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There are some people that just can't stand Alexandre Aja. I don't really know where all of the hatred comes from. The man hasn't really directed enough films to be hated with such passion, but I could get in hour long debates with some people about how Aja is ruining the horror genre and how he doesn't have a speck of talent for his craft. Are they watching films from the same man? His first film to make it big in the states was "High Tension", an exceptionally well directed little horror film that divided critics and audiences alike. Next came his remake of "The Hills Have Eyes", which I did and still do consider to be better than the tepid original. His third film is the one I am about to tackle - "Mirrors" - which finds Aja with the biggest stars and budget of his career. I wish all of his skeptics would make the trip to the theatre and catch "Mirrors" and then try and explain to me how this director doesn't know horror. "Mirrors" is one of the best horror films of the year, a genuinely creepy and intense horror film that has traces of Dario Argento all over it. Aja has crafted not just another run-of-the-mill horror film, even though the plot would suggest that. Aja's visual style and eye for horror make this film an exceptional surprise.
The film stars Kiefer Sutherland as Ben Carson, a former NYPD detective who is on leave after accidentally killing another officer in the line of duty. Desperate to reconnect with his family, who have started distancing themselves from him, Ben takes on a night job at an old burned down department store called The Mayflower, where 29 people died and countless others were injured during a terrible fire. Almost immediately, Ben starts seeing things in the mirrors that cover every inch of the store. He sees distortions in his reflection, movement that isn't there in reality and even entire people. Eventually, he realizes that the entities in the mirrors are urging him to find a person for them - someone of the name 'Esseker'. Ben begins frantically searching for this person in a desperate attempt to save his family from whatever malevolent forces are behind the mirrors. His journeys take him to rural Pennsylvania, where he meets a woman who was once stricken with the same demons that live inside the mirrors. As Ben pleads with her to come back and help him, the mirrors at his family's home start playing tricks with them as well. "Mirrors" takes such a common household object and turns it into nothing short of a nightmare. Imagine how terrifying it would be to know that anywhere you can see your reflection could potentially be your end.
What makes Alexandre Aja a favorite of mine, as a horror director, is that he is a student of old school 1970's horror. His influences seem to range from classic Dario Argento to more modern Wes Craven and John Carpenter. "Mirrors" opens with a musical score that seems like it could have been straight out of "Deep Red" or "Suspiria". The graphic imagery in the film seems like it was borrowed from both Clive Barker's imagination and Wes Craven's early sense of visceral horror. I even detected a little early Cronenberg influence on the pacing and the set-up of the film. By the end of the film, I was convinced Aja was a massive fan of both "Videodrone" and "Scanners". But don't think that Aja is merely copying from all of the masters. He's not. He's borrowing bits and pieces here and there but crafting it within his own unique vision as a horror director. There is something dreamlike and shimmering about his horror - something very fantastical. He directs like Stephen King writes. I would love to see Aja tackle a King story of maybe a Clive Barker story because I think he could do one hell of a job with that kind of material. "Mirrors" spins a web almost like a fairy tale, but comes out more like an extended "Twilight Zone" episode, which is not a bad thing at all. Deep down, there is even a moral. Just like in an Argento picture.
In the most complete performances he's given in quite a while on screen, Kiefer Sutherland does a fine job conveying all the panic and chaos associated with someone who basically has his entire life jerked out from underneath him. Sutherland has this very honest presence on screen and you always get the feeling that he's going to get to the bottom of whatever the problem is. I was very impressed with how well he handled his emotional scenes also, which is where I feel he has been lax in the past with performances. Paula Patton doesn't really do anything special with her role as the long-suffering wife, and I didn't really believe her turmoil as I watched it unfold. I kept thinking what a great job someone like Maria Bello or Rachel Weisz could have done with that character, but I don't see them accepting a role in this kind of horror film, which is a shame. Mary Beth Peil, a great character actress, has a brief, but effective, role as Sister Anna and Amy Smart has a small role as Sutherland's sister, though her presence in the film is really only to set up one of the most shocking, unexpected and brutal on screen deaths I have seen in quite some time. That was the same kind of sensibility that Argento had with his actors in films. He would take a popular or very recognizable actor and have them killed in an atrocious way for effect, and nothing more. It felt like Aja was doing the same thing here and I think he pulled it off in a big way.
There are going to be lots of people out there who hate "Mirrors", and they will hate the film for a lot of the same reasons that I loved the film. I appreciated Aja's attempt to deliver a classic 70's style horror film, in the tradition of "Suspiria", "The Exorcist" and "Scanners". I appreciate that he doesn't hold back on the visual aspects of his horror, just like Clive Barker refused to do with his "Hellraiser" films and just like "The Midnight Meat Train" refused to do earlier this year. If I had one complaint with the gore it was that I thought too much CGI was used and not enough of the practical gore effects that I love so much. Alexandre Aja continues to build his resume in the world of horror and I've yet to be disappointed with one of his efforts. Along with Neil Marshall and Larry Fessender, Alexandre Aja has become one of the new horror talents of the last few years. Marshall is following more of a Carpenter path; Fessenden is hot on the heels of Cronenberg; and I think that Alexandre Aja is going to end up taking the Wes Craven route more than anything else. "Mirrors" is one of the most entertaining and well crafted horror films of the year. It showcases Aja's unique visual style and ability to take the ordinary and transform them into the terrifying. If you are not a fan of Aja's work, let me say - this is his best and most complete film to date.
The Red Clover
- added 08/20/2008, 01:15 PM
I would give this film a 10/10 for sheer plot
alone but the visuals are absolutely fantastic and
any decent connoisseur of the horror genre can see
that Aja is really beginning to come into his own.
Aja reminds me a lot of Guillermo del Toro in the
sense that no one knew what the man was capable of
until they handed him some money and let him work
comfortably and a few years later we see Guillermo
guilty of such films like "Pan's
Labyrinth," and "Hellboy 2."
grain of sand
- added 10/16/2008, 04:35 PM
That jaw scene.. I didn't think it would look
THAT good when executed..
some slow moments and cheesy lines but overall
this was Aja's best. Can't wait to see what he
does in the future.
- added 12/27/2008, 04:15 PM
The original was a good movie - not a great movie
and not a classic, but a good movie nonetheless.
This... this wasn't a bad movie, but it didn't
live up to the original either. The problem is
that the original came up with an inventive
concept (the mirrors), used it to tell a damned
fine story which just happened to be wrapped up in
a clichéd ghost story, and then capped it
off with a twist that was downright shocking.
Here, we get the same concept which is used to
pump out the same clichéd ghost story
without the "damned fine story", and
it's then capped off with the same basic ending...
the problem is that this version of the story is
missing all of the storyline that explained what
the ending actually meant. You can guess, sure,
and you might be able to put together a couple
pieces of the puzzle if you pay attention to key
moments in the film, but doing both of those still
won't do the storyline justice because entire
pieces are flat-out missing.
if somebody remade The Sixth Sense and had the
character played by Bruce Willis talking with his
wife and every other random person that came along
throughout the film... and then used the same
"He was dead all along!" twist ending.
You'd get what they were going for and there may
have been other clues to support this twist, but
it really wouldn't make sense - that is what
Again, it wasn't a
horrible movie (and again, the original wasn't
perfect) - I totally agree that Kiefer Sutherland
turned in a great performance, and the storyline
changes weren't all horrible. I also liked the
gore effects (even though the original did the
actual mirror effects infinitely better) and
thought that Kiefer's character was written
better, but that ending really hurt the film in my
I think a 6.5/10
sounds about right - much better than the original
in some ways, much worse in others, but it wasn't
a better overall film.
- added 02/16/2009, 10:23 AM
Man, I just didn't care too much for this movie.
I'm a fan of Aja's and I loved his two previous
films but I think this is just....blah. Granted
there were some creepy moments but overall, I
thought it was bland and a bit boring. Plus, I am
NOT a big fan of Kiefer Sutherland either. Maybe
I just went in expecting so much more.... I'd
give it maybe a 5/10 at best.
- added 06/01/2010, 02:56 PM
Meh, it was ok. It had a couple of good scenes,
but the last couple of minutes just sucked to me.