Is It Just Me, Ooooor???
There’s something inherently unsettling about mirrors, to me. It doesn’t help that we play games growing up like Bloody Mary. Then films like ‘Mirror, Mirror’, and ‘Candyman’ added fuel to the already steady burning fire of anxiety. And of course, centuries-old traditions and lores that also give credence to the thought that mirrors hold special powers or may even be portals to other worlds.
Rather than do a full review on Mirrors in retrospect of its 15th anniversary, I’d like to talk a bit more about the lore surrounding mirrors and whether or not they’re still a powerful motif in a modern horror film.
I feel there’s so much to play with when creating a horror story featuring mirrors. But is this too niche of an area? Are there fewer people in decades past that get the heebie-jeebies around mirrors? Like many of the retro articles I pick, I recall Mirrors getting a lot of hate. But I felt it wasn’t all bad.
I mean, I should at least tell you a little bit about the film that sparked this article. Mirrors was intended to be a remake of a 2003 South Korean film horror film called Into The Mirror, written and directed by Kim Sung-ho. There was already a script written by Joe Gangemi (Fear Itself 2009) and Jim Uhls (Fight Club 1999), and producers were in talks with music video director Sanji Senaka.
Which, if the ‘Turn Me On’ video for David Guetta and Nicky Minaj was any indicator, Mirrors differently would’ve been pretty stellar. Well, tonally and aesthetically, because I’m not sure what the story would’ve been like. Then somewhere along the way they signed Aja, who would bring his writing partner Grégory Levasseur (Haute Tension 2003), who changed so much of the script that only the basic theme remained.
Starts and Ends with a Bang
Mirrors Stars Kiefer Sutherland (‘They Cloned Tyrone’ 2023), Paula Patton (Precious 2009), Cameron Boyce (Paradise City 2020), Arika Gluck (Westside 2018), and Amy Smart (Stargirl 2020). Jason Flemyng (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 1998) also plays a supporting role as Det. Larry Byrne, a friend, and NYPD fellow.
The story follows suspended NYPD Detective Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland), who starts working as a night-shift security guard for a burnt-out department store. As Ben starts doing rounds, he experiences some unsettling visions when looking in the mirrors, of which there are a-plenty. But he dismisses them as hallucinations.
Eventually, he happens upon the wallet of the last night guard. Inside the wallet, there’s a note with a word scribbled on it, “ESSEKER”. This prompts Ben to do some digging where he learns the department store was formerly a hospital. He also receives a package from his predecessor that has newspaper articles detailing terrible events that happened over several years involving people at the hospital or department store.
From Bad to Worse
Meanwhile, back home, spooky occurrences around mirrors and reflective surfaces start to amp up, which his son Michael (Cameron Boyce) witnesses first and becomes an easy target. In typical fashion, the closer Ben gets to uncovering the sordid history of the hospital and the story behind the word “Esseker”, the more bad shit keeps happening.
All the while, there’s tension with his wife Amy (Paula Patton) as their marriage falls apart due to trauma he’s been processing involving a workplace shooting. I lost enthusiasm for the story after the film’s climax. Because it feels like they’re doing too much with the story and it muddies the waters. Eventually, it just has you asking “Okay why are we doing this now?” But all-in-all I don’t think Mirrors was terrible, and it had potential. They even made a sequel, but I haven’t seen it, nor was I really interested.
But are Mirrors Actually Scary, or Nah?
There’s a belief that mirrors tie into the human soul. Some also believe that it even reflects the soul. This would be why vampires in some lore can’t be seen in mirrors. Also why in some religions, mirrors are covered when someone dies? Otherwise, the soul could return to the body, or have some kind of badness by seeing their own dead body.
Not to mention if it’s before a certain amount of time passes, a soul wandering our realm could get trapped in the mirror. Which could also potentially hold some liminal space. I didn’t look into the specifics on that one. I’m basically sharing what’s been told to me by those who carry the lore in their families.
Breaking a mirror would mean potentially fracturing the soul. Why the 7 years of bad luck? One explanation is that the ancient Greeks believed in the renewal of life every 7 years. So, you fracture the soul when you break a mirror, now you have to wait 7 years for the renewal to be whole again. Oh, and then there’s the school of thought that mirrors lead to other realms that have demons and the like.
I Know What I Think, What About You?
I’d say the only belief around mirrors I can understand is in feng shui. In feng shui, the body and soul go through a sort of cleansing cycle as you sleep. So you’re purging negative energy, but if there’s a mirror in the bedroom, all of that negative energy basically bounces back to you.
I feel like sometimes you can trace the origin of lore and find some things that make sense or at least gives a sense of why they believed what they did. Other than feng shui, I haven’t read anything yet that’s done it for me. Really, it seems that mirrors were expensive and a luxury item at various points in history. So it almost seems like they made things up that would make people more cautious with them.
And while I do believe in supernatural occurrences and energies, I just haven’t had any experiences nor witnessed anything that would have me believe there’s something there. Even still, I’d feel uneasy in a candle-lit room full of antique mirrors. Well, and some public restrooms the mirror(s) just add to my anxiety… But I blame horror movies for that.
So in a world where we’ve collectively experienced and/or witnessed horrific, real-life, events, is it just that mirror lore just seems too corny to give it some weight?