In this psycho-horror movie made during the hiatus of his hit TV series, Kiefer Sutherland plays a variant of his Jack Bauer character—except that this time, it’s the audience he tortures, and he fails to defuse the bomb—the movie, that is. “Mirrors” is a sort-of-but-not-quite remake of Sung-ho Kim’s Korean 2003 ghost thriller “Geoul sokeuro,” but it’s been refashioned substantially by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, whose “High Tension” and “Hills Have Eyes” retread some may recall with—well, not affection, one hopes, but at least gratitude for the temporary satisfaction they provided for their bloodlust. Unfortunately, it’s more likely to recall their last movie, the atrocious and idiotic “P2,” instead.
In the picture, Sutherland plays Ben Carson, a troubled ex-cop, racked with guilt over his shooting of another policeman during an undercover operation and given to hitting the sauce, who becomes security chief at the ruin of a NYC department store that was shuttered five years earlier after a terrible fire that claimed many victims. (The fact that English isn’t the scripters’ native tongue is suggested by the old newspaper headlines dealing with the tragedy, which refer not to “dead and injured” but “dead and wounded.”) Unfortunately, he finds that vengeful spirits reach out and touch living souls through the numerous mirrors in the place, and apparently he can carry the contagion away from the site with him—endangering his sister Angie (Amy Smart), in whose apartment he’s crashing, and his estranged wife Amy (Paula Patton) and their kids Michael (Cameron Boyce) and Daisy (Erica Gluck), since he still occasionally visits their house.
It’s difficult to get over the ludicrous notion that a prime property in midtown Manhattan would be left to rot for five years; and as designed by Joseph C. Nemec III, the interior of the place—complete with draperies, plastic mannequins and clothing, looks nothing whatever like an area that had been gutted by fire. But after you swallow all that, things really get loony. You might think the spectral nasties were the poltergeisty remnants of the victims, but that would be too easy for the Aja-Levasseur team. Instead they dream up an increasingly ludicrous scenario that involves a shuttered psychiatric facility once housed in the building that was turned into the department store (whose torture-chamber experiment room, festooned with more mirrors than in the final scene of “The Lady from Shanghai,” was somehow spared from the remodeling) and a very old case of demonic possession that was misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. The clues take intrepid Ben to a Pennsylvania farmhouse inhabited by an oddball red-herring family and ultimately to a convent of nuns that’s mistakenly referred to repeatedly as a monastery (you’d think that the writers, French and presumably Catholic, would know better). Meanwhile his family is being attacked by spirits that employ not only mirrors but water, the old standby that seems obligatory in every Asian ghost flick. A concluding twist is one of those “so what?” moments that leave you scratching your head, asking “why?” instead.
Sutherland makes the mistake of playing this nonsense as though it were Shakespeare, and the supporting cast fares equally poorly: Patton overacts badly, and Smart has what amounts to little more than a cameo with a gruesome death scene. The tykes are an annoying pair.
Technically “Mirrors” looks more lavish than the material deserves, with cinematography by Maxime Alexandre that creates a suitably dank, lurid atmosphere (though the culminating sequences in the Carson home are messily close-in and sloppily edited by the single-named Baxter). Javier Navarette supplies a loud, propulsive background score that goes into overdrive at the close.
“Mirrors” is the kind of truly dopey thriller that’s obviously full of holes even while you’re watching it, but on reflection afterward is even dumber.