JUNE 5, 2012
My good friend Film Crit Hulk (birth name!) just saw Poltergeist for the first time, and I joked about how he *had* to see Poltergeist III immediately, making a crack about that movie’s silly obsession with mirrors. Fitting, then, that I’d watch Dark Mirror, another haunted mirror film that, unlike Poltergeist, no one would ever be incredulous about a big movie guy having never seen it. I’d actually be curious who saw the thing outside of DVD reviewers and people like me who just queue up everything in the horror section and hope for the best.
It’s not really that bad of a movie, it’s just so bland and inconsequential that I had a hard time remembering what it was about even as I watched it. It’s reasonably well made, the FX are decent, and lead actress Lisa Vidal is an engaging and quite lovely presence, but it all serves a snoozer of a tale about a bored, frustrated housewife who begins to suspect that the mirrors in her new house are haunted. Also, whoever she takes a picture of is killed or disappears, so you get two plots you’ve seen before in one! Three if you count the fact that she might just be crazy, a la Polanski's Repulsion.
It’s also frustrating at times, because the director has a tendency not to show you what’s really going on during certain scenes. For example, there’s a bit where Vidal gets into her car after being spooked, and there’s a closeup of her car door brushing against that of the car next to her – a move that might annoy the other car’s owner if they noticed, but in no way could have even caused a scuff let alone any real damage. However, the owner DOES get angry – almost violently so in fact, screaming and banging on Vidal’s car and making threats. Is she just a pain in the ass, or did Vidal actually bang the thing hard and only THINK that she just tapped it? Being that this is a “is she crazy or not?” movie, it’s a bit weird to basically show us that OTHER characters are acting insane in broad daylight without a second look at the car to show the damage, if any exists.
There’s also a weird bit where she proves that something fishy is up to her husband, by showing him that the bathroom mirror is reflecting a door in the hallway that isn’t actually there. He sees it, or at least, the way the scene is directed it SEEMS like he sees it, yet he just acts like she’s being a weirdo and is too tired to deal with nonsense like this. Without it clearly established that he couldn’t see anything, it just comes across like him being an asshole. Then again, it’s better than exposition, which is the only thing Vidal’s mother is there to do. Played by Lupe Ontiveros (who only plays one of two roles: maids, or the main character’s meddling mother – obviously it’s the latter here), she helps Vidal in that rarest of movie scenes: a dueling exposition conversation! Lupe starts explaining how mirrors were believed to protect the soul or some shit, and then Vidal is like “I have a book on that!” and begins explaining the other secret powers of mirrors. And here I thought they were just something to help me make sure I don’t have any crumbs in my beard.
At least the twist works OK enough. Turns out that one character has been dead the entire movie, which I didn’t see coming, and the identity of the killer isn’t too surprising, but it plays out well and ends on a downer, so points for that. But honestly, by that point I just wanted the movie to be over, and apart from admiring Ms. Vidal (and her chemistry with the guy playing her husband, which was quite good compared to most productions of this sort), there wasn’t really anything holding my interest beyond “I need to finish this so I can write my review”. And there my dusty copy of Skyrim sat, wondering why I had neglected it for so long...
The DVD has a few extras: the trailer, the least essential deleted scene of all time (it’s so pointless I was amazed it was even shot and edited), and a brief making of that seems assembled to amuse the crew, not home viewers. Then there’s a commentary by the husband/wife team that made the movie, as well as Vidal, and it’s much like the film itself: serviceable but wholly unnecessary. Apart from telling us on several occasions that they ripped 30 pages out of the script right before shooting began due to budgetary issues, there’s nothing of interest, and even though they never fall silent they never get around to explaining why they wanted to make the movie in the first place. Was it for my benefit, since I’m probably the only person who has rented it all year and only did so for a daily entry? If so, don’t do me any favors!
What say you?