Here’s Why You Write: ‘Mirrors’
By Randal Stevens · August 31, 2010
WARNING: This blog contains spoilers, but spoilers for a shitty movie, so maybe it's best that you read the spoilers instead of actually seeing the movie.
I love horror movies. I always have and I always will. With a few exceptions, I hate horror remakes. Remakes are a dime a dozen and 9 out of 10 aren't even worth that dime. One remake that's not only worth checking out, but also better than the original, is Alexandre Aja's The Hills Have Eyes, a remake of the Wes Craven film from 1977. I've heard good things about Aja's American breakthrough, High Tension and Piranha 3D is supposed to be amazingly schlocky, so on paper, Aja was A-OK in my book and it was for this reason that I was actually fairly excited to watch his remake of Mirrors for the first time last night. However, now thanks to that shitty exercise in inconsistency, I can categorically say that Aja is no longer A-OK on paper.
Horror films need rules. These rules, largely unspoken, set the stakes for the characters, the motivations for the villains, the promises of safety, the guarantee of danger, etc. For instance, in A Nightmare on Elm Street, we know that Freddy Krueger uses dreams to hunt the teenage children of the parents who murdered him. In that brief description, we actually can infer quite a bit:
– We know what Krueger wants (to murder teenagers) and why (to seek vengeance on their parents for what they did to him).
– We know when his victims are in danger (when they're asleep) and when they're safe from danger (when they're awake).
– We also know, if not the specifics of the how, then the general idea behind how to defeat him (he must be beaten in the dream world).
Mirrors doesn't give a fuck about rules. Now, not adhering to rules can be awesome in a Mahatma Ghandi non-violent resistance sort of a way or a New Hollywood breaking the norms of the studio system sort of way, but there's a difference between purposely breaking free from paradigms and not knowing what the hell you're doing. Mirrors is neither an Indian spiritual leader nor an influential piece of art. Mirrors is a mainstream horror film and breaking the rules in that sense just makes it come off as an incoherent mess of happenings that frustrate and confuse en route to a nonsensical ending.
So the basic premise: Kiefer Sutherland is a security guard in a condemned building with demon possessed mirrors (seriously) that can kill you through your reflection. For instance, the opening scene in the film sees a security guard's neck split and spurt blood as his demonic reflection slits its throat with a piece of broken glass. The building, we learn, once used to be a psychiatric hospital and demons inhabit the mirrors after being placed there by a patient they used to possess. The reason they're so cranky is because they want her back.
Alright, so we've got our rules, right? We know how the demons got into the mirrors, we know that people are unsafe when looking in them, safe when they're covered, and how to appease them. Simple enough, right? "Wrong," Aja would say. "And fuck your mother" he also might add.
While the film starts with horrific things only occurring to those in front of mirrors, they soon extend to anyone, anywhere who may have looked in a mirror once. The film's most brutal kill, when Amy Smart gruesomely and completely rips off her own jaw, comes when she's lying across the room in the bath tub with her eyes closed. If victims don't have to be directly in front of a mirror, this would then imply that people are perpetually at risk once their demonic reflection has been created and there's nothing stopping potential victims' heads exploding anywhere at anytime no matter what they're doing. But that's not the case. In fact, only three people die during the film and one doesn't come until the film's very asinine conclusion, which I'll get to in a little bit.
You'd think this would also mean that it's only your own reflection that could hurt you and through about 80 minutes of the film's 110-minute runtime, that proves true. But then in Act III, the disembodied reflection of Kiefer's son slashes Kiefer's wife across the face. This raises a few questions, such as: How can there be a reflection when there isn't a body to reflect? Why isn't the reflection of Kiefer's wife tag-teaming with the reflection of Kiefer's son? If the murderous reflections aren't limited to just the demonic mirrors in the Mayflower department store, then couldn't anyone in the world's reflection murder them at any time? What did I do to Aja to make him hate me so much?
So finally we get through the film and the demons' original host, Anna Esseker, is brought back to the store where the demons re-inhabit her and her possessed body is murdered to hell by Kiefer. With no explanation as to why the demons even wanted to inhabit Esseker in the first place, it wouldn't be ridiculous to assume that this conclusion is a false and unsatisfactory one in which everything we've just seen could happen again. But then Aja has to go and really twist the knife in the side by having Kiefer emerge from the store and realize he's seeing everything backwards. "OMG," say the Diablo Cody fans, "he's in the mirror world now!!! WTF?!?!?" Why the fuck indeed, Mr. Aja, is Kiefer now stuck in the mirror world? He's saved the day, saved his family, redeemed his tattered reputation and for all his efforts, he's now stuck in the mirror world? How in the name of menstruation does that make ANY bleeding sense? That's kind of a down note, kick in the balls way to end a film. Just because you were dubbed a fellow "Splat Pack" member with Rob Zombie doesn't mean you need to add a hint of nihilism to your films like he does, Mr. Aja.