Produced by Korean filmmaker Eun Young-Kim and directed by Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension), "MIRRORS" isn't exactly an official remake of the South Korean horror film "Into the Mirror" (aka. Geoul Sakeuro, 2003, directed by Sung-Ho Kim) but it does have pretty strong similarities (most specially the opening credits) since it is based on the Asian horror film. The "Americanization" of Asian Horror films are usually a miss more than a hit--with Aja at the helm as director, Eastern subtlety, slow suggestive, methodical creepiness is replaced by aggressive, grand displays of special effects--such a show-off approach does improve on the original when it comes to pace but doesn't necessarily make it a better film.
Ben Carson (Keifer Sutherland, "24") is a problematic ex-cop, he has a estranged relationship with his wife, Amy (sexy Paula Patton), has two kids and he is bunking with his baby sister Angela (sexy Amy Smart) until he gets back on his feet. Ben gets a job as a watchman in a burnt out department store called "Mayflower". Strangely, the burnt out store has unusually well-preserved mirrors--there is something sinister about them. When your reflection dies in the mirror, then you suffer the same fate. Demons from the past want something from everyone who had ever taken the job as night watchman--now, Ben must get to the bottom of the mystery of "Esseker", before it is too late to save himself and his family….
With Alexandre Aja at the helm as director, then the expectations from horror fans will be expectedly a little high. I suppose the best way to approach "Mirrors" is by lowering your expectations. Aja cleverly only keeps the opening act, the climax, and the main premise from "Into the Mirror". This U.S. unrated version is more visceral and does have more blood and gore than the original. "Into the Mirror" does have a relevant social commentary that added some essential "meat" to its plot. However, the original also does have quite a number of dull moments and too many missed opportunities, with a subplot that is totally underdeveloped. Aja's approach is kept simple, it approaches a more visceral and violent approach with more effective use of special effects. The computer-generated set designs in the American version is also a lot creepier than the brightly lit, newly re-opened store in the Korean version.
The main premise of "Mirrors" and "Into the Mirror", you guessed it, are mirrors. There are legends involving mirrors as another walkthrough to an alternate world, and that mirrors can used to capture hidden "demonic" entities. This legend was partly touched on in the opening act of "Constantine" and this film further expends on this premise. The plot also hits on some medical theories about schizophrenia and demonic possession. The laws of the "mirrors" may not be totally defined or fleshed out in this film but it does provide a good idea for a scary experience.
The problems with "Mirrors" begin with the script and the dialogue. Considering the assumed limits of Aja's English knowledge, the dialogue is pretty much obligatory and very dry. Also, the part with Ben's estranged relationship with his wife Amy is too perfunctory. I'm not sure, Sutherland managed to express some emotions but the style is too similar to his "Jack Bauer" portrayal that makes the "meant to be" scary scenes a little funny with a predictable climax after the encounter with the nightmarish ghoul. I really felt as if Aja meant for it to be this way but ended up hampering the film a little. The family tension also overstays its welcome after awhile and Ben‘s trip to the backwoods was too formulaic and too reminiscent of Asian horror films. I rather thought that the powerful social criticism and the subtle doses of satire in the Korean version may have assisted the film's screenplay.
Despite the uninspired script, the film is competently directed. I was impressed as to how Aja managed the shots, I would imagine that it would be a little difficult to shoot a film with a lot of mirrors (thank goodness for CGI) and Aja's set designs were creepy enough. The set ups for the gore scenes were well-directed and the film does have its share of unsettling images. The film's greatest strengths will have to be the opening scene, the one with mangled jaw, the scenes with young Anna Esseker and Ben's first night in the burnt out building; accompanied by an ominous score by Javier Navarrete, the film does have its suspenseful moments.
"Mirrors" is a more decent attempt at an Asian horror re-imagining despite its many flaws and the weaknesses of the script. I was just disappointed that the mythos of the mirrors themselves and of doppelgangers weren't more efficiently explored and settled to just become one more "visually inspired" horror experience. The climax is also very predictable. "Mirrors" is perfectly watchable although it is definitely forgettable and wouldn't stand out.
Recommended with caution to horror maniacs, but a RENTAL to experienced viewers. [3 Stars]
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