A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this brutal horror movie is graphically, grotesquely, and grimly violent, featuring extensive sequences of special-effects gore. Disturbing, gory images are lingered over, and the film's magical-mirror plotline -- in which mystical reflection images are recreated in the real world -- means that, in many cases, viewers literally get to see the same horrifically violent acts twice. There's also a demonic-possession element to the plot, as well as a bit of sexuality, some strong language, and references to a drinking problem.
What's the story?
Haunted by doubt and guilt after accidentally killing an undercover officer, suspended NYPD detective Ben Carson's (Kiefer Sutherland) marriage is shattered, and he's forced to take a nighttime security guard position at the burnt-out wreckage of a department store in hopes that he might be able to move on from crashing with his sister, Angela (Amy Smart). As Ben tours the ruins each night, he starts seeing grim, grisly visions in the store's mirrors -- visions that somehow leap from the glass into the real world. As the malevolent force behind the mirrors poses an increasing threat to Ben's friends and family, he has to unravel the mystery of the force hidden behind the mirrors ... and ask himself whether satisfying the force's demands will really end the threat to his family.
Is it any good?
Helmed by French horror director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, High Tension), MIRRORS is long on gore and short on plot. Ben flails, freaks out, and fumbles around trying to decipher the visions and messages he's receiving from the mystical dimension behind the mirrors. (The department store, it seems, used to be a hospital, and the past treatment of a schizophrenic girl lies at the heart of the mystery.)
Even as Ben frantically tries to keep his estranged wife (Paula Patton) and children safe, Mirrors doesn't do much to make viewers care; the mirror visions are so powerful that they can't be ignored or denied, which means that the film simply limps from one bloody sequence to another. Aja's other horror films, while also grisly, had a certain style to them; in Mirrors, the slack plot is just an excuse for a series of gory, violent moments that the film lingers on lovingly. Mirrors has plenty of spooks and scares and special effects; what it doesn't have is much of a plot -- or characters worth caring about.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the nature and character of bloody horror films. Why does Hollywood make them, and what purpose do they serve? This movie -- like The Ring, The Grudge, and Pulse -- is a remake of an Asian horror film; why has Hollywood found Asian horror films so worthy of re-visitation over the past few years? Do violent horror films release negative emotional energy or create it? Can violent, graphic images in films like this desensitize viewers? Does it matter whether the goriness seems "over the top"?
- In theaters: August 15, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: January 12, 2009
- Cast: Amy Smart, Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton
- Director: Alexandre Aja
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity.
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