by Alexandre Aja
So Ben uses his insanely helpful connections at the NYPD, including his estranged coroner wife Amy, to start digging. He unearths a conspiracy going back several years to when the Mayflower was a psychiatric hospital (like they'd put one of those in the heart of fucking manhattan). One patient, Anna Esseker was a particular problem. Her family got tired of dealing with what they assumed was demonic possession and dumped her off at the hospital where one Dr. Kane ran the show. Kane's patients all killed themselves one night and Esseker disappeared, believed dead by the authorities, but this is a conspiracy heavy horror movie isn't it? So, she's still alive someplace, and that place....Pennsylvania!!!! Before he can go to that godforsaken shithole and look for her, he has his family to deal with. More than once Ben's gone home while Amy wasn't home and incurred her wrath upon finding him there. The last straw is when he comes home and starts painting over every reflective surface in the house and then as if to clear himself of his insanity charge, fires three rounds into a mirror in the middle of their suburban street. After that makes him frustrated he runs off in search of Anna Esseker's childhood home. But before he gets far though some shit happens that makes Amy believe all of Ben's bullshit about magic mirrors. So after he finishes painting all the mirrors he takes off to find Anna Esseker and make her fess up before the rest of his family falls prey to invisible ghouls.
But Aja and Grégory Levasseur's script's biggest problem isn't the killer surface at the film's core but Ben Carson. Neglecting that Keifer Sutherland's screaming bouts don't exactly make him a believable father, lover or husband and forgetting cliches that rule his personal life (his first visit home is like a checklist of dysfunctional movie marriages, only slightly less stupid than the same scenes in The Haunting In Connecticut) there's still the problem that Carson has no redeeming qualities yet everyone he knows practically climbs over each other trying to help him. His wife can't decide whether she thinks he's dangerous or insane or both yet lets him look at a corpse she's just finished examining (in point of fact Amy does not one logical thing the whole movie; she's the kind of person who sports a cleavage-revealing white T-shirt when her children are under attack so that when it gets wet the teenaged boys in the audience will care what's happening). His friend, detective Larry Byrne (a wasted Jason Flemyng), gives him every file within reach that has anything to do with the cases he's curious about regardless of paper work or the ethics of giving a murder suspect evidence. Finally where the fuck are the cops when Carson shoots up the mirrors on his front lawn? Or kidnaps a nun at gunpoint? This kind of total naivete is almost charming (indeed it's a fucking hoot at times) but comes across mostly as the point of view of someone who's never lived in New York City, read about it, watched a cop show in his life, or been outside before. Aja's American films can almost be seen as the reverse of what Eli Roth did for all of Europe in his Hostel films, except Roth didn't take money from any of the countries he summarily dismissed. Aja doesn't know anything about America but neither does Roth know anything about Europe. Which is maybe why Aja and Levasseur view Pennsylvania as some kind of tiny backwoods hamlet populated by sunburnt yokels who can barely talk and a secret order of nuns (oh and nuns don't live in monasteries, they live in nunneries, it's right there in the name, Alex). Also, I don't know what the fuck part of Pennsylvania Ben Carson goes to visit but I'm gonna put money on it not housing both superstitious hillbillies and an order of nuns living in pristine facilities with manicured lawns. Having made the journey from PA to NY a hundred and twelve times I'm something of an expert and though there are most assuredly hillbillies they aren't the nearly feral creatures shown here. In fact I'd like to point out that is Ben Carson had kept driving another hour or so, he'd have wound up in North Philadelphia which is if anything more dangerous than wherever his beat would have been. Mirrors' sheltered geographical judgment is almost as egregious as M. Night Shyamalan's depiction of Bucks County in Signs. Have filmmakers ever bothered leaving Philadelphia? Until you feel like driving a few hours why don't you go looking for inbred psychopaths someplace else.
by Alexandre Aja
Back on the Jaws front some divers come in to see about the big rift opening up below the lake and find the evidence needed to support their underwater lake theory. This also gets two of three of them chewed alive when lead diver Novak Radzinsky surfaces with one of their bodies, he brings one of the prehistoric monster fish with him so he and the sheriff have something to show the guy who runs the petshop, played by a never-hammier Christopher Lloyd (and by christ is that saying something!). He tells them that this species of fish hasn't been seen in two thousand years, yadda-yadda-yadda, better close the goddamned lake! But wouldn't you know it, the kids just want to have a splashy good time, man! Fuck your conformist not-getting-eaten-by-big-fish bullshit! And then once every Jersey Shore reject has had their face pulled off, we head over to climax bay where every minor character in the film is in danger of being eaten by still more fish! The sheriff better hurry before more than just the skanks and coke-fiends get chewed up.
The difference between Mirrors and Piranha 3D is that my girlfriend and I can safely watch Mirrors and have two hours of fun at its expense. I don't want her, or anyone else for that matter, to see Piranha 3D. It's too nasty to be fun and I don't want to show her some poor girls' face being pulled off at the hair because that's fucking horrible. And if a film with what Nathan Rabin calls Underwater Skank Ballet can't make me set aside my reservations and simply enjoy its stupidity, then someone's done fucked up. Aja's style is long gone, dulled by blinding colors, Greg Nicotero's gore effects and topless women; Piranha could have been made by anyone. In fact if someone dumber and meaner had been put in charge it might have overcome its dull first hour, forgotten its inane plot trappings and just been the trashy, orphan-kicking masterpiece it could have been. If Eli Roth or Darren Lynn Bousman had been in charge, I could have gotten into how badly everyone deserved to die, including the directors! Instead I spent the whole movie thinking that this couldn't have been the guy who made High Tension. When we were walking out my Dad made an excellent point, which is that there's no way in hell Aja would have made this movie in France. Which really brings us to the whole problem of the Splat Pack. Now that gore movies in the Eli Roth mold have become not just a sustainable industry but a self-sustaining genre, Aja doesn't need to do anything to win his audience anymore. Whether or not we like it (and I sure as shit don't) we as a culture have said yes to six fucking Saw movies, two Hostel movies, and remakes of every also-ran slasher movie of the early 80s (blessedly they've left Humongous alone, for now). So that means Aja, who was at one time going to be something, can hand in a shitty 3D movie that smells like beer and sex and no one's going to bat an eye. In fact, its mediocre box office performance has already got him talking about a sequel. Yeah, cause there were so many unanswered questions. And because they've got that label attached to them, Eli Roth and probably Aja now believe they're doing something culturally important. They're not. They're making films whose message is, in all seriousness, don't leave the safety of the place where you masturbate and don't even think about sleeping with anyone more worldly than you.