Eric German | Sunday, 02 November 2008

It's all done with mirrors

Last week I didn’t have the space to review Mirrors and I received quite a few emails from fans of Kiefer Sutherland and/or horror films asking me to review this film. I saw it and felt it deserved a review.
Sutherland plays Ben Carson, suspended police detective who’s under investigation for shooting a man. A recovering alcoholic, he’s trying to be reunited with his estranged wife, Amy (Paula Patton), and their children, Michael and Daisy (Cameron Boyce and Erica Gluck).
He’s sleeping in the home of his sister, Angela (Amy Smart) so he gets a job as the night watchman in the huge burnt out husk of a previously lavish department store. The store was built on the grounds of a psychiatric institution that was shut down and its mirrors are those once used by the institution.
Disturbed by inexplicable appearances and a terrifying hallucination that he experiences, Ben begins to investigate the vast property and the mirrors’ strange powers.
Mirrors is the altered Hollywood version of the successful South Korean film Into the Mirror (2003).
It’s difficult to invest inanimate objects like mirrors with a sense of evil but co-writer/director Alexandre Aja manages to do so in the pre-credits sequence which ends with a throat-slashing bloodbath.
A lot of the film unfolds in the ruins and these sequences were shot in Nicolae Ceausescu’s unfinished Academy of Sciences building in Bucharest, Romania.
It proves to be an ideal location though the film’s art design department have done a marvellous job in rendering it dirty and forbidding yet retaining something of its former glory.
The frequent night cinematography of this setting is just right; being realistically dark but not too dark to interfere with our following what takes place there. And the sound design has been carefully planned to suggest all sort of apprehensive things going on just out of sight.
As Ben continues to probe the ruins at night, we see the same grisly sights that he does, but the more interesting material is the human theme. At a very vulnerable point in his life, Ben is being pushed perilously close to the edge. Yet he’s driven to solve the mystery surrounding the mirrors because his family won’t be safe before that.
Mirrors is quite scary in parts. Aja’s direction can result in a shocking film and I didn’t like his remake of The Hills have Eyes. But he does have an eye for the visually disturbing and, because here he only employs it occasionally, it works to the film’s advantage.
Even so, the jaw-breaking death in a bath is upsetting though Aja doesn’t dwell on it longer than necessary. Boosted by a very sympathetic portrayal by Sutherland, Mirrors is gripping and one feels compelled to find out what’s behind the supernatural killings.
That resolution goes beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief and it’s all the more disappointing because it forms the main part of the climax. But it’s intercut with what’s taking place at Ben’s home and that makes for nail-biting tension.
This review has taken the space in which I had planned to review Hugh School Musical 3: Senior Year. This will be reviewed next week

Wreckage leftovers

The title is a cheat because there aren’t any disaster movies in the film and since the makers are shameless, they didn’t use that title to indicate that their movie consists of the kind of wreckage leftover from a disaster.
So we have wannabe parody sketches of 10,000 B.C., Juno, chunks of would-be Cloverfield send-ups and bits of the likes of Night at the Museum, Jumper, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Beowulf, a dude in a black Panda suit, a black midget version of Indiana Jones and a crystal face mask that has to be returned to its altar in the temple.
It’s a collection of mismatching patches spread randomly with lots of maddening padding and even skits on US TV adverts that we don’t know about.
The impression it gave me was that of an extended TV episode shot in a week on a less than peanuts budget from a script that was made up as they went along and with the screenwriters seizing every tiny opportunity they happened to come across in a desperate bid to cobble together an addition to this seemingly endless series.
Some films were just begging to be blown up sky high but the attempts at parody are so lame, pathetic and juvenile that, by comparison, they make10, 000 BC and Cloverfield look like films.
The earlier digs at Juno are disgustingly in appalling bad taste and the later ones show that the makers are trying to make fun of a film they didn’t understand. The makers of Juno acknowledged the deficiencies of the title character. So when these impostors try to ridicule her they’re actually revealing how dim they are.
They should stick to what they do understand, such as cows falling from the sky and bodily function gags like the one I called the ‘power belching’ scene.
Cameo-like appearances by imitators of Batman, Iron Man, etc and a glimpse of the Incredible Hulk are absolutely worthless except as audience bait for the trailer. When not even the series’ resident diva, Carmen Electra, can provide two watchable minutes, that movie is really in trouble.


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