28 August 2008

At the movies: Mirrors

This one was a catastrophic disappointment. I've been on the Alexandre Aja train ever since Haute Tension, and I maintain that it's a work of damned near genius. His The Hills Have Eyes remake was a bloodthirsty and brilliant rethinking, and I'm eagerly anticipating his 3-D take on Piranha. But this effort, a julienning of the Korean film Geoul sokeuro and Poltergeist III, is just not up to snuff.

Kiefer Sutherland, sidelined as Jack Bauer due to the writer's strike, is an alcoholic cop recovering from accidentally killing another cop. His family life is in turmoil, and he's crashing on his sister's couch and working as a night watchman in a creepy burnt-out edifice of a department store that was once a hospital.

Anyway, there's something evil in the mirrors. The explanations are ridiculous, the dialogue is just awful, and even Kiefer is in over his head. Some of the effects are great, but the gore is often too CG-based and the final confrontation is just stupid. The only part of the film that actually feels like an Aja movie is the opening pre-credits sequence, which uses the cinemascope frame and incidental reflections in a way which remains stylistically of a piece with his amazing work on Haute and Hills. The rest feels like something some studio execs stepped on (20th Century Fox, I call you out), and the main musical theme seems to be ripping off the same bolero that The Doors' "Spanish Caravan," Jam & Spoon featuring Plavka Lonich's "Right in the Night," Fantastic Planet's "Carry on Columbus," and the main theme to Don Coscarelli's Phantasm films all rip off.

The film is thirty minutes too long by far, and surprisingly boring, especially for an R-rated horror film. What really strikes me as odd is that for a film that rips off so much of Poltergeist III, it doesn't angle for any of the really creepy mirror stuff in that film.

I will give full credit for the remarkable set work that Romania's artisans helped craft- in particular, the edifice of the Mayflower department store is a marvel. But that doesn't make up for just under two hours of shock stabs and creepy light phenomena. There's some good moments and two really gory deaths. That's about it. I still have hope for Piranha 3-D, though.

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