Fox // Unrated // $39.99 // January 13, 2009
Review by Adam Tyner | posted January 17, 2009
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Graphical Version
"You've gotta be careful of the water -- it creates reflections!"

I know we're barely halfway through January and all, but the sight of Jack Bauer punching a rear view mirror has to wind up on a year-end best list somewhere.

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Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland) loves his family. He'll do anything to protect them, and if it means he has to whip out a pistol and shoot some mirrors -- three times! -- or waltz into his not-quite-ex-wife's house and slather every mirror, framed photo, and TV set in a coat of dull green paint, then dammit, that's what he's gonna do. Benny got the boot from the NYPD after gunning down an undercover cop, and he tried to drench the nightmares that tormented him afterwards in a thick layer of Kentucky bourbon. His wife Amy (Paula Patton) shoved him out the door, keeping Ben's two tykes out of arm's reach.

Mirrors picks up as Ben's piecing what's left of his life back together. It's rough-going, snoozing on his sister's couch (Amy Smart; as the sister, I mean, not the couch) and taking a kind of humiliating job skulking around the smoldering carcass of a department store as a security guard. The weird thing is that damn near everything inside the Mayflower is caked under a couple of inches of soot after the devastating fire that knocked off a couple dozen people a few years back, but every last one of the mirrors are gleaming and neatly polished. Hmmm.

After receiving a care package fat-packed with newspaper clippings about the fire from the schizophrenic schlub he replaced, Ben becomes obsessed with the history of the Mayflower, and...y'know, spooky reflections in the mirrors and being convinced he's engulfed in flames and all sure help prod on his investigation into its finger-wagglingly dark past. Turns out that the mirrors there don't reflect our world -- it's a window to a nefarious dimension where the folks there can mutilate themselves and slaughter their counterparts in this realm in the process. The mirrors want Ben to do their dirty work for 'em, and they'll butcher everyone he cares about to keep him in line.

It's kind of tough to write up a summary of a movie like Mirrors without it sounding like
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Amityville Dollhouse or something. It's really just a silly, ridiculous concept, and Alexandre Aja -- helming yet another remake, this time of a Korean spook flick I've never heard of -- never manages to hammer out anything resembling dread or suspense. Long, long stretches limp on without anything at all happening. The kills are cacklingly gory and sopping with the red stuff -- one poor bastard carves open his neck with a shard of a broken mirror, a nekkid broad's jaw is yanked off, there's a pan-seared titty, a kinda graphic autopsy, and even a couple of demon possessions -- but the body count is kept really low. If Mirrors had clocked in at 85 minutes or so, maybe it would've been able to better coast on that sort of graphic imagery, but just shy of two hours...? With nothing really going on but Jack Bauer strolling through a musty, underlit department store yet again or another scene of him painting over his kids' mirrors?

There's borderline-zero consistency with the "rules" about how the murderous mirrors work. Moments that I guess are meant to be unsettling -- mirrors repairing themselves after being peppered with bullets, Kiefer awkwardly barking as his reflection is consumed by goofy CGI flames -- score more of a laugh than a terrified shudder, and the stiff, stilted screenplay was clearly penned by a couple of English-as-a-second-language writers. It builds to a climax with an over-the-top, demon-fueled brawl that could've been nicked straight out of Army of Darkness, and please, don't reveal the shocking twist at the end of Mirrors, even if you saw it coming an hour and change in advance like the rest of the free world. Sure, Kiefer Sutherland goes balls-out in full Jack Bauer mode, but it's not even close to salvaging Mirrors, a lukewarm, half-thought-out detective story that shrugs its shoulders every once in a while and slathers the screen in stage blood. Skip It.

I may not think all that much of Alexandre Aja as a storyteller, but he does have a razor-sharp visual eye, and Mirrors' stylized photography looks as great as expected on Blu-ray. The film's scope image boasts a tight, gritty sheen of grain, a strong sense of texture and detail, and smooth gradients from one hue to the next. Mirrors' palette is somewhat cold and understated, in keeping with its bleak tone, and it appears to be rendered accurately on Blu-ray. Its 1080p video is culled directly from a digital intermediate, so as expected, there's no sign of any speckling or wear. There are a few scattered moments deep in the underbelly of the Mayflower where the grain loses its sense of texture and is heavily exaggerated, leaving the image looking noisy and unstable, and the robustness of its black levels can be kind of erratic as well. Otherwise, though, Mirrors looks terrific in high definition, admittedly rough and gritty but still boasting the sort of clarity and detail I'd hope to see in a day-and-date release.

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Mirrors' remarkably immersive 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack does a far better job establishing a dark mood and atmosphere than the movie's visuals or clumsy storytelling ever come close to accomplishing. The sound design boasts an impressively strong sense of directionality and is brimming with seamless pans enveloping the entire soundscape. Creaking doors, phantom screams, the deadly drips of tap water, and a decrepit building crumbling into ruin attack from every direction. Mirrors doesn't lean too heavily on the lower frequencies, but there are quite a few key moments that summon a hellish amount of bass from the subwoofer, rattling every square inch of the foundation. Dialogue is consistently reproduced cleanly and clearly throughout as well.

Mirrors also offers traditional Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in Spanish and French. The disc's selection of subtitles includes streams in English (SDH), Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean.

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This Blu-ray disc uses seamless branching to pile on both the theatrical version of Mirrors as well as a more gruesome unrated cut.
  • Anna Esseker - Hospital Footage (6 min.): The first of the disc's extras is an extended version of a faux-weathered flashback into Anna's less-than-cheery childhood.

  • Reflections - The Making of Mirrors (49 min.): Mirrors' impressively comprehensive making-of doc opens by discussing how this remake of the Korean film Into the Mirror came together and how delusional the suits behind the scenes were to think of this as a redux of Kubrick's The Shining (!?!?!?!?!?!). From there, "Reflections" tackles seemingly everything: Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur chucking out the disappointing screenplay they were handed to write their own, lining up a cast, the lavish production design of the Mayflower in Bucharest's sprawling, unfinished Academy of Sciences, torching a fully dressed department store, the challenges of shooting a film with so much in the way of mirrors and water, a detailed look into the design and execution of KNB's elaborate makeup effects, and even the editing and recording of its score. I may not have thought all that much of Mirrors as a film, but this is a quality documentary. It's also worth mentioning that there's a lot of chatter about what mirrors represent, ground that's further tread in the next of the disc's featurettes.

  • Behind the Mirror (18 min.): A small army of folklorists and the like discuss the ominous nature of mirrors in religion, urban legends, superstitions, mythology, and the occult, all the way from the story of Narcissus to, well...

  • Animated Storyboard Sequence (1 min.; HD): The disc's lone high definition extra, this cleanly-rendered snippet of animation runs through the grisly jaw-ripping sequence.

  • Deleted / Alternate Scenes (16 min.): This
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    reasonably lengthy deleted scenes reel is fairly top-heavy, belting out a slew of additions to the early part of the film that generally swirl around Ben's gig at the Mayflower. There are a couple of extensions to Mirrors' final moments, though, including an alternate ending, and a studio-mandated cut of the climax without the demon brawl has also been included. Writers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur offer optional commentary over all of this footage.

  • BonusView: Mirrors features two picture in picture options that are available exclusively on the theatrical cut of the film. (Annoyingly, the disc's menus make no mention of this, simply graying out the option to toggle BonusView on and off when browsing the extras for the unrated version.) One is a storyboard-to-screen comparison that sporadically overlays small scans of Alexandre Aja's storyboards over the lower-left-hand part of the frame.

    The other BonusView mode is a picture-in-picture commentary. Alexandre Aja and co-writer Gregory Levasseur offer their audio commentary as behind-the-scenes footage plays in a window in the lower-right corner of the screen. I like the commentary -- very personable and very chatty -- although there's so much overlap with the nearly hour-long making-of doc that there's no real point in sitting through both of them. Among the highlights in this commentary are online coroner chatrooms, actor Ezra Buzzington managing to appear in two of Aja's films without ever being directed by him, censor boards' very different reactions to the gore in the film, a nasty accident during one dramatic U-turn, and Aja's wife giving birth during the shooting of one key sequence.

    Although Fox did go to the extra effort of letting the BonusView footage be played individually to accommodate players that can't handle PiP extras, there's no way to listen to the audio commentary without using this feature. It's also worth noting that with the press of a button, this BonusView footage can fill the screen instead of just being played in a picture-in-picture window if you'd like a closer look.

  • Digital Copy: A second disc includes a digital copy of the movie for use on home computers, iPods, and iPhones.

The Final Word
Alexandre Aja's name plastered on a poster isn't a selling point these days so much as fair warning. Aja may have a keen visual eye, but he lacks any grasp at all as to how to construct a story or build any sense of dread or suspense, instead leaning sporadically on splatter as a crutch. Mirrors is an overlong, tedious detective story devoid of any sort of suspense and rarely even bothers with anything more than lazy jump scares. If your horror flick's going to be this lousy, at least slather on more of the red stuff. Mirrors does sport some pretty gruesome kills, but with a body count of...well, two up until the climax rolls around, don't expect much.

The movie's an embarrassment, sure, but Fox has assembled a pretty slick package for Mirrors on Blu-ray. If you caught the movie theatrically and dug it, I won't pretend to understand, but you'll probably find it worth a second look on Blu-ray. Me, though...? I wouldn't even bother with a couple of clicks on Netflix. Skip It.

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