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110 min.
Release Date

Things you’ll learn from Mirrors, a new horror film starring Kiefer Sutherland: 1) There’s another world on the other side of mirrors, and the inhabitants are looking in at you, 2) No matter how many times you yell, “What do you want from me?!” the mirror-people won’t respond in any detail, and 3) Keifer likes to shout… a lot.

Ex-detective Ben Carson (Sutherland) has spent the last year drinking, sulking, and becoming distant from his estranged wife, Amy (Paula Patton), and their two kids, because he shot an innocent man on duty and can’t forgive himself. On the road to recovery, he takes a job as a night watchman guarding the skeleton of a burned-out department store. Walking amid the charred remains all alone in the dark, he begins to see things in the mirrors, which show no evidence of being scarred by the fire. Rather, they look polished. Ben’s predecessor, we learn, was obsessive about the mirrors, cleaning them continuously. Then again, during the prologue, the man also slit his own throat with a shard of mirror.

Almost immediately, Ben begins seeing things inside the mirrors. He looks into one, spots a horrible image of a woman burning, checks behind him, and finds nothing, but back to the mirror, there she is again. There’s a lot of looking back and forth in this movie, stringing along double-take after double-take. Now you see it, now you don’t.  Without a hint of skepticism, Ben begins to believe there’s something evil living in the mirrors. When he tells his loved ones about it, they raise an eyebrow and figure he’s traumatized over his accident, but they never do the logical thing and make him see a shrink. Instead, inexplicably, those around him are murdered by the mirror-folk, and their motive remains unclear. And the movie goes on like that for a while, with Ben insisting something’s in the mirrors, and everyone else thinking him crazy.

What a waste. You couldn’t hope for a more cinematic prop than a mirror. From deceitful positioning to startling background reveals, they’ve been used in horror movies and thrillers since the medium’s inception. But The Lady from Shanghai this film is not. Sadly, the scares are never the mirrors themselves but what’s behind them, which is careless on the part of writer-director Alexandre Aja, who continues to lower his credibility with every subsequent film. He squanders the titular device by relying on ghostly apparitions and nonsensical demons to drive his shocks.

Everyone involved in the project moves back three spaces in the game of Hollywood. Sutherland should be making his big-screen comeback after years on the hit show 24. Instead, he’s acting out over-the-top rage in schlock horror, just barely worthy of the direct-to-DVD shelves at Blockbuster. Essentially, Sutherland plays Jack Bauer without the badge, running about and barking at everyone, even his reflection. It’s tiresome.

Perhaps the blame should be placed on Aja. After inducing enough gag-worthy moments in High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake, he seems to have regressed into a rookie filmmaker. In fact, I’m surprised he managed to avoid getting saddled with a PG-13 rating, which would ensure teens rushed out on the opening weekend to earn back the meager budget. After all, it’s doubtful that there’s an audience outside the teen-scream demographic.

Two other movies from earlier in 2008 involve spirits inhabiting a central apparatus. One Missed Call employed cell phones; Shutter used cameras. Like Mirrors, which is a rehash of the South Korean shocker Into the Mirrors, those were Asian-horror remakes too. I suppose Aja made the best of the three, except that’s sort of like saying he flunked but had the highest score.

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