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dir Mike Flanagan
scr Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
prd Marc D Evans, Trevor Macy
with Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan Ewald, James Lafferty, Miguel Sandoval, Kate Siegel, Scott Graham, Michael J Fourticq, Justin Gordon
release US 11.Apr.14, UK 13.Jun.14
Mirror mirror on the wall: Gillan and Thwaites
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Like a haunted house story refracted with funhouse mirrors, this horror freak-out uses familiar tricks to spin out an intriguingly original story. It's a bit over-serious and full-on, but horror fans will love the way the jarringly fractured narrative messes with expectations.
Just released from a mental facility, Tim (Thwaites) is collected by his sister Kaylie (Gillan), who tells him that they only have a few days to make good on a promise they made 11 years earlier, when their parents (Sackhoff and Cochrane) were brutally killed. It all centres around a antique gothic mirror from their childhood home, which has just been auctioned off. Before the buyers collect it, they will use an elaborately set-up experiment to prove that a murderous entity lives inside the mirror. And to make sure it doesn't kill again.
The film flickers back and forth between the two timelines, as this insanely creepy mirror plays havoc on both the parents and the children (played by Basso and Ryan as kids). Plants wither, pets are rattled, strange figures lurk in corners (sometimes with Total Eclipse of the Heart "bright eyes"), and reality seems to become a bit unstable. Director Flanagan shoots and edits with fiercely clever touches, adding earthy rhythms and real-life humour in between moments of unnerving nastiness.
There's also a startlingly involving element to the premise, as Kaylie and Tim struggle to deal with a terrible event from their past by blaming it on an inanimate object. Kaylie's insanely over-thought plan is certainly indicative of someone delusional, so it's no surprise that the recently treated Tim tries to talk reason to her. Gillan and Thwaites are a terrific duo, as are Sackhoff and Cochrane, and Basso and Ryan, in the intermingling flashback sequences.
There is of course one problem: if the mirror plays around with reality and perception, it's impossible to believe anything that's on screen. So what's there is often deeply unsettling, playing on our deepest fears and insecurities until the supernatural mayhem and grisly bloodletting take over. It may not make much clear sense, but there's a vivid current of emotional logic that worms its way under the skin as the parallel plotlines escalate into something terrifying both on the surface and in its dark comment on the power of family histories.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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