Mirrors, director Alexandre Aja’s ode to the supernatural, isn’t anything to write home about, let alone write a script about, yet it still exists. Maybe that’s the spooky part in this whole thing. The movie, starring Kiefer Sutherland as an ex-detective turned security guard, is a flat character study intermittently jumpstarted by cheap scares. Sutherland’s character, the disgruntled and grizzled Ben Carson, decides to take a security job at an abandoned department store that had been completely devastated by a ruinous fire some years ago. During his short tenure patrolling the premises of store’s remains, he discovers eerie, if not troubling, apparitions within the large mirrors of the building. Being that he is alone, and it’s during the most inopportune times of the night, Carson comes face to face with evil. Scouring over the charred rubble, Carson does some detective work before he and his family are attacked by traditionally malevolent supernatural forces.

Carson’s wife, Amy Carson, has conveniently set up her career as an autopsy examiner. I’m guessing that her character’s life goal only existed to help her husband , and other people for that matter, when they were attacked by ghosts at a later date. Ben’s children, for the sake of being, do two things for the film; they A) create a moral device for Ben to become a better father, and B) say typical horror film quotes, such as “Do you wanna play with me, mommy?”

A good portion of Mirrors is spent rifling over older horror films and their respective scripts (Poltergeist III and The Ring come to mind). In the middle of this unimpressive tension, Sutherland writhes in feigned misery, churning out one of the worst performances of the year. Sutherland’s stage in this film is the gothic set of a once prominent department store, and, when necessary, a perfect place for his maudlin theatrics. The store, a now dreary, pigeon inhabited skeleton of itself, serves as a haunted house for most of this uninspired film. It’s a stage for Sutherland to yell, shutter, and curse at mirrors with smudged handprints. A place where he can wave around his flashlight and shoot his own reflection. A place where this movie can go to die without anyone noticing. And believe me, they wont.

With High Tension, Alexandre Aja’s flawed but ultimately successful breakout film, you felt the director under the influence of mood and creativity. Shadows, sounds, and camerawork were malleable forms of terror that, even though almost careening into overbearing morbidity, registered into an overall masterwork of horror. Since High Tension’s release in 2003, Aja has released two eye-shielding monstrosities; the ultra violent Hills Have Eyes remake and this year’s disappointing Mirrors. The Hills Have Eyes, the more plodding and torturous of the two films, watched Aja lose any contained suspense, and instead saw him trade it in for such an odorous perversion that I could feel a grimy film coating slathered over each repulsive frame. Aja would do well to acknowledge that dirty doesn’t necessarily equate to scary. There seems to be a regression of maturation in this talented filmmaker, a regression that thinks of fright as an unwashed dish, not a noise in the dark. The less palpable the better, Aja demonstrates with his unsanitary atrocities. It’s all so awful, because Aja cleans up pretty well, too.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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