APRIL 9, 2009
How tired was I after a day at the courthouse (for those of you just tuning in - I’m on jury duty)? I fell asleep during the opening credits of The Broken. Has to be a record for me. Longtime readers know that I’m borderline narcoleptic, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never nodded off before the opening credits were through. I’m still waiting for the day where I fall asleep before the start menu appears.*
So I rewound it, and once again - I dug the movie. It could have been a lot better, but it lucks out from the existence of Mirrors, a mostly lousy movie that also featured murderous reflections. Unlike that movie, this one actually has some decent creepy/suspenseful moments, a lead performance with some effort (unlike Kiefer Sutherland in that film, Lena Headey is NOT simply playing her FOX television character here), and - this may be a problem for some - a lack of nonsensical backstories.
Of course, there isn’t ANY backstory at all. Why the mirror people appear and begin killing their doppelgangers is never explained, and keeping with After Dark 3 traditions, there isn’t a commentary to add some insight into the matter (this one doesn’t even have the standard 15 minute making of!). But I actually didn’t mind it - I’m pretty sure no one can ever give a decent explanation for why/how our mirrors are trying to kill us, so I guess it’s not even worth wasting time to try.
Instead, writer/director Sean Ellis keeps the film relatively grounded, not to mention quiet. It’s hardly an action packed movie anyway, but I can’t recall the last time I saw a movie that was so willing to shut the fuck up. There isn’t a lot of long dialogue passages, and score/sound effects are kept to a minimum as well. Even when an evil reflection appears behind a character, it doesn’t mean we get a loud musical sting to alert the folks who had stopped paying attention (or, in my case, nodded off).
One blemish though - Ellis’ insistence on flashing back to a key automobile accident that occurs relatively early in the movie. OK, we get it: Headey can’t stop thinking about it. We don’t need to see it over and over (it doesn’t help that the Headey dummy is pretty bad, so to go out of your way to show it so many times, often in slow motion, is just stupid).
There’s a scene where Headey gets locked in the London subway, despite having just taken the tube there. Since this also happened in Creep, I have to wonder - does the London subway system routinely trap its riders inside the stations? I mean, I understand that the trains stop running at a certain time, but these movies make it seem like they lock the exits up even BEFORE that point. So many characters dead because the night watchman wanted to duck out early...
Richard Jenkins is also in this movie. You don’t see him popping up in many genre films (you gotta go back to Wolf for such a thing), and he lends the film a touch of class. Unfortunately, his role (like many of the others) is underwritten, and the movie doesn’t really give him much to do. Since the plot is left rather unexplained, the least Ellis could do is bulk up the character development, but he kind of drops the ball there too.
But again - it’s all about the impressively quiet scares, and the fact that the mirror people are actually kind of creepy. I also dug how Ellis avoided the usual clichés as much as possible. Of course there’s a scene where a reflection suddenly diverges from its owner and does something scary, but it turns out to be a nightmare. Otherwise, reflections are surprisingly AVOIDED at times. There’s a part where Headey is trapped in the bathroom, and there’s not a single shot of the mirror reflecting her or anything else of importance. That’s unprecedented!
I now have two films left on the After Dark 3. Unless they are total shit, I think I can confidently say that this is the best year yet. The films are more interesting and less generic, and the filmmakers seem to be a more capable lot. I may not have loved any of them as much as Gravedancers (year 1) or Mulberry St (year 2), but I’d rather eight films in the B, B+ range than one or two As amidst a sea of Ds and Fs.
What say you?
*Anyone notice something awesome about this batch of Lionsgate DVDs? You can finally skip over their logo! For years, you’ve had to endure the “opening gates with all the chains and gears around” logo everytime you put in and/or start watching one of their discs. But you can get right to the main menu on these discs, as long as you hit menu or chapter forward.