To the cynical or jaded horror viewer, the indie indie called The Mirror may throw up a few red flags right off the bat:
- It’s about a haunted mirror, obviously, which will immediately draw comparisons to last year’s Oculus, although the films don’t have all that much in common.
- It’s “based on actual events,” which generally sounds like a load of marketing gimmicks, but it’s true: The Mirror is based on an actual case about an allegedly haunted mirror that sold on eBay for $155.
- It’s another one of those found footage movies, which seem to be the current whipping boy in the horror department lately. (Remakes were the previous whipping boy in the horror department. Now it’s found footage movies.) But as someone who loves the potential of “found footage” and frequently enjoys seeing how young filmmakers tinker with the format, I found a good deal to enjoy here.
The plot is simple stuff: three college kids are competing in a “paranormal video” contest, so they decide to buy a “haunted” mirror online, mount it on the wall, and record everything that happens in its immediate vicinity. And while The Mirror certainly operates on the “slow burn” setting as we get to know Matt (Joshua Dickinson), Steve (Nate Fallows), and Jemma (Jemma Dallender) and join them on their quest to capture some evidence of supernatural malfeasance, the actors do a solid job of keeping the very simple premise from becoming generic or boring.
After a healthy dose of hubris-laced foreshadowing from our trio of opportunistic ghost hunters, The Mirror gets down to the scary stuff. At first it’s just stuff like sleepwalking and overt moodiness, but after a few nights the cameras start to capture some decidedly freakier footage. Matt grows darker and more miserable; Steve is intent on finishing the video project no matter what; and Jemma seems close to pulling the plug on the whole haunted mirror project at any moment — but it may be too late! (cue ominous music)
It’s clear from the simple story, the tiny cast, and the use of virtually one location that The Mirror is a low-low-budget production, which sort of makes the film’s assets all that more impressive. The cast is particularly strong; the presentation is basic but well-crafted; and writer/director Ed Boase seems considerably more interested in mystery and suspense than he is in delivering simplistic scares or unnecessary explosions of gore. (There’s definitely some nasty stuff here, but even those sequences are presented with a welcome sense of restraint.)
So if you’re cool with A) haunted mirrors, B) movies based on “actual events,” and C) a found footage presentation, you may enjoy the low-key, quietly crafty, and eventually creepy offerings of The Mirror. If, however, you’re more or less fed up with those three things, the modest but appreciable assets of The Mirror probably won’t do much to change your mind. I call it a straightforward, sincere, and solid effort that doesn’t do anything “new” with found footage, but still works a lot better than many indies of this visual format.
Scott Weinberg (@ScottEWeinberg)
Stream or download in the US now, or in the UK here.