Mirrors (UK - BD RB)
Leigh looks at this Kiefer Sutherland/ Alexandre Aja horror on Blu-ray Disc...
In this remake of the Korean 2003 horror Into the Mirror, ex-cop Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) starts a job as a night watchman of a derelict department store in which many of its occupants were burned to death years earlier. Almost immediately Ben starts to see horrific images in the store mirrors and screaming from unseen corners of the building. However, when Ben leaves, the malevolent forces also reach beyond the confines of the building, tormenting not only Ben himself, but also those he holds dear.
After storming out of the gates with the impressive Switchblade Romance and following up with the surprisingly solid remake of The Hills Have Eyes, French director Alexandre Aja delivers his 'difficult third album' with Mirrors, a technically proficient but scattershot enterprise that practically screams 'director for hire'. While I can't comment upon the faithfulness to its source material (neither I or anybody I know have seen Into the Mirror), I can only hope it's more coherent than what's on offer here. When it comes to actual technical filmmaking chops, there's nothing particularly wrong with Mirrors. It's well shot, the special effects are strong, and the production design is striking. The real problem is a script that either contradicts itself, confuses the audience, or just plain changes the story's rules at will.
The script for Mirrors is a schizophrenic one. While on one hand there is an emphasis upon supernatural happenings that attempt to lift things above a blood-fest, there are sudden shifts into gore set pieces that are truly out of place to the tone of the rest of the movie. While the kills are admittedly impressive (especially the now infamous 'jaw' scene), there is a feeling that they are in there simply to keep the director in his comfort zone. Another ill advised sequence that decimates the tone of the movie involves our hero Kiefer attempting to tackle ghosts with firearms, which I'm not too sure would be effective on transparent figures. It's an odd action sequence that shifts the film into the oddest episode of 24 I've ever seen.
Ah yes, Kiefer. If ever there was a case for having Sutherland not attempt to cram a film in between yearly television schedules, then Mirrors is it. Kiefer's a solid actor, but he's quite clearly lost in this movie. There is no fine tuning in his role, and the man's just loud. There is nothing that will kill a movie's tone stone dead quicker than having a bug eyed Sutherland running around sets roaring unintelligibly and bellowing intermittently. It's definitely not his strongest performance. In fact, very few of the cast leave a strong impression, but having said that, Amy Smart and Jason Flemyng drift in and out of the story randomly, so it's possible that much of their roles are on a cutting room floor somewhere.
While Mirrors is undeniably several shades of silly, it's never anything less than watchable. While it's definitely flawed, there is enough spit and polish evident to make it a decent prospect for a Saturday evening. It's certainly better than recent remakes in the genre such as Shutter and The Eye, and at the end of the day, Mirrors is a laugh; sometimes intentionally.
Mirrors is presented in 2.40:1 1080p, and the image seems perfectly fine to me. Mirrors is a dark movie by design, and the image lets you see as much detail as intended, with the intricate production design in the old building never swamped by the nice black levels, which I understand is a bit of a problem on the standard def disc. There is occasional grain, but it's quite fine and not distracting. Everything's as sharp as you'd expect from the format, and colour is represented really well, with the film's strong palette standing out boldly. It's actually a nice transfer.
The Mirrors Blu-ray is packing one serious horror track. Fox presents a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that really cranks up the film's horror kudos. The dialogue sits right where it's supposed to, which also means you'll suddenly jump for the remote when one of Kiefer's bellows comes out of the blue. There's some cracking surround action going on within the track, with eerie ambient effects creeping out from the corners of both the department store and your front room. Particularly impressive is the sequence where Kiefer hears screaming from the floors above him. The sub also gets a great workout, especially in the action-packed climax. The sound design lifts the film up a notch, and this track represents itself pretty impressively.
The disc offers up a set of extras that are decent rather than satisfactory. First up is the BonusView picture-in-picture commentary by Alexandre Aja, which does go into decent detail relating to the making of the film, accompanied by the PiP function. Also offered is the choice of theatrical or 'unrated' versions of the movie, which unfortunately only adds up to about ten seconds of footage. Swizz, I tell you. Next up is the ‘Anna Esseker Hospital Footage’, which is basically the full footage of the flashbacks contained in the movie. ‘Reflections: The Making of Mirrors’ is a decent feature running just under an hour, and details the making of the film from actually getting hired, right through to the actual shooting and discussing the finished product. ‘Behind the Mirror’ is a featurette focusing upon the folklore surrounding mirror images, and ‘Animated Storyboard Sequence’ is just that. Also included are eight deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Alexandre Aja, and are of little interest, aside from the superior alternate ending.
Mirrors certainly isn't the strongest horror film I've ever seen, and there are some serious script issues evident, but it's still one of the best of the recent raft of American ghost story remakes. The film is polished, well designed and genuinely spooky in places, and it's far more suited to home viewing than it was as a cinematic outing. I'd say it's definitely worth a rent, and possibly worth a purchase. It's not the worst film I've ever seen, but I think that Mr. Aja should start choosing his projects more carefully, before he goes the Marcus Nispel route, and ends up helming endless re-imaginings of old chestnuts. I'm not too sure I'm ready for Aja's Ghoulies redux.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Leigh Riding
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 4th May 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Mater Audio 5.1 English, Audio Descriptive 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 Italian, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English HoH, Danish, Finish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish
Extras: Anna Esseker Hospital Footage, Reflections: The Making of Mirrors, Behind the Mirror, Animated Storyboard Sequence, Eight Deleted and Alternate Scenes with Optional Commentary by Alexandre Aja, BonusView Picture-in-Picture Commentary by Alexandre Aja, BonusView: Storyboard to Scene Comparison
Easter Egg: No
Director: Alexandre Aja
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Amy Smart, Jason Flemyng
Length: 107 minutes