Mirrors (2008)

Ex NYPD cop Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) gets a night watchman’s position in a massive burnt out department store (which – shock horror! – used to be a mental asylum). For a place the size of Buckingham Palace and extremely structurally unstable, this unfathomably bizarre job is only made harder by the building’s plethora of mirrors holding all manner of horror: burning people, screaming women, ghostly handprints that can’t be removed, etc. Instead of getting out as fast as humanly possible, our idiotic hero sticks around to endure the madness and solve a mystery no one really cares about.

By-the-numbers plot devices and character arcs force Mirrors into solid boredom territory. Haunted ex-cop divorcee… blah blah blah etc… recovering alcoholic, taking “strong” anxiety pills… yadda yadda yadda… is portrayed with literally no charisma by Kiefer Sutherland to a point you want him eviscerated even before the haunting actually begins. The minor characters also only serve to add death or tension to the screen and have very little personality. Amy Smart especially just seems to float through the film, barely registering that she’s supposed to be acting.

The initial scares and unnerving moments of Mirrors quickly give way to CGI face twistery and general overblown ridiculousness, falling for the same mistakes all “haunted building” horrors do by kicking subtlety solidly in the crotch. Flashlights are faulty, sudden bird appearances force unnecessary jumps, the usual smorgasbord of horror clichés are served up and feasted upon with no shame. The script is hokey and overlong too, but does feature one of the funniest threats ever – “Don’t make me threaten you!”. Erm… you just did. The film is at times laughably bad, which is especially upsetting for something so po-faced.

Mirrors is also uncomfortably without consistent tone or voice – trying to have a meaningful, painful story of a man struggling against illness and depression, coupled with gruesome and explosively bloody horror just doesn’t fit. There’s even an utterly needless explicit autopsy, you know, for fun. The gore is spectacularly bloody when it does arrive, but the running around looking troubled moments take up 90% of our time, making those face-ripping, flesh-burningly enjoyable moments not worth the wait.

Mirrors is a tragic misstep for Alexandre Aja, the director of cunning French horror Switchblade Romance and the decent Hills Have Eyes remake. Brick-in-the-face subtlety proves there are reflections everywhere in modern society and Aja’s ham-fisted direction is dull and uninspired. His next possible travesty is Piranha 3-D, so be prepared to watch another auteur director flush his career down the toilet.

Utterly humourless and immensely unlikeable, Mirrors and Sutherland will leave you cold and bored. There are some scares, some grotesque violence and some laughable dialogue, but it doesn’t make up for this simply being a dull movie with little going for it. On reflection, don’t watch Mirrors. And yes, the film is as poor as that pun.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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