Studio: RAM Releasing
Director: Ed Boase
Writer: Ed Boase
Producer: Ed Boase, Hamish Moseley
Stars: Jemma Dallender, Joshua Dickinson, Nate Fallows, Abby Ford, Roisin Rae
Three roommates purchase a purportedly haunted mirror in an effort to capture evidence of the paranormal on camera.
It truly is a sign of modern times when “Based on the Novel by” and “Adapted from the hit TV show/Broadway smash” gather dust as taglines while eBay auctions morph into the new idea mine for movie source material. It won’t be long now before throwaway emails and 140-character tweets are next in line for top spots as feature film inspirations.
UK “found footage” film “The Mirror” joins “The Possession” (review here) as a fictional horror yarn spun from a nonfictional (cough) online auction listing posted by either a savvy salesperson or a crackpot with an imagination leaning towards embellishment, to phrase it politely. Below is the original auction link for those curious about the “true story” giving “The Mirror” its diving board:
Basically, two chaps from London installed a Victorian style mirror in their flat and soon began experiencing all manner of shocking and unlivable horrors such as trouble sleeping, a downed phone line, and leg cramps. You know, the kind of stuff that can only be explained by the presence of a haunted antique in the house.
While losing both internet access and hot water might pass as relatable First World problems for hipster horror, they don’t quite leave a sizable enough impact when translated into filmic frights. So “The Mirror” rightfully takes dramatic liberties to notch up the paranormal powered bloodletting, although it still ends up with a story nearly as milquetoast.
Whereas “The Possession” told the tale of a cursed Jewish dibbuk box and its unfortunate garage sale ownership transfer into unwitting hands, the three flatmates of “The Mirror” qualify as willing participants in their personal haunting as opposed to hapless souls. With the bright idea of taking a shot at noted magician/skeptic James Randi’s longstanding offer of a $1,000,000 prize for irrefutable proof of the paranormal, friends Matt, Steve, and Jemma purchase the mirror and fire up their video cameras to record evidence of the supernatural terror that the mirror is presumably certain to deliver. In real life, this ends with some sucker dropping £100 on a piece of ordinary glass and the story dying a quick death. In “The Mirror,” this leads to exactly what the roommates wanted, but in no way are equipped to experience.
Writer/director Ed Boase aims for realistic results with his modest filmmaking goals, and mostly achieves them. With only three main actors primarily locked into one single location for an 80-minute duration, “The Mirror” never gnaws off more than it can chew for a lean indie production. It’s a catch-22 approach shooting the entire affair in its foot, heart, and head with a script and a style too simple to provide any more edge than that of plastic tableware.
The performances are more than on par for the task at hand, ably anchored by Joshua Dickinson as a believable bloke simultaneously sympathetic and genuine in personality. The trouble is that the tempo never heats up hotter than room temperature, birthing a notion that this ensemble might turn in even better work with more full-bodied roles to dig into.
Dickinson’s character Matt slides through a slow sanity breakdown that he is both pained by and ashamed of until his aloof behavior becomes frustrating enough to alienate him from his girlfriend, best friend, and then the audience. Matt is so steadfast in his denial to disclose any information regarding what is really going on with him that being on board with his plight becomes a laborious chore. Matt refuses all attempts at help, will not speak with anyone, and also takes no personal action. Understanding what he hopes to achieve with such a passive approach to paranormal phenomenon is impossible, necessitating a complete severing of all empathic ties to his initially amiable nature.
On one hand, it’s refreshing that “The Mirror” never bothers developing the expected sexual tension amongst the trio, which is generally standard practice for such a character set. On the other palm, the lack of that element doesn’t make for a riveting dynamic between the three, creating cross-purposes as far as entertainment value and authenticity go. Matt, Steve, and Jemma have such vaguely realized relationships between them that they are virtually nondescript entities facilitating a thin plot with little concern for creating connective tissue.
Which is the case with the story itself, too. The haunted mirror could easily be a cursed croquet mallet, jump rope, or stuffed animal won at a carnival coin toss and nothing would require alteration. The mirror is mainly a MacGuffin meant for explaining the evil introduced, having only a peripheral relation to themes of duality, reflections, or even a portal to the supernatural. Some barely mentioned backstory about a 1920s murder and a short Ouija board session are forgotten so fast that it seems “The Mirror” never has much in mind to begin with regarding fleshing the fiction further than a half-realized premise born from an online auction listing.
Fans of “Oculus” (review here) won’t find much here to satiate appetites for reflective surface terrors, while those lulled into slumberland by a dislike for that film’s pace will need a defibrillator before this movie’s end to jumpstart a flatlined pulse. “The Mirror” is a noble attempt at straightforward “found footage” horror, but one too tepid and too tame to earn itself a recommendation as anything beyond a trifle.
Review Score: 40