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Film Review: The Mirror (2014)

The-Mirror-2014-movie-Edward-Boase-(6)SYNOPSIS:

Three intrepid flatmates who purchase the supposedly haunted antique on eBay and set up round the clock cameras in the hopes of capturing evidence of something going bump in the night.

REVIEW:

Director & Writer: Edward Boase
Stars: Jemma Dallender, Joshua Dickinson, Nate Fallows

Found footage. The single greatest gift to indie film makers since the Canon 5D. This format has allowed countless wannabe film makers to produce countless carbon copies of ghost/demon/<insert other paranormal entity here> with varying success, usually little to none. The Mirror, a low budget affair shot almost entirely in an apartment with only three actors, is another attempt at this tired, shrivelled and dried up genre. It ups the ante with some interesting components, but does it make it as a whole?

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The film kicks off pretty quickly. Through steady handheld camera work, we learn that a trio of flatmates, Matt (Joshua Dickinson), his girlfriend Jemma (Jemma Dallender), and Steve (Nate Fallows) have entered a contest requiring them to capture paranormal activity on film. They purchase a supposedly haunted mirror off eBay in the hopes it will provide them with the “ghosties”, as they call them, they require to win the 1 million pound prize. We also learn that Matt has a predisposition to the supernatural, having seen his dead grandpa when he was a child. This sets up the groundwork for what occurs for the remainder of the film.

Matt begins to sleepwalk at night, something he apparently did as a child but never again until now. Initially it’s just of him ending up in odd places of the apartment and/or pissing his pants, but they take an increasingly sinister turn. Matt is aware of his foreboding actions, but hides the GoPro footage from the others. Tension builds between the group as Matt becomes increasingly secretive and closed off, and as you will undoubtedly guess, things get much worse as Matt goes blind and the other flatmates begin to suffer mirror’s effects eventuating into a little unexpected violent climax.

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Acting wise, the trio did a very solid job. Their dialogue delivery and interaction felt natural and realistic. As tension builds you can really feel it. I was impressed by the acting of these three relative unknowns and it was undoubtedly the best part of The Mirror, though this alone was not enough to carry the film.

Another film I reviewed, Muirhouse, only had one character so the lack of interaction undone the film… Well, that and the mundane story and complete lack of horror. The Mirror is a good example of why you need more than one character, especially in these types of films which typically have a painfully slow pace. Whether it by via physical interaction, or even a phone call, you need more than one character. Imagine how boring Buried would have been if Ryan Reynolds’ character didn’t have his cell phone to receive calls on…

The Camerawork, as I mentioned earlier, was very steady considering it was hand held. Overly shaky footage is one of the many pitfalls found footage films can fall into. It is unrealistic and headache inducing. Unless the character is running or jumping while holding the camera, there is not a single requirement for the camera to shake around like it’s being held by Michael J Fox strapped to a TENS machine and standing on top of a washing machine during its spin cycle. I am so glad the Mirror did not do this. The insurance policy alone to have MJF on top of the washing machine would have cost a packet…

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In terms of horror, there is very little to be had in The Mirror. It is run of the mill and never induces an iota of tension or horror until a single point in Act 3 and the climax, and even then it’s marginal. It tried valiantly, but all attempts have been done to death by countless films before it, and it isn’t even your typical loud sounds or ghosts appearing in the darkness or behind a character. It is essentially Matt walking around standing menacingly over his flatmates, or in corners, or in front of the mirror. That is not scary. That is not intense. That is not thrilling. Doing it again and again over the course of the film doesn’t make it better either…

AND this is the biggest problem with the sub-genre. Writers and directors of these films seem to think that anything shot in night vision is scary. It isn’t. Trust me when I say this (again), it isn’t. Effort, imagination and skill is required to create frightening scenes, not shoddy camera footage. Unfortunately all three were lacking in this film in terms of horror/suspense.

The third act is where it came undone for me. Convenient plot holes were abound, so much so (to me), that I actually felt insulted by it. If your best friend/boyfriend came out of the bathroom screaming that their blind, and their eyes were a weird red colour, what would be your first step? Call an ambulance? Drive them to the doctor as fast as possible? Tell them to have a lie down and do nothing more? If you chose option 3, you’re an idiot, just like the guys in The Mirror.

BUT, I’m a nice guy, so I’ll give you another chance. If your best friend, who is blind, vanishes from your apartment, what would you do? Would you call up everybody you can and search for him as well as call the police? Would you sit around the house waiting for him… for 3 friggin’ days? If you chose option 2, you’re an idiot.

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I don’t mind a little plot convenience here and there, but when it is so forced for the sake of the story, then it really gets my goat. It’s lazy storytelling at its… er… laziest. And in the case of The Mirror it was extremely disappointing, considering how well the character work was written.

It’s not like The Mirror was doomed from the start. The idea of the contest, the mirror and having Matt as the more susceptible member to paranormal phenomena were all clever ideas and it had me intrigued as to how it played out, but like most of the found footage/paranormal movies it just couldn’t last the distance. The actors carried this film as best they could but they could only do so much.

Saving the horror for the third act is not good enough. A film of this type needs to thrill, suspensify (I coin this word), and horrify its audience throughout once the supernatural shenanigans begin at the second act. It also needs to treat its audience with some respect and not force ridiculous plot conveniences into the story.

If only there was backstory to the mirror, this would have added much needed suspense and provided a respite from the repetition of seeing Matt walk around at night and the flat itself. It could have opened up the story a lot more. Made it more substantial. More professional. A lot more is needed to make it better, but just adding this backstory would have made a large improvement.

Would I recommend this film to others? Not really. There are far better options out there to waste your time on. At best it’s a fantastic show reel for the three actors involved. If you have absolutely nothing else to do and have exhausted your current movie watch list, then give this a go.

2 out of 5 haunted mirrors

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