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Easily Forgettable `Mirrors’ Reflects Poorly on Sutherland

August 21, 2008

By SCOTT A. MAY

Another in a long line of disposable horror flicks, “Mirrors” proves as difficult to watch as it is easy to forget. How this shoddy fright fest kept from sinking straight to video release is anyone’s guess.

Kiefer Sutherland plays Ben Carson, a former NYPD detective suspended from the force because of his involvement in a fatal shooting. A recovering alcoholic, Ben is also separated from his wife, Amy (Paula Patton), and two young children. Desperate to get his life back together, Ben shacks out on the sofa of his younger sister, Angela (Amy Smart), and takes a lousy job as a night watchman at the fire-gutted remnants of a famous New York department store called the Mayflower.

The once-opulent building is supposedly caught in some kind of legal limbo since a catastrophic fire claimed the lives of dozens of people. All that remain are burnt mannequins, smashed displays, tattered clothing and lots of highly polished mirrors. The previous night watchman – who dies a horrific death as the movie opens – was obsessed with keeping the mirrors clean.

The burning question, which the movie handily skips over, is: Why would anyone employ 24-hour security guards to patrol the charred ruins of a crumbling department store? There’s certainly nothing to steal or any logical reason for anyone to bother entering this blackened wreck. The setup is less than nonsensical – it’s outright stupid, making whatever lies beyond pure gibberish.

Ben eventually discovers the department store used to house a psychiatric hospital that specialized in experimental treatments for schizophrenia. Ben finds a secret room covered in mirrors, where patients would be strapped in a chair and left alone for days. Now the mirrors – any virtually anything that casts a reflection – haunt Ben and his family, taunting him to retrieve someone or something called “Esseker.”

The movie’s big special effects are mirrors that come to life, attacking people by taking control of their evil reflections.

Ben’s sister is one of the first to go, in what is admittedly one of the more gruesome acts of self-mutilation I’ve seen in a long time.

Unfortunately, it takes more than gore to make a good horror flick. It takes palatable fear, which this story sorely lacks.

The longer the movie plays – and it seems to go on forever – the less sense it all makes. Some of the early scenes, set in the spooky store, are admittedly creepy, but by the third act, it’s all reduced to confusing mess of mechanical plotting, explicit gore, flash-cut editing and shrieking sound effects.

The movie was co-written, produced and directed by Alexandre Aja, the French filmmaker who gained some international acclaim for his 2003 thriller, “High Tension,” which he then squandered three years later with a slick but thoughtless remake of Wes Craven’s 1977 cult favorite “The Hills Have Eyes.”

Like so much of the torture porn passing for horror these days – notably the “Saw” series and its countless knockoffs – this movie is an English remake of an Asian original, in this case the 2003 South Korean film “Into the Mirror.”

Sutherland has evolved into something of a one-note actor, here playing a weak variation of his role as Jack Bauer on the hit TV series “24.” No stranger to horror, Sutherland’s early career included two minor classics of the genre, “The Lost Boys” and “Flatliners,” both infinitely more watchable than this dreck.

Too serious to be taken as parody but too ridiculous to qualify as good horror, about the only thing viewers will reflect about “Mirrors” is the time and money they wasted in its presence.

Mirrors

Stars: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Cameron Bryce, Erica Gluck

Director: Alexandre Aja

Rating: R for strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity.

Theaters: Stadium 14, Forum 8

Originally published by SCOTT A. MAY.

(c) 2008 Columbia Daily Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.