A down and out Kiefer Sutherland (is there any other kind?) takes a crummy night watchman job in a huge, burned-out department store, but dang it if there aren't evil entities hiding in the mirrors. We see their methods in the opening scene; first they do the scary "your reflection doesn't do what you do" move and then follow with a "your reflection self-inflicts a mortal wound which appears in reality." Yoiks!
It's a bit sloppy of me, but I'm assuming you'll watch the trailer before reading further so I can talk about the various mid-to-high-level spoilers therein and pretend it wasn't me ruining stuff. I guess in the name of protocol I'll give the purists an out -- DON'T READ PAST THE NEXT PICTURE (ah c'mon, it's just Mirrors.)
The best part is when Kiefer sees this in the mirror and high-fives himself.
One of the main draws/aversions of this movie for me is the death of Amy Smart's character, who as you can see from the trailer has her jaw forcefully ripped off by her evil reflection. I've always considered that one of the worst mutilations available, and I knew this flick was about Kiefer protecting his family, and after seeing the trailer years ago I thought "Gee, I hope Kiefer's daughter played by Amy Smart doesn't actually die from this incident." And then JPX posted this pic in his review.
Hmm. Better just bring the whole box of Band-Aids.
So for years I've been assuming that this flick not only features this horrible death but also that it's in the super heavy context of the guy losing his own daughter before things are resolved. But guess what? It's just his sister! Whew!
Okay, okay, obviously I don't feel like sisters are expendable (I promise, DCD!) But two minutes into the flick when he calls Amy "sis" I did relax a little. The scene was further undercut by one strange detail: Amy Smart does a wonderful job acting like someone in the grip of terrible death and pain, but she avoids doing the one thing that instinctually makes sense even if it wouldn't work. She doesn't ever use her hands to desperately try to keep her mouth closed. I assume that's because it would have jacked up a complicated prosthetic special effect, but I watched the scene a couple of times and it failed to horrify me that way I'd been expecting for all this time, and that was why.
And that's not a bad way to sum up this movie. I actually think this idea is very compelling, and before I knew the evil mirror beings' actual origin I liked to imagine they were a banal, thuggish human force that had somehow found this bizarre way to operate. Sort of how the Tall Man's forces from the Phantasm series aren't so much supernatural agents as they are aliens from another dimension, relying not on magic but rather sinister science and yet they are mucking with death itself. The truth behind the evil mirrors is not like that, but it's actually pretty damn good and therefore I'm not telling you what it is.
I think this movie could have had Ring level scariness (maybe) if they had taken more care with the plot. For instance, Kiefer's first encounter with the mirrors' weirdness is a vision of a fire that consumes his reflection, making him writhe around on the ground in pain. His second encounter is far more subtle. He hears a scream and follows it to some dressing rooms, where he happens to catch the reflection of a burned arm reaching through a curtain. He hauls the mirror over to the spot (brilliant) and sees the apparition more fully: a burned woman flopping on the floor basically right next to where he is standing. That one should have been first! Way more effective.
Other problems include...
The burned-out department store is an excellent setting, with lots of damaged mannequins all over the place. But it struck me that nobody, nobody whose huge building was damaged so badly and never repaired would ever hire someone to walk around in it every two hours. You might as well pay out the massive injury lawsuit money up front.
The rules about what the mirrors could do are a little loosey goosey. For example it seems sometimes the evil reflections need the real people to pick up a potential weapon before they can strike and one time they just have one, and why bother when you can just rip jaws off? I was thinking some chatter about how the entities weren't particularly smart but were downright vicious could have cleared this up, but there wasn't any.
Other pacing stuff was off. The moment in the trailer when the mother sees the boy's reflection misbehave is a huge plot point; prior to that nobody believe Kiefer and he was sad. The turnaround was welcome but it seemed arbitrarily placed.
Despite my three-star rating, it's hard to recommend Mirrors. It doesn't bring anything new to the table and what game it does have is largely mishandled. I did like how the climax played out and the twist denoument was okay. At least I can say this: it's definitely the only movie in which Amy Smart's jaw is ripped off.