The Transparency of ‘Mirrors’

8 09 2008

“Mirrors” 2008

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Amy Smart

“Mirrors” succeeds in achieving the effect it intends to. The opening scene is terrifying and repulsive. The rest of the film is nothing more than a sequence of terrifying and repulsive scenes, strung together by a mystery that seems a bit like an afterthought. The reason behind the mirrors’ revolt is ultimately irrelevant. The point is that the revolt of the mirrors gives the filmmaker plenty of opportunities to show us all the grotesque things that the mirrors can make us do.

The success of this film depends entirely on the audience’s suspension of disbelief. No logical person would behave as Ben (Kiefer Sutherland) does. The moment you see your reflection make a movement that does not mirror your own, you panic. Then you rationalize. What you thought you saw was not what you actually saw. If you happen to be on “pretty strong” medication, as Ben is in “Mirrors,” you have a perfectly acceptable explanation for why you might be hallucinating. If hallucinations persist, you check yourself into a psychiatric hospital and brace yourself for a long mental cleansing.

Ben does just the opposite. He behaves like a once-sane person slipping willingly into delusion. He does not ask questions about the likelihood that the images he sees are in fact illusions, and continues to pursue them, in typical thriller-flick fashion. It is always after darkness has fallen, it seems, that he enters the haunted department store where much of the initial terror took place. It begs us to wonder if the phantoms might have terrorized so effectively, without the darkness to disorient the intruder. If Ben had entered the house of mirrors during daylight hours, he might easily have found the passageway that held the clues necessary to solve the mystery that lies at the center of the film. As in so many other second-rate thrillers, the darkness is used as a plot device, to delay the inevitable discovery, and to elicit a building apprehension in the audience. The ending, also in typical B-horror film fashion, finds a way to reproduce the original problem, leaving the audience with the feeling that the entire process will continue to repeat itself. It is unclear how or why it happened, which makes it that much more unsatisfying.

Kiefer Sutherland has found great success in his role as Jack Bauer in television’s “24.” His willingness to star in a film like “Mirrors” leaves little question about his pursuit for a paycheck. His true fans will hope he chooses a bit more wisely in the future.
“Mirrors” is preposterous and forgettable. But if its only objective is to elicit terror and disgust, it gets the job done.

♦♦

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