More than any other, the horror and supernatural thriller genres spawn movie franchises, with brands like Friday the 13th, Saw, and The Omen as difficult to kill off as the evil power that lurks at the heart of their stories. Much of the attraction for filmmakers is their immunity to poor reviews: despite what the critics say, people still line up in their thousands for a rush of fear-induced adrenalin. Enter what surely must have been designed as a new product line – Mirrors – a stylishly made supernatural thriller with a few good frights, a woeful screenplay, and an id-like force that lies on the other side of reflective surfaces.
Keifer Sutherland – perhaps risking seven years getting stuck in this franchise – plays Ben Carson, an ex-cop trying to pull his life together after a shooting incident. He lives with his sister Angela (Amy Smart) but still visits his wife Amy (Paula Patton) and their two young children. Carson has just given up the booze and takes a night job at the real star of this film – a disused and burnt-out department store, eerily decorated with charred mannequins and plenty of mirrors. As he treads his dark rounds, Carson’s flashlight picks out shapes that seem to shift in the mirrors, handprints that seem etched on the other side of the glass, and then a wallet that belongs to the previous night guard – a man who has committed suicide. When the mirrors turn their gaze on Carson and force him to harm himself, his detective’s instinct leads him to go after the evil – a hunt that takes him back into old medical records, leads him to a convent, and which causes the mirrors to turn their vengeance on his family. Yes, all the horror bases are covered here – schizophrenia, demons, little boys with knives, nuns with secrets, and even some inbreed Southerners for good measure (what are they doing in this film?)
There’s no doubting the creepy atmospherics created by the team from The Hills Have Eyes – particularly Joseph Nemec’s production design and Maxime Alexandre’s cinematography – but this work isn’t matched by screenplay and direction – both from Alexandre Aja. Clunky dialogue sets up the film, unlikely backstory (dished out right to the end) drives it along, and it all concludes in a ludicrous cataclysm of cinematic hyperbole. Concludes is probably a bad choice of words – Mirrors II must surely be out there waiting for us.