Friday, August 22, 2008

Summer Movies 9: Mirrors

I’ve been lax in updating. August Ennui is partially to blame. Most of the good summer TV shows are wrapped and we’re still weeks away from finding out which romantic partners Serena, Betty, and Luke will choose. (If any. My unspoiled-but-I-watch-a-lot-of-TV guess is that Betty will pull an “I choose me” and OTH will be a fakeout with Lucas marrying Brooke for wacky legal reasons.) As for movies, we’re in the lull between the summer blockbusters and the fall thrillers. For pop culture, August blows. But another factor is that I just started a new temp job with Draconian internet rules. They also indulge in keystroke monitoring, meaning that when covertly I log into my Gmail account during the day, I feel compelled to assemble the password via cutting and pasting letters from random documents I’m working on – the internet equivalent of snipping letters out of magazines for a ransom note, though in this instance someone’s life isn’t at stake, just my sanity. At any rate, at least one of these issues will be resolved in a couple of weeks. September will herald the return of pop culture, and if I’m lucky, I’ll finally land a real job and be able to stop with the brain-liquifying temping.

But all is not dead in pop culture land. Last week, I went to go see Mirrors, Splat Packer Alex Aja’s latest horror flick. I love horror movies, but I’m not really a fan of the torture porn genre. I thought the first Saw was okay, the second one was brilliant, and the rest are just weird. And Hostel, whatever. Gruesome death and torture scenes don’t scare me, though I do have to admit that eye-gouging does majorly squick me out. The only scary movies that really get under my skin are ghost stories. Because every other monster can be killed, outrun, hidden from, but ghosts? Not so much. It’s the Freddy vs. Jason syndrome. If you really put your mind to it, you can get away from Jason – hop a plane, hole up in a panic room, learn to run in a straight line without looking back every two seconds and tripping over your own feet as he lumbers behind you. But Freddy will fuck your shit up the instant you go beddy-bye. Which is why I think Splat Pack movies that incorporate the supernatural, like James Wan’s Dead Silence, work better than movies like Aja’s earlier remake of The Hills Have Eyes. So I was excited for Mirrors, and for the most part it didn’t disappoint.

Okay, the torture porn components were somewhat present. Old habits and all. But mostly, Mirrors is a solid, classic spooker. Kiefer does what Kiefer does best, playing Badass Family Man With Issues. There’s a ton of jump moments that got most of our (surprisingly not crowded for a Friday) theatre screaming. And for Bechdel watchers, there are four solid female characters. And okay, Amy Smart’s character is pretty much only there for the bathroom scene and to light a fire under Kiefer’s ass when it comes time to vanquish the baddies, but she’s actually a well-rounded character, not stupid or shrewish or slutty in the way cannon fodder female characters are sometimes depicted in horror movies.

As for the plot, it’s pretty tight. Standard horror movie fare well done, predictable in some places, but it does pull a few surprises out of the dark. And the visuals are spectacular. Most of the film is set in the burned out ruins of a department store, all that’s left of a fire that killed a couple dozen innocent shoppers. Singed mannequins lurk around the miraculously-untouched mirrors – the setting feels unsettlingly alive well before the first “boo!” moment. The final fight is tonally weird compared to the rest of the movie, but the ending itself is quite clever. Mirrors isn’t necessarily a Must See in the Theatres movie unless you’re a horror flick freak, but it’s absolutely worth catching when it comes out on DVD. After all, anyone who’s ever played Bloody Mary at a slumber party knows how effing creepy mirrors can be.

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