Hello and Hallow-welcome to another Straight-up Scary Saturday! Good to see you’ve survived the hostile Hostels and haunting Eel Marsh House! Luckily, so did your brave bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who aren’t shivering with fear, it’s just cold in here!
Today’s film offering: Mirrors
Lilly: This film stars Kiefer Sutherland. I open with that because that is exactly the reason I watched it in the first place. It was back in the heady days of 2008, when Kiefer was on 24. Mirrors came and went in theatres, and I missed it. However, HMV had a sale on DVDs months later after it was released and I got it for $5. True story. Blog done.
Andy: Hey! Wait a second. Come back here!
Lilly: Kidding! This isn’t a blog to talk about my DVD purchasing! It’s about how, one night, in my room, I ended up counting how many mirrors I owned after watching this film.
Andy: The answer is too damn many.
Lilly: Mirrors is a film about a man who ‘needs this job’, as often is the case in horror films, or why would they stick around for the menacing to follow? Former cop-turned-violent-alcoholic Ben Carson (Kiefer, in case you didn’t guess), just wants to kick his drug habit (which he has to stop his drinking habit?) and be a good husband/father again. He takes on the job of nightwatchman for a magnificently huge/creepy department store which was burned down five years prior, leaving a burnt out wasteland to wander through with a flashlight every few hours to make sure no one is in there, I don’t know, stealing melted mannequins or vandalizing the burnt rubble.
Andy: Yeah. his job seems kind of pointless. There is almost nothing of value in this burnt out wreckage, and its sealed off. I guess people could come in and steal the copper pipes. Also, if all of the money’s tied up in a messy insurance case, who the hell’s paying him?
Lilly: Good point. Scratch the set up. Of course, one must remember in the opening scene how a man’s reflection killed him, or so the film makes you remember as shiny mirror after mirror is found in the store–turns out the guy we see killed in the first five minutes was the old night watchman who was obsessed with the mirrors! Fancy that! Mirrors! Like it is the title or something!
I kid, I kid. And even if I was serious in my eye-rolling, the first night Ben works at the burnt-out building is enough to snap me back to attention. Mirrors is definitely a horror film, tension being built, falsely released, and shattered in some excellent moments. I do think it might have done it too quickly–Ben might ‘need this job’, but after the first night he had, there was literally so many reasons he should just go and work at McDonald’s or something rather than go back again. There were hints that the mirrors had some power over the last guy, but Ben was new. Not obsessed, just an idiot.
Andy: It’s worth pointing out at this point, that the department store set is MAGNIFICENT. Seriously, of all the burnt out department stores we’ve seen, this one looks the best. It’s huge, echoey, blackened, and emanates an air of sadness as well as terror in a way all of the best haunted houses do. Shirley Jackson describes the titular building in The Haunting of Hill House thusly:
“No Human eye can isolate the unhappy coincidence of line and place which suggests evil in the face of a house, and yet somehow a maniac juxtaposition, a badly turned angle, some chance meeting of roof and sky, turned Hill House into a place of despair.”
That is exactly the vibe I get from this place. The film suffers every time they move away from it.
Lilly: What I liked about this film was that Ben was actually treated like he was going mad in a way that was realistic. It wasn’t at the ‘ignore him’ end of the spectrum you get where the world seems even more mad than the guy going nuts because they ignore him, nor was it the ‘LOCK HIM UP’ end where, all of a sudden, they want to put the guy in an asylum because he says he saw a weird thing once.
Andy: That happens far too often in this kind of thing.
Lilly: I was also impressed by how his addiction was treated–how it had shifted pre-film from alcohol to pills, then from the pills to the obsession with the mirrors and finding Esseker–which, on a side note, was a super let down–why wouldn’t it be a name that was backwards? I mean. So you could read it only in the mirror. Get it? Anyway, Ben Carson’s addictive personality is a steadily followed plot in the film, and not ditched halfway through, as can be the case.
Andy: It’s an interesting arc. Do haunted houses attract damaged people intentionally? How much is in his head, and quite frankly, why SHOULD anyone believe him when he starts hallucinating fire in a burned out building?
Lilly: I thought Kiefer Sutherland acted his heart out in this film, even with everyone else phoning it in–did the child who played his son ever change his expression? I felt extremely bad when no one believed him, and when he was allowed to see (spoiler) his mutilated sister’s body, well. Poor guy, is all I’m saying. And I actually felt that. It wasn’t a case of trumped up emotions due to movie manipulation. He brought his A-game to this, and I appreciated that.
Andy: To be fair, when the next most prominent star is probably Amy Smart, Kiefer’s going to come out of it looking like Laurence Olivier.
Lilly: Uh, Jason Flemying is in this. You don’t trust the role of Dr.Jekyll/Mr.Hyde in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman to someone lesser than Amy Smart, okay?
Andy: Cameos don’t count.
Lilly: He was in two scenes that were very relevant! Very relevant! He gave Ben no info on Esseker, but tried to find some! He was who Ben was calling in other points of the film! Super. Relevant.
Andy: ANYWAY the film does suffer from a recurring problem in these sorts of films though, a term I think of as “The Third Act Problem”. Simply put, creepy events require an explanation, but as soon as one is provided, a lot of menace is lost in the process. The situation becomes a problem to be solved, rather than a horrifying nightmare. This happens A LOT in horror films, and Mirrors is a textbook example. Sinister stuff should be sprinkled throughout, not front loaded into the first 45 minutes.
Anyway, it’s not a bad movie, but for me there are other films that do a lot of this stuff better.
Lilly: I would suggest this film for a bit of fun. It has some good scares, some creepy moments, and some really good character development for the protagonist. Recommend from me!
Andy: I would recommend it for one of the best horror sets I’ve ever seen, and for fans of Kiefer Sutherland. Other than that, it’s just kind of average.