Loosely adapted from the South Korean horror hit THROUGH THE MIRRORS, Alexandre Aja's gory follow-up to the brutal HILLS HAVE EYES is actually a marked improvement over the plodding and confusing original.
Fifteen years after arson turned the deluxe Mayflower Department store into an fiery death trap that claimed 29 lives and injured scores of others, the once grand edifice still stands as a ruined, burned out hulk on a New York City block that's visited now only by security guards. The latest night watchman is Ben Carson (Kiefer Sutherland), a disgraced NYPD detective who is currently awaiting reinstatement after he accidentally shot killed and killed a fellow officer. In the meantime, he's sleeping on his sister's (Amy Smart) couch, working nights at the Mayflower and trying to stay sober, hoping that one day Amy (Paula Patton), his wife and the mother of his two young children (Cameron Boyce, Erica Gluck), will take him back. Creeping through the ruins of the darkened store -- empty save for the burned and mutilated mannequins that litter the floor and collapsed display cases -- Ben begins to notice strange effects surrounding the large, oddly pristine mirrors that line the charred walls, like the inexplicable handprints that seem to be imprinted on the other side of the glass. He also begins to hear disembodied screams and catch glimpses of twisting, fiery bodies that only exist in the mirrors. He even sees his own reflection consumed by flames. Ever the detective, Ben begins to investigate the tragic history of the department store and begins to uncover dark secrets that date back to when the building served as a hospital. But his conviction that whatever is haunting the old Mayflower building is somehow related to the mirrors -- and his growing belief that that demonic something is now threatening his family through mirrors of his former home -- has everyone around Ben doubting his sanity.
The Korean original was really little more than a routine policier with bland, supernatural elements that offered few surprises to anyone familiar with the tropes Asian horror. Aja and co-screenwriter Gregory Levasseur wisely throw away all the extraneous subplots and concentrate strictly on the scares. Too many involve sudden, unexpected reflections and birds flying out of nowhere, but Aja's way with gristle and grue makes for a number of arresting images, and the second half, in which the secret of the mirrors is gradually revealed, is actually stronger than the first. By making Ben's estranged wife Amy a coroner at a city hospital, Aja also gets to linger long and lovingly over the blood and guts that have helped make his reputation as a gorehound's gorehound. leave a comment --Ken Fox