Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sutherland sees mysterious evil in 'Mirrors'

Mirrors (2008)
Starring: Keifer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Cameron Boyce, Erica Gluck, Amy Smart, Josh Shrapnel and Jason Flemyng
Director: Alexandre Aja
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

A retired police officer (Sutherland) takes a job as the graveyard shift security guard in the burnt-out shell of a one-time upscape New York City department store, a structure that hides a number of dark secrets. He hasn't even finished his first shift before those secrets catch up with him by way of strange reflections in the mirrors at the building, his home, and everywhere he goes. He soon realizes that if he doesn't find the truth behind the events, everyone he loves will die.

"Mirrors" is another American (sort of... it was shot in mostly Romania and helmed by a French director) remake of a Korean spook-fest and this one is a little more successful than most. Although this is another tale of a curse/haunting that seems to spread like a bad case of herpes, the vector of transmission seems a little more reasonable than what we have in many other Asian horror films. For most of its running time it builds the tension nicely, as the haunting/curse gains strength and starts threatening and killing innocent people who the hero cares about to get him to do its bidding... and it's on track to being one of the better ghost movies of recent years.

But then it flies completely off the rails in the final act and transforms from a ghost movie into a third-rate monster movie that's more "Resident Evil" than "The Changeling" (or even "Puppet Master"). All the potential built up during the first 4/5th of the film is negated on an over-the-top ending and then tossed on the scrap-heap with a painfully predictable twist ending.

(When will these damn hacks learn that "surprise shock endings" aren't shocking anymore?! For God's sake, stop it! It's okay to end a movie when it's OVER! And if you feel the need to have a denoument, then how about giving us a real shocking surprise ending: End the movie with the monster vanquished and the hero uniting happily with his family!)

"Mirrors" is still a cut above most of what they pass off as horror films these days--it features a few truly surprising scares and a starteling gory death scene that will have even the most hardended gore-hound squirming in their seat, as well as strong performances by Keifer Sutherland as a man haunted both by his past and by his reflection in the mirror; by Paula Patton as his ex-wife; and by Cameron Boyce and Erica Gluck, a pair of more-talented-than-average child actors as their kids--but it has a terrible climax and ending that will almost ruin the whole thing for you.

(By the way, I think anyone who has ever worked night-shift security or who, after dark, has been the last one out of buildings or areas usually teeming with people will find this film scarier and easier to relate to than those who haven't been in situations like that. We know first first hand the creepiness of the open, shadow-filled spaces the film tries to convey, and we know how the imagination can run away if not kept carefully guarded.)

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