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Film / Mirrors

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"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.

The 1979 album by the Blue Öyster Cult, called Mirrors, is an entirely different thing even though some peculiarities of TV Tropes' formatting appear to have linked the two.

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.
  • 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 Mirror Demon 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 Closing Credits: Inverted. 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.
  • 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 once widespread belief 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 an otherworldly prison for the demon which originally inhabited Esseker. 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 and disturbing visions, images, and effects throughout it.
  • Evil Twin: Everyone's reflection. Special mention though must go to the menacing, sinister one for Angela just before it gives her a Jawbreaker 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. The audience is treated to a gory, many-minutes long scene in which first the mirror reflection, then Angela herself, literally gets her jawbone ripped off.
  • Fanservice: We get a good glance at Angela's — played by the ever-sexy Amy Smart — backside when she gets in the bath. This quickly escalates into Fan Disservice when her mirror twin rips her jaw off.
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • 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.
  • For the Evulz: The Mirror Demon revealing itself to Amy and tormenting the other Carsons seems like this, especially since Ben was getting closer than anyone before him to the truth in the search for Esseker.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hive Mind: Possibly. It's unclear if there's only one of the Mirror Demon, if there's multiple (it does appear to be able to produce multiple apparitions and be in many mirrors at different locations at once, towards the climax), or if the souls of the Demon's past victims are acting as its slaves in the mirrors.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happens to the demon possessing Anna in the end.
  • Jawbreaker: Poor Angela has this done to her by her own possessed reflection.
  • 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.
  • Large Ham: Ben, at times.
  • Leaking Can of Evil: Although the Mirror Monster is confined to the mirror world, it can influence the real world in malevolent and deadly ways from there. Also, though it seems to mainly reside in the abandoned Mayflower building, when it's stalking someone, it can appear in mirrors wherever they are.
  • 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 Attic: When Ben speaks to Anna's brother to find out how she came to be at St. Matthew's hospital, he learns she was originally held chained in the basement of her family's rural home to prevent her from mindlessly attacking anyone.
  • Magic Mirror: Played with. The mirrors themselves aren't magic, other than their ability to remain unbreakable (or, sometimes, to reform after being cracked/shattered), since this is only thanks to the demon and the murdered souls trapped within them—but this is also what allows the ghosts to haunt Ben and the demon to torment him/kill anyone whose reflection appears in them. Whatever it is that allowed the imprisonment (perhaps due to the nature of the room Dr. Kane built—see Shown Their Work), it isn't until the souls are freed and the demon is destroyed that the mirrors can finally be broken and their curse lifted.
  • Man on Fire: Ben's body is on fire in one of his mirror visions at Mayflower.
  • Mirror Monster: While those who died in the fire at Mayflower are rather terrifying whenever they appear to Ben/have their deaths re-enacted, it's the demon that actually acts as this trope, mainly by appearing as various characters' Evil Twins so as to cruelly and horrifically kill them.
  • Mirror Scare: And of course (it's even obligatory here because of the premise), there are plenty of scenes where someone (usually Ben, and the audience) is terrified by one of the ghosts or the demon's images suddenly appearing within the mirrors.
  • 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. Although 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.
    • It's unknown what exactly the Mirror Demon is or where it came from before originally possessing Esseker, or even if it's a single entity or actually Legion. A lot of its characteristics — Esseker's Demonic Possession symptoms, an extreme sadistic streak — befit your classic Hollywood demon, but apparently exorcists and faith-healers were completely useless at curing Esseker's possession. Suggesting the Mirror Demon is a non-Christian devil. Esseker likewise didn't answer when asked what the entity is. For all the audience knows, "demon" is only the most accurate way to describe its characteristics and malevolence, and the entity might actually be something else entirely.
  • Not Quite Dead: The re-possessed Esseker at the end of the film, and she/it bounces back at Ben from a lot of punishment. For all we know, she/it might still be alive in the rubble at the film's end and that body being taken out might've been Ben's.
  • 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: This gets taken to an extreme during the climax after Anna is re-possessed, since the character in question had gone into seclusion and become a nun to try atone for her past, only to then become a horrific monster courtesy of the mirror demon.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: During the opening credits.
  • Only Sane Man: Nobody believes Ben. Angela gets killed because she didn't listen.
  • Paranoia Fuel: In-Universe, 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.
  • Sadist: The Mirror Demon, in spades.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: The Torture Cellar used in St. Matthew's Hospital to cure Anna of possession is based on a spiritualist invention called a Psychomanteum, meant to be used for meditation to help one communicate with the spirits of the dead. At the same time it's an In-Universe example of Artistic License since Dr. Kane not only didn't consider what might happen if such a room were used on someone who was possessed, he didn't build it properly. note  This may explain why matters did not turn out well, to put it mildly, although even if it had been done right, trying to communicate with the spirit realm while suffering Demonic Possession probably would not have had happy results anyway.
  • Slashed Throat: This is how the Mirror Demon kills Gary Lewis in the opening scene. In the Unrated cut, Amy narrowly prevents her mirror duplicate from doing this to Daisy.
  • Slasher Smile: The Demon gives a few terrifying ones when possessing reflections.
  • Sympathetic Magic: The Mirror Demon inflicts harm on people in the real world by possessing their reflections and inflicting harm/self-harm on them, which their physical bodies immediately mirror. Alternatively, it can torture people by causing harm to their reflections which stimulates their pain receptors, without the physical harm translating onto their bodies.
  • 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.
  • Torture Cellar: It turns out the Mayflower department store, having been built on top of an old mental hospital, still has the old hospital's mirror room — where Esseker's doctor attempted to cure her Demonic Possession (mistaken for schizophrenia) by tying her to a chair and leaving her with nothing to look at but her own reflection in every direction for days — intact in its underground levels.
  • 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.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: After regaining form in the real world, the Mirror Demon immediately savagely terrorizes and attempts to murder Ben.
  • Wham Shot:
    • The iconic image from the page photo, as the true meaning of a handprint on the inside of a mirror sinks in...
    • 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.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: An early scene plus a deleted scene shows the Carsons have a pet cat, which does not like the Mirror Demon. It's not seen again beyond these scenes, so it's unknown what happened to it when the Mirror Demon attacked.
  • 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. invoked 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.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: According to Esseker, the Mirror Demon collects the souls of the people it murders, putting it in the Drained After Death variety. Makes you wonder how many of the times Ben saw dead people if it was really them rather than the Mirror Demon mirroring them.

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.
  • Deadly Bath: Or deadly shower, as it turns out.
  • 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.