Wednesday, October 22, 2008
In my review of Kim Sung-ho’s Geoul Sokeuro (Into The Mirror)—upon which Mirrors is based—I make note of a quote from director Alexandre Aja where he states that he “…decided to start from scratch and not connect with the original Korean movie.”
Well, he does take some of Geoul Sokeuro’s principal elements—the troubled cop forced to moonlight as a security guard; the department store ravaged by a fire; the sinister, eponymous mirrors—as well as the original’s final climactic kick, and basically streamlines the narrative, pruning the varied facets Kim stuffed into his film.
What we then get is a “reimagining” that recalls Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (which Aja freely admits is his “favorite movie ever”), dotted by some rater-R gore, and shadowed by fleeting echoes of John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, and Hideo Nakata’s water fixation.
I think my biggest problem with Mirrors is that it has no genuine sense of tension in its narrative, unlike Aja’s audacious—and so very aptly titled—Haute Tension. Even Aja’s follow-up, his remake of The Hills Have Eyes, already not as piano wire-taut as Haute Tension, still ended up playing better than Mirrors.
The unfolding of the film’s central mystery—which of course lurks in the darkness of the department store’s history—isn’t handled very well either, clumsily relayed to us via expository flashbacks and some phone calls by Kiefer Sutherland (who plays Mirrors’ lead, cop-turned-security guard Ben Carson) to his hapless infob!tch (more on that later).
And the decision to more properly pin down the true nature of the film’s mirror-centred phenomena doesn’t really do it any favours either; the original’s eclectic mix of narrative elements was certainly a lot more interesting than Aja’s simplified approach.
There’s also a whole lot of underutilization going on here as Amy Smart (who I’ve had a soft spot for ever since Felicity) is given the brief and thankless job of being Ben’s patient, younger, bartending sister Angela, before being brutally dispatched in the film’s “jaw-dropping” gore highlight brought to us by the most excellent N & B of KNB EFX, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger.
Then there’s Guy Ritchie cohort Jason Flemyng, who’s given the brief and thankless job of being Larry Byrne, Ben’s cop friend and seemingly always available infob!tch, just a phone call away. (I haven’t actually checked, but it’s entirely possible that Flemyng spends as much screen time as a voice over a cell phone, as he does in the flesh.)
The film also doesn’t do very much with Mary Beth Peil (Grams, from Dawson’s Creek), who plays a pivotal role in the proceedings.
There are a few nice touches, mind; some subtle creeps—the handprint and doorknob bits are effective—and the aforementioned gory sequence involving Smart, being the ones that most readily come to mind.
Those bright spots however, are vastly outnumbered by scenes of a flashlight-wielding Sutherland walking about the husk of the fire-gutted department store or talking to Flemyng over his cell, which all then leads up to a disappointing WWE climax as Ben goes toe-to-toe with the film’s big bad.
I really wanted to like this one, wanted it to be the Aja film that would hands-down kick my a$.
But it isn’t, and now I’ll have to wait for Aja’s Piranha remake (in 3D, no less!), which I sincerely hope will be bucketloads of thrilling, popcorn horror fun.
Note though, Monsieur Aja, that I loved the Joe Dante original (which still swims about in the murky, nostalgia-laced deeps of my horror geek brain), so expectations will be high.
Oh, and one more thing: let’s have another original soon, eh?
Parting shot: A review of Geoul Sokeuro can be found in the Archive.
(Mirrors French OS courtesy of impawards.com; images courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com.)