When a film called Mirrors opens with a man fleeing desperately from said objects, it doesn't bode all that well. When that individual soon falls victim to a grisly demise at the sight of them, well, there's something to be said for the fact that there is ultimately nothing to see in Mirrors that is worth grabbing something sharp over. Unfortunately, there is also nothing that you probably haven't seen before in The Ring, The Grudge, or any number of exhaustingly similar American remakes of Asian spook stories.
And what a shame that we find ourselves having to associate the likes of Alexandre Aja with lackluster horror. Well, to be more accurate, luster is just about all he has to offer here, a slick sheen on a stale story. It's nice to have a legitimately menacing score in between shameless jolts!, and if we're to be treated to the same 'gotcha!' shots with depressing frequency, at least the lighting and lensing bring an equal amount of polish to the proceedings. Who knows: With enough technical prowess at play, maybe Aja can get someone to mistake this film for Shinola after all.
It's been five years since a disastrous fire killed a great deal of customers at Mayflower's Department Store in Manhattan, and a year since former NYPD detective Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) left the line of duty after accidentally killing a fellow officer. He's a recovering alcoholic with an estranged wife (Paula Patton) and two kids, staying with his sister (Amy Smart) and starting his new job at night watchman of the Mayflower's property. The man is just begging for a Movie Cop Redemption, but that'll just have to wait (or will it?) as Carson begins to investigate the curious occurrences involving the store's pristine mirrored halls and walls.
Since we're informed early on that the store was formerly a mental hospital... the mystery becomes a matter not of suspense, but rather of patience to see if Carson can put the pieces together as he addresses all manner of loud noises, curious reflections, and physically-manifested threats that are only nearing in proximity to him and his. Following a comeback on TV's "24," it's curious to see gruff guy Sutherland flinch at a fair number of freaky sights (and by curious, I mean: It looks to him like he's burning while it looks to us like he's break-dancing), but soon enough, he's burdened with plenty of procedural exposition and a narrow range of expressions with which to respond to the inevitable skepticism of loved ones.
In all fairness, Sutherland's natural stoicism does make the more risible developments and dialogue a bit easier to stomach (a moment when he goes all Jack Bauer on a nun comes to mind), but at the end of the day, he only takes a film that could've been a joke and raises it to the level of a mere bore. There's nothing particularly tense when it comes to waiting for all the pieces to fall into place, no matter how many spirits pop up in how many reflective surfaces, and when Aja comes to rely on his more gruesome tactics, only one dispatch stands out as being jaw-dropping in
any every sense. (It doesn't hurt that this memorable sequence seems to incorporate more practical effects than any other scene in the film.) High Tension and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes each showcased a more potent blend of the unexpected, the unbearable, the unbelievable; Mirrors can barely boast a third of that combination.
I remain confident that Aja is a capable and competent horror filmmaker in an age when they seem so far and few between, but the man can only do so much with so little. If you'd never seen another ghost story along these lines, Mirrors might actually startle and surprise, but if that's really the case... why start here?