Ben learns the (first) secret of the mirrors and gets a Foreshadowing of his own fate
You get a lot of suicide cases where people have slashed their own throats? Didn't think so.Mirrors
is a 2008 horror film directed by Alexandre Aja
, and stars Kiefer Sutherland
. The film was first titled Into the Mirror
, but the name was later changed to Mirrors
. Filming began on May 1, 2007, and it was released in American theaters on August 15, 2008.
The film was originally scripted as a straightforward remake of the 2003 South Korean horror film Into the Mirror
, which is rated PG. However, once Aja was brought on board and read the script, he was dissatisfied with the particulars of the original film's story. He decided to retain the original film's basic idea involving mirrors, and to incorporate a few of its scenes, but otherwise crafted a new story and script for his version of the movie. Mirrors
is the first Aja film to achieve an R rating without the need for scenes to be cut.
The movie follows Ben, a former police officer, as he takes an overnight security guard position in a burned-down department store. As might be expected
, an evil force in the mirrors takes the form of your reflection, and whatever harm it imposes on itself happens to the real person. Now Ben has to figure out how to stop it before it kills his family, then him.
A direct-to-DVD sequel was released in 2010, apparently unrelated to the events of the first one. When Max, who is recovering from a traumatic accident, takes a job as a nighttime security guard, he begins to see visions of a young mysterious woman in the store's mirror.
This film provides examples of:
- Abandoned Hospital: What Mayflower was before it became a department store. Complete with rooms sealed in the basement where disturbing psychiatric experiments were carried out, and a massacre of the inmates which led to its closing.
- The Alcoholic: Ben, thanks to the accidental shooting that torpedoed his career.
- All Just a Dream: Ben experiences this several times in the burned-down department store. Most notably, he was set on fire for several seconds, then it all just went away and he was totally unharmed. On the other hand, after one of the mirrors cracks and cuts his hand, it is suddenly whole again...but his hand is still injured. Your Mind Makes It Real?
- And I Must Scream: The fates of all the mirror victims now trapped within them, and Ben himself at the end.
- Another Dimension: And everything is backwards.
- Attack of the Killer Whatever: The mirror demon, especially when it is yanked into the physical world.
- Bittersweet Ending/Downer Ending: On one hand, Ben's family is safe from harm. On the other hand, Ben himself is trapped in the mirror world.
- Body Horror: All deaths the mirrors caused. Oh, and the nun/Esseker thing.
- The Cameo: Julian Glover as Anna's older brother who tells Ben her history.
- Cassandra Truth: "You'd never believe me."
- Creative Opening Credits: All the scenes of New York shown during the opening credits are depicted as mirror images constantly shifting, changing shape, joining, and splitting apart, with the text also appearing both backwards and forwards. This could be considered Foreshadowing of what happens to Ben at the end.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Everyone who died in this movie. Eesh.
- Demonic Possession: Anna's original issue, which she must face again in order to free the souls of the trapped spirits. Is likely a nod to the original, now-outdated religious notion that people with mental disorders were possessed by demons. Only here, it's true.
- Dramatic Shattering: As might be expected in a movie about (evil) mirrors. Both the normal version (when Anna lets herself get re-possessed in the Mad Scientist's mirror chamber) and a version with a Moment of Silence (when all the spirits are freed) occur.
- Eldritch Location: The Mayflower department store has become this thanks to Demonic Possession and being an otherworldly prison for the ghosts of those who have died there. While the store itself doesn't have any strange geometry (though being burned out it is quite creepy), The Maze of tunnels beneath it is rather unsettling and the Demonic Possession allows for many strange visions, images, and effects throughout it, including some very disturbing All Just a Dream/That Was Not A Dream sequences.
- Evil Twin: Everyone's reflection. Special mention though must go to the menacing, sinister one for Angela just before it gives her a Jaw Breaker and Michael's when Amy sees it in the water.
- Exposition: The shooting that took Ben off the force (another cop he killed while undercover, as it turns out) is first revealed through a headline on a newspaper stuffed among his belongings, then hinted at with Lorenzo. This is to replace a Deleted Scene where instead his former partner explained about the shooting (and directed Ben to the job offer at Mayflower).
- Facial Horror: Angela's death.
- Fatal Family Photo: Played with. By the time Ben shows his family photo to Anna, we already know they are in grave danger; showing her the photo was meant to garner her sympathy so as to prevent their deaths. At first it doesn't seem to work, but eventually it does.
- Fate Worse Than Death: Ben ends up trapped in a mirror world, seemingly unable to return, where nobody can sense him.
- The very first time the audience sees Ben, it's in a reflection (on his TV screen).
- Ben's reflection appearing inside the mirrors as an overlay while he's standing outside looking at the building.
- When Ben says goodbye to Amy before heading off to find Esseker he puts his hand up on the car window just like the mirror handprint.
- Genre Shift: Most of the movie is a horror film, plain and simple. However, the 15 minutes where Ben holds a nun at gunpoint, saying, "My family will not die today," then engaging in a gun/fistfight with the demon yanked from the mirror, seemed far more like a cross between 24 and Mortal Kombat. Also, much of the story which is not action or horror plays off as a cross between a mystery and a psychological thriller. (The latter is especially apparent when, apart from the scenes the viewer sees of Angela's death and Michael seeing the burning woman in the mirror, it isn't clear whether the supernatural events are real or all in Ben's head, and those of each of the night watchmen before him.)
- Ghostly Goals: Of both types. Type A are the ghosts trapped in the mirrors who only wish to be freed so they can move on to the Afterlife; although disturbing and frightening (particularly when recreating their deaths for Ben), they mean no harm and are mostly innocent.note Type B is the demon who killed and trapped them, which simply wants to get free and possess a body so as to once more torment and murder with impunity (although it also wants, perhaps even needs, a particular person to possess).
- Glasgow Grin: Angela's reflection kills Angela by giving her one of these WITH HER BARE HANDS.
- Gone Horribly Right: Dr. Kane's experiments at St. Matthew's hospital. He just wanted to rid Anna of her demons. He did, all right, literally—but what he didn't realize is they were real, not merely a psychological disorder, so that when the demon became trapped in the mirrors, it was able to force all the inmates to kill each other and cause the closure of the hospital. By implication this even leads to his own death while awaiting trial for his unethical practices (with a shard of mirror, of course).
- Gory Discretion Shot: Invariably averted. We see everything. And because deaths always happen in front of a mirror, we see everything from different angles.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: Oh those mirrors.
- Haunted House Historian: Played with. While Lorenzo tells Ben about the fire and even drops the helpful hint about it once being an Abandoned Hospital, he otherwise only vaguely mentions "the things that happened here" to make people not want to shop at the Mayflower if it were restored. It's up to Ben and his ex-partner to actually learn the true history of the place.
- Heroic Sacrifice: In the alternate ending, Michael is saved because Ben encounters him in the water and pushes him back out to the real world. It is implied this might be why he ends up in the mirror world at the end, because he took his place.
- Anna too, by agreeing to let the demon back into her in order to free all those trapped in the mirrors (and then destroy the demon, hopefully, with her death).
- High Turnover Rate: The night watchman position at Mayflower is certainly cursed. While we don't know exactly how many employees they went through before Ben, there were at least two: Gary Lewis, whose death begins the movie, and Terrence Berry who burned down the store because the mirrors murdered his family. Occurs because none of them until Ben manage to decipher the name "Esseker" so as to figure out how to end the haunting.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happens to the demon possessing Anna in the end.
- Jaw Breaker: One of the deaths.
- Kill It with Fire: The department store was burned down in an attempt to defeat the evil in the mirrors, with the logic that fire is the only way to truly destroy a mirror. It doesn't work, although it does do a pretty good job of nearly killing re-possessed Anna.
- Leitmotif: "Asturias" appears at various points throughout the movie to emphasize the ominous and disturbing nature of events, each iteration a bit more frantic...
- Madness Mantra: Gary Lewis, and all the night watchmen before him, either created a Room Full of Crazy, left a Dying Clue, or tried to pass on verbal messages (of varying degrees of sanity) to both explain their actions and get someone to help free the trapped spirits: Esseker. It isn't until Ben with his policeman's skills (and his friend on the force doing some clandestine digging in the records) that anyone is able to figure out what it actually means, then put the pieces together and track it down so they can resolve the Unfinished Business/Ghostly Goals of Mayflower.
- On a related note, Gary at least seems to have come to the erroneous conclusion that what the mirrors want is to be properly taken care of, since just before his death he tries to apologize for trying to "escape" them and then proceeds to madly clean and polish the mirrors to make amends. Lorenzo later explains he became obsessed with polishing and cleaning the ones in the store.
- Madwoman In The Cellar: Anna, originally.
- Man on Fire: Ben's body is on fire in one of his mirror visions at Mayflower.
- Magic Mirror: Please don't tell me you need this one explained to you.
- Mirror Monster: Or this one.
- Mirror Scare: Or this one. (It's even obligatory here because of the premise.)
- Moment of Silence: Used very effectively for Ben's reaction to Angie's death. Appears again, oddly enough, near the end when all the mirrors shatter, with the only sound being either a sad orchestral piece or a haunting chorus.
- Murderous Mannequin: While none of the Mayflower dummies come to life, even in their reflections, that doesn't stop them from being extraordinarily creepy.
- Must Make Amends: Although it was the fault of the Mad Scientist psychiatrist, not her, Anna was well aware that the demon within her had escaped into the mirrors, and learns that this has led to countless deaths, and might cause Ben to lose his family too. Althought she initially refuses to help Ben, after he forces her to go at gunpoint, she eventually agrees to return and absorb the demon back into her again. Helped along by her already being The Atoner (and having joined the church) for the things the demon made her do when she was possessed the first time.
- My Greatest Failure: The reason Ben needs a night watchman position in the first place, the accidental shooting that led to his removal from the force (until Angela and his old partner from the force do a bit of an intervention).
- Never Recycle a Building: Both subverted and played straight. Originally when St. Matthew's was closed due to the slaughter of its inmates (and the arrest and death of one of its doctors), the hospital was in fact recycled, bought and transformed into a department store by the Mayflower Corporation. (Plaques and friezes from it are even incorporated into the new design, and the psych ward in the basement is retained too, albeit sealed off.) But then after the fire the building is allowed to stand vacant, unrepaired and undemolished, despite being in New York City; the explanation given is that the insurance company is still fighting over whether and how much to pay for it.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: While it's clear the demon was doing so in order to frighten Amy and ratchet up the tension (as well as taunt her), allowing her to see Michael's reflection remaining in the mirror after he moved away convinced her Ben was telling the truth so that she would help him cover all the mirrors—something that made it much harder for it to get at her and the kids later. Although maybe the demon just liked the challenge, and the idea of them waiting in fear...
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: The day watchman actually says this when giving Ben a tour of the ruins. Although at the time he said this he didn't know the fate of Gary Lewis, the fact he speaks of "the things that happened here" and that he had to know the story of Terrence Berry probably makes this a case of downplaying the truth to keep from scaring him away.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Despite all of the gory deaths, the Mirror Monsters with their Mirror Scares, the disturbing imagery and the Demonic Possession, it's Ben's long, slow, quiet explorations of the burned-out Mayflower store (and the hidden tunnels from its Abandoned Hospital days) that provide some of the scariest and most suspenseful moments in the movie. The iconic image from the page photo is itself an example of this, as the true meaning of a handprint on the inside of a mirror sinks in. And at the very end of the movie, in the middle of what seems a normal street scene of cops, firemen, and emergency workers cleaning up after the battle with the demon is over, the scariest moments come when Ben, unable to get anyone to pay attention to him or even hear him, suddenly realizes all the signs and text he can see are backwards, and the very last shot of the movie...just another normal, bustling street scene with people going about their business, completely unaware of Ben's handprint on the window...
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: In a Deleted Scene, Amy learns from Daisy that Michael has an imaginary friend "inside the mirrors." The implication remains in the scene where he's talking to his reflection, but the Deleted Scene is creepy on its own, and makes the former scene even more so in retrospect.
- Nuns Are Spooky: Taken to an extreme, after Anna is re-possessed.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: During the opening credits. This and the effectively ominous, disturbing arrangement of the main theme itself, Isaac Albeniz's "Asturias", could be considered a Crowning Music of Awesome.
- Only Sane Man: Nobody believes Ben. Angela gets killed because she didn't listen.
- Paranoia Fuel: In-story, Ben's reaction to mirrors being everywhere around him, particularly during the breakdown scene where he tries to cover them all, is considered this by everyone else, especially his wife. Of course as the audience knows and his wife discovers, he's Properly Paranoid.
- Slashed Throat: This is how the mirrors kill Gary Lewis in the opening scene.
- Averted when Amy rescues Michael from his reflection attempting to do this to him.
- Switched in the Unrated cut where Amy prevents her mirror duplicate from doing this to Daisy.
- Slasher Smile: Michael gives a rather terrifying one in his reflection in the water, just before he slices Amy's cheek.
- Tomato in the Mirror: Literally (in the case of the mirror aspect, not being a tomato) for Ben discovering at the end that he is trapped in the mirror world.
- Twist Ending: After killing demon-possessed Anna, saving his family, and freeing the spirits trapped in the mirrors, Ben ends up trapped in them himself. Alone. Forever.
- Originally there was also going to be another twist where Ben's body sits up in the ambulance, now possessed by the demon since his soul is in the mirrors. This would have made the ending a complete Downer Ending, considering what would have happened when 'he' went home to his family...
- Typecasting: You have to believe the writers did this to Kiefer Sutherland, given that the character he played basically turned into Jack Bauer in the final 20 minutes.
- Up to Eleven: All the ways the mirrors kill or attempt to kill anyone.
- Wham Shot: Although the very last shot of the movie is one of these as well, that's just the ultimate denouement. The real Wham Shot begins when Ben, after escaping from the battle with the demon, tries to get the cops, firemen, and emergency workers to pay attention to him...and then sees the backward text on one cop's badge. The camera lingers on this before flashing to all other signs and text in the scene, showing the same thing.
- Write Back to the Future: Somehow, before he dies and before Ben ever applies for the night watchman job, Gary Lewis gets hold of Ben's address and sends him a package (delivered posthumously) containing clippings about the Mayflower fire. Or else he was made to send it by his reflection, using future foreknowledge the demon possessed...
- You Have to Believe Me: The whole scene where Ben is first covering the mirrors and trying to explain to his wife, but especially when he shoots a mirror, thinking it will repair itself like the ones in the store.
The sequel contains examples of
- Asshole Victim / Karmic Death: All of the mirror's victims in the sequel died because their attempt to slander/rape a new employee backfired, leading to her murder at the hands of one of them. The girl in the mirror is her spirit trying to get revenge.
- Fanservice: Christy Carlson Romano is completely naked and taking a shower.
- Gory Discretion Shot / Sound-Only Death: Whatever Eleanor does to her killer once she gets her hands on him, it's apparently so ghastly that all we're allowed to see are blood splatters on the the other side of the mirror accompanied by his blood-curdling screams. The mirror shatters soon after.
- Off With Her Head!: Jenna's death in the shower.
- Rape as Backstory
- The Reveal: That dead woman in the mirror? You know, the one who's going around torturing/slaughtering everyone to death? She's the vengeful spirit of the new employee who died thanks to several characters trying to slander her by drugging and raping her, with one of them strangling her to death and then conspiring with the others to cover it up.