DIR: ED BOASE
STARRING: JEMMA DALLENDER, JOSHUA DICKINSON, NATE FALLOWS
UK DVD Release – September 8th 2014 from Matchbox Films.
The Mirror from director Ed Boase is yet another entry in the crowded and somewhat maligned found footage sub- genre . It is difficult not to pre-judge found footage films these days as the majority are often lacking, and on the surface The Mirror would appear to be no different to the glut of other pseudo horrors that clog the dark corners of Netflix. However, it differs from most of these poor excuses for films in one key way: it’s good. Very good in fact, and along with The Borderlands (2013) suggests that the Brits have the talent and the skill to save ‘found footage’ from its descent down the creative toilet.
Based on allegedly real events from 2013 the set- up is simple: three friends (Jemma Dallender from the ill received 2013 I Spit on Your Grave 2, Nate Fallows and Joshua Dickinson) buy a supposedly haunted mirror from eBay with the intention of capturing proof of the paranormal on camera and winning a 1 million prize pot from a vague online competition. Things are quiet at first and the unassuming mirror offers no suggestions of its sinister nature, but when one of the friends, Matt (Dickinson) begins to sleep walk and behave in ever more bizarre dangerous ways it becomes apparent that things are not what they seem and that no one is safe.
This all may sound a bit familiar, and the early scenes do have a little air of déjà vu about them, but the film goes down paths and alleyways (quite literally at some points) that are unexpected making the film genuinely creepy rather than just diverting. It is incredibly difficult to find new things to do in Horror as a whole, let alone such a niche area as this, so it is no mean feat that The Mirror manages to surprise and scare. It doesn’t necessarily break any new ground, but it is confident enough to play the audience into its hands and isn’t afraid to turn left when you expect it to go right.
But all the twists and turns would count for very little if the film failed to convince on a basic level and this is where most found footage films find themselves wrong footed. In their desperate attempts to convince the audience that they are ‘real’ many found footage and faux documentary films inadvertently achieve the opposite and feel forced and fake. The Mirror however nails it. It all feels incredibly real thanks in no small part to its brilliant cast, and Boase’s creative camera work.
All three of the main cast are exceptional giving the film its genuine core. They are funny, likeable normal people that are put in an abnormal situation and they give the film a credibility that so many others lack. As the horror mounts up some of the decisions the characters make seem to be rather foolhardy or irrational, but the film often reminds us that humans are an irrational bunch and when faced with difficult and unusual situations we don’t always respond in the ways we would like to believe we would. The fear and frustrations the actors portray never feel less than real giving the film an edginess as it builds towards its conclusion.
A massive amount of credit needs to go to director Ed Boase as he manages to make things seem like a home video without ever making the whole thing unwatchable. Whilst there is the requisite ‘shaky cam’ effect here and there it is controlled and stylish meaning that it tricks you into believing this is a home movie rather than aping one and looking painfully cheap. Particularly inventive is the use of a chest camera to follow a characters movements. It is a very different kind of point of view and adds a nervous tension to some of the later scenes, especially the ones involving some unexpected ocular abuse and when Matt begins to channel his inner Michael Myers. He also makes the best of the brief moments of gore and violence. The film isn’t awash with blood but the moments it does have are chillingly realistic and brutally cold.
The Mirror isn’t entirely perfect and succumbs to some of the pitfalls that even the best found footage films fail to avoid. Some of the reasons for keeping the filming going are rather stretched and spurious despite the films best attempts to divert attention away from this. The finale also seems too quick; another problem these films often have is they don’t tend to properly wrap things up in order to maintain a sense of this being ‘found footage’. I would point to Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’a Rec (2007) as an example of how to maintain solid narrative along with a satisfying explanation for events. But it is a minor complaint here as The Mirror gives enough of, if not the whole, story and whilst the ending feels a little rushed it does pack enough of a punch to leave you satisfied.
Inevitable, but unfair comparisons will be drawn between this and Occulus from earlier in the year. It’s true that both share similar ideas dealing with crumbling psychoses and both have an interest in the power of the eyes, but The Mirror is very much its own film and is, at times, much scarier than Occulus largely because of its simplicity. Effective and inventive it is a rare example of a found footage film that is well worth finding.