HHigh Tension‘s linchpin may have been noxious psychological hokum, but at least Alexandre Aja’s debut tried to have more than simply gore and cheap scares on its mind. The same isn’t true of the director’s newest horror effort, Mirrors, a slab of shoddy, hollow rubbish that can’t be bothered to concoct imaginative frights or even tenuous bonds between its supernatural terror and its characters’ human drama. Aja and co-screenwriter Grégory Levasseur’s adaptation of Sung-ho Kim’s 2003 film Into the Mirror concerns a pill-popping detective named Ben (Kiefer Sutherland) who, after being suspended from the force for accidentally killing a fellow officer, takes a security guard job at a derelict NYC department store and finds himself menaced by the building’s mirrors. Estranged from his wife Amy (Paula Patton), struggling to stay on the wagon, and prone to fits of sudden rage, Ben is something of a Jack Torrance photocopy stuck in his own personal Overlook Hotel. Yet despite initially suggesting (at one point via a psychologist’s dreadfully expository speech) that Ben’s hang-ups might be the real cause of his strange visions, Aja quickly reveals this thread to be a red herring designed to eat up time before he can get to his more pressing interests: brutal nastiness (in this case, an admittedly disturbing shot of Amy Smart tearing her jaw apart), lifeless flashbacks to an unhinged girl in 1952, and demonic possession drivel that’s almost as silly as Sutherland’s sporadic, phoned-in Jack Bauer-ish exclamations. The film’s stiff performances can partly be blamed on a silly premise—no matter what he does, Aja can’t make evil mirrors (and the autonomous reflections they contain) very creepy—and lousy dialogue that leaves no obvious point unspoken. Aja is genre-conversant enough to establish a suitably unsettling mood but nonetheless fails to build a modicum of tension, with his latest ultimately characterized by encompassing laziness, from its mimicry of Christophe Gans’s Silent Hill aesthetics to a last act marked by insincere child-in-peril manipulations, narrative time-space impossibilities, and the reduction of Patton to cleavage in a wet shirt.
- Alexandre Aja
- Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur
- Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Cameron Boyce, Erica Gluck, Amy Smart, Mary Beth Peil
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