Mirrors 1 & 2
Mirrors (March 14/09)
Despite its myriad of deficiencies, Mirrors ultimately sets itself apart from its underwhelming Asian-horror-remake brethren thanks primarily to Alexandre Aja's stylish visuals and Kiefer Sutherland's engaging central performance. Sutherland stars as Ben Carson, a disgraced police officer who begins noticing (and experiencing) odd occurrences after taking on a job as a security guard for a dilapidated department store. It's a premise that's generally employed to promising effect by Aja, as the filmmaker does a nice job of punctuating the deliberately-paced proceedings with appreciatively gruesome instances of gore. There reaches a point, however, at which the film's inherently derivative mystery becomes increasingly tiresome, with Ben's ongoing investigation into the central villain's origins ensuring that the third act inevitably (and lamentably) progresses at a virtual crawl. The less-than-satisfying explanation behind the demonic apparition's modus operandi cements the needlessness of the almost relentless exposition, while the action-packed climax simply feels out of place compared to the relatively low-key nature of everything that preceded it. Shorn of a good half hour, Mirrors surely would've fared a whole lot better - yet there's little doubt that the movie, anchored by some seriously impressive kill sequences (ie Amy Smart's now-indelible jaw-ripping interlude), is often far more entertaining than it has any right to be.
Picking up some time after the events of the first film, Mirrors 2 follows Nick Stahl's Max Matheson as he reluctantly agrees to become a security guard for a large department store and subsequently finds himself tormented by visions within the building's many mirrors. Director Victor Garcia has infused Mirrors 2 with a bland visual sensibility that's consistently exacerbated by Matt Venne's less-than-impressive screenplay, which ensures that the movie tends to flounder in between its increasingly sparse gore sequences (yet even in this respect the movie is unable to live up to the impressively brutal standard set by Alexandre Aja's original). And although Stahl's expectedly rock-solid work remains a highlight from start to finish, the movie suffers from a pervasive lack of compelling characters that ultimately dampens the effectiveness of its mystery (which is, to be fair, slightly more intriguing than the lackluster and surprisingly complex ghost-related riddle at the heart of the first film). It's also worth noting that the unusually deliberate pace that dominates the movie's midsection slowly-but-surely drains one's interest in the far-from-enthralling material, while the climactic revelation behind the spirit's origins is something of a letdown and rather silly (ie that character just happened to be carrying around the date-rape drug with them?) The end result is a typically underwhelming low-budget sequel, although there's admittedly little doubt that one could certainly do a whole lot worse within the straight-to-video horror realm.