Fail to accomplish the goal and his sister, family and even Ben himself could end up like his predecessor – brutally murdered in the most horrific way imaginable (ala Saw).

As a warning, I should say that Mirrors is not meant for the faint-hearted. Certainly, you could argue that Mirrors employs some cliché horror figures, from the ghost-with-the-gross-face-and-skin-tingling-scream to the mental person who behaves in the most hysterically nightmarish fashion possible, and some of the trite ‘Gotcha!’ moments and that you have already seen what is presented here in other horror films ten times over. You could also argue that this film isn’t fresh and that since it is merely recycling decade-old tricks, the said could grow really predictable after a while. While I do generally agree with many other commercial film reviewers with regard to this point (cliché horror figures and 'Gotcha!' moments) , I must say that they are totally missing the crux of the film.

To mention that Mirrors is nothing but a stale and predictable film is truly an understatement – no, let’s just say the understatement is an understatement of itself. Mirrors adds so MUCH more to the said horror elements that there is as much of an original, creative and innovative horror element-cum-trick introduced in this film as the usual stuffs other horror films use in vain to scare audiences out of their wits.

And that ‘original, creative and innovative element-cum-trick’ I am discussing about is none other than the psychological aspects of the horror present in this film. The fact that this film is able to adopt an everyday subject and TRANSFORM it into a haunting object is already impressive enough. But the film continues to toy with the psychological fear factor by making US, OURSELVES, into the scariest part of the film – the reflections of the characters in the mirrors in this film are truly the scariest – because they can make the characters do things to themselves they won’t want to do. In comparison to the typical physical horror aspects (for example, the woman-with-long-hair in the The Ring) seen in other films, the horror here is more relatable and believable. This is a VERY unique taste of horror, indeed – and one that won’t be found in other films.

Yes, as mentioned, physical horror aspects are still present in this film, but they are placed in such a strategic manner that they never seem forced or overused. Instead, they are woven flawlessly together with the psychological horror aspects such that the film isn’t just a horror film, but an art of movie-making by itself. The events here are really unpredictable – hence, a surprise every few minutes. It helps that the pacing is perfect, ensuring the movie is nail-biting throughout, right down to the conclusion of the film, which just throws me out of my seat – it’s that GOOD.

Part of the horror experienced in this film can be attributed to the addition of the Ben’s family in the story. His family is MORE than just extra characters in the film; in having Ben’s family in the story too, the director has just created more characters that you actually care and worry about. The fact that Ben has a family also aids in his character development, particularly the evolvement of him as a haphazard person to one who is truly responsible.

Final Comments
Mirrors is one really good film, and one really scary one. The film goes one up over other horror movies by introducing some psychological horror aspects in a move that proves to be more than rewarding as we are treated to a perfect balance of both physical and psychological horror aspects that ends up more than capable of scaring even the adults out of their wits. The addition of Ben’s family adds a much welcomed depth to the story and Ben’s character development. The film wraps up everything in one of the most suspenseful finales ever in what could only be described as sheer entertainment and surprise (YES, there is an ingenious story twist at the end). Mirrors is the MOST intelligent film yet in 2008. Go get your tickets.


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