Like the old saying goes, ‘Hollywood remakes of scary Asian movies are always crap’. Whichever wise sage said that could have been referring to any of the glut of remakes made from roughly 2000 to today, but Mirrors versus Into The Mirror is a fairly shocking example of how to mess your pants. Most typical US remakes simply change the cast, change the language, and keep the story intact while making minor changes to make it more palatable to a Western audience – hence, most remakes are pointless and have no business existing. Mirrors, to its credit or not, makes wholesale changes to the story leaving only the fact that there seems to be some spooky killer on the loose who can appear as your own reflection. I like Keifer Sutherland, I like Alexandre Aja, but the film is a complete mess (even with that bathroom scene).
Into The Mirror came at the peak of Asian Horror’s popularity in the West, though I only came to see it much later. This South Korean effort is set in a massive shopping mall on the verge of re-opening after a fire which killed many people. There is a lot of stress shown by the owners, under pressure by survivors of those killed in the fire who still want answers. In light of this, a new security chief is hired to both look after the day-to-day running of things but also make sure that none of the protesters pull any stunts to prevent the opening. Woo Young-min is the man given the job, an ex cop who left the force when his partner was killed during a hostage situation, a man racked with guilt and filled with reluctance to take on anything but the most basic of responsibilities. It doesn’t take long before more mysterious incidents and deaths occur, but who is behind it all – the money-chasing mall owners, the grieving protestors, or some supernatural force? Can Woo even trust his own tortured mind to investigate, especially when he starts seeing strange things?
The blending of the supernatural horror with a detective thriller works well – the fine line between the real world and the other one is a difficult one to tread without falling entirely into one side. Tension is built, questions are posed, and it isn’t until the final act that everything comes together and we pull out all the party tricks. The director (Kim Sung-ho) feels in control in his first film while Yoo Ji-tae gives a suitably nuanced performance as the cop struggling to investigate the grisly deaths while haunted by his own demons. We get more scares than the remake, and while we do get various inventive set pieces and gruesome deaths those scares never quite meet the likes of Asian Horror’s biggest hits. It is certainly an effectively creepy, well-executed and interesting thriller.
Have you seen Into The Mirror or the remake? Which did you prefer? What is your opinion on the cycle of remakes of Asian Horror that grew post-2000, and did you feel there were any successes? Let us know in the comments!