French filmmaker Alexandre Aja proved in 2007-08 he was a bit obsessed with the idea of lonely, psychotic American security guards when he co-wrote "P2" -- about a crazed security guard stalking a gorgeous office worker -- and followed it by directing film, which at first looks like it's about an insane security guard (Keifer Sutherland) who thinks mirrors are out to get him.
His third big horror movie, "Mirrors" is at its very best during its first half when it looks like, maybe, the alcoholic ex-cop-turned-security-guard played by real-life alcoholic Keifer Sutherland may be stark raving mad.
A disgraced former officer and divorced Dad, he takes a job as a security guard of a creepy burned down shopping center. We learn during the film's opening minutes that life as a security guard can be pretty perilous, when another, far less good looking guard, is murdered by his reflection in a locker room. The reflection cuts its own throat and, in the outside real world, the guard's own throat is miraculously cut.
Inside the uber-creepy burned up mall -- which stands in the center of town while its owners wait to settle insurance matters -- Sutherland starts seeing and hearing things: A bloody ghost-like figure in the mirror. Meanwhile, things start getting more tense with his ex-wife who dumped him over his drinking problem. And with his little sister (uber hottie Amy Smart) whom he's living with.
Naturally, he starts seeing more and more strangeness in the mirrors -- and evil reflections start affecting his family too. His young son starts seeing a ghostly female figure in his mirror at home.
The ghostly goings on spur Sutherland into action. His ex-wife happens to work in the morgue's office, so he's able to inspect the body of the late guard that preceded him. His ex thinks he's crazy. He is, after all, on meds for alcoholism.
Things take a turn for the worse when, in the film's most well-known scene, Smart is killed off when her reflection rips open its own jaw.
That's when the film takes a downward plunge too. Because up to this point, it looks like Sutherland may be crazy -- schizophrenic. Maybe he killed his own sister. He acts like a serious madman, covering up his ex-wife's mirrors, even shooting one in her front yard. (An attempt to shoot a mirror at the mall only caused it to miraculously repair itself via CGI effects.)
When his wife starts seeing strange things too -- mainly their young son sticking around in a reflection when her real son leaves a room -- the movie devolves into a standard ghost story, with Sutherland looking for a mysterious person whose name appeared in broken glass on a mirror at work. Yes, as often happens in horror movies, he learns the mall was once the site of a hospital where evil experiments involving mirrors took place.
"Mirrors" definitely showcases Aja's horror movie directing chops. Alexandre Aja proves once again that he is the best horror movie maker working today. No one else is as consistently solid as he is in the genre. His scenes in the mall are genuinely chilling. Another one of Aja's obsessiosn, as evidenced by both this film and his "Hills Have Eyes" remake, is mannequins. Yes, mannequins can be very scary. And they're a pretty creepy in "Mirrors" too.
The film has the spirit of an '80s horror movie, with enough gore, visual style, fake shocks, hammy acting and unintentional humor to remind us why we love the genre. All that being said, this is still the lesser of Aja's three major horror films. Once it digresses into standard ghost story mystery territory, it loses some of its punch.
But it still packs plenty of punch. Aja made another good horror movie with "Mirrors." That's a bit of a disappointment, because we've become used to Aja only making great horror movies. But he can't hit the ball out of the park every time. "Mirrors" is good enough to make it worth a look.