Franchise Corner Entry: MIRROR, MIRROR

MIRROR, MIRROR *** USA 1990 Dir: Marina Sargenti. 104 mins

On the advice of her psychiatrist, alienated goth teen Rainbow Harvest (hat from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, earrings from Pat Butcher, everything else from Winona Ryder in BEETLEJUICE) and flamboyant blonde-wigged, shoulder-padded mom (Karen Black) buy a house from Yvonne De Carlo that includes, for no extra charge, a mirror that is host to evil. Said mirror is soon inexplicably covered with the flies from THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, while meals are ruined by maggots on loan from POLTERGEIST. Harvest’s rotting, dead dad turns up randomly. This enjoyable turn-of-the-decade horror flick borrows much from modern American horror blockbusters – including overly on-the-nose references to CARRIE – and benefits from an unusually good cast. Black (who gets her hand stuck down the garbage chute a la AMITYVILLE IV) is always watchable, as are Stephen Tobolowsky and William Sanderson (sporting a ponytail and sleazy as ever as Black’s bit of fluff). It’s outrageously overlong and directed in a bland TV-movie style, but Harvest is a particularly fine heroine, effectively making the transition from awkward outcast to alluring, vengeful villainess. And no one can grumble about a movie that shoehorns in gratuitous Charlie Spradling nudity!

Mirror, Mirror (Trailer)

MIRROR, MIRROR 2 : RAVENDANCE ** USA 1994 Dir: Jimmy Lifton. 91 mins

The only directing credit for multi-hyphenate franchise producer Jimmy Lifton (better known as a composer, record producer and sound editor), this loosely connected sequel bills itself as “A story from the tales of MIRROR, MIRROR. Pert, orphaned teenager Tracy Wells is the target of a nefarious plot by her inheritance-seeking evil step-sister (Sally Kirkland), who uses her doctor boyfriend (Roddy McDowall) and the pervy, pantie-stealing handyman from MIRROR, MIRROR (William Sanderson) to try and drive her mental. Luckily, Wells already knows how to harness the malevolent powers of a certain ornamental reflective device. Like its predecessor, this has a terrific cast: McDowall is always fun to watch, Kirkland hams it up like a Disney villain as the wrinkle-obsessed, heavily shoulder-padded central bitch and Veronica Cartwright turns up as a blind nun employed for exposition. Even future Hollywood star Mark Ruffalo (also in THE DENTIST in his early career) has a prominent role as a smarmy ghost. Unfortunately, the movie’s idea of horror involves tarantulas in the bed and an embarrassing stained glass knight coming to life like an outtake from YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES. Even when it sets up a potentially riotous set piece involving Sanderson, a raven and a circular saw, it cops out big-time. Wells, who participates in pace-killing l-o-n-g dance interludes, is a cute, appealing heroine, though you WILL wish harm upon her obnoxious kid brother.

MIRROR, MIRROR III: THE VOYEUR * USA 1995 Dir: Rachel Gordon, Virginia  Perfili. 91 mins

Starving artist Billy Drago falls in love with Monique Parent, who gets murdered by her wildly over-acting drug-dealing husband. Her spirit ends up entering the franchise’s recurring mirror, and the mirror ends up in his possession so that  Parent can slink out on a regular basis for supernatural shagathons.  When Drago foolishly fucks a slutty estate agent, her wrath is invoked. More a low-rent softcore flick than a horror movie, the third MIRROR, MIRROR is among the more bizarre genre sequels of all time. Following an 18 minute (!) pre-title sequence, it gets caught up in endless, repetitive sex scenes, during which you realise two things: 1) former Playboy bunny Monique Parent looks fabulous naked and 2) it is very, very unerotic and somewhat disturbing to watch Billy Drago (wildly miscast as a romantic lead) have sex. Strangely structured and apparently edited by three different people with their own, very different idea of what kind of movie they were working on, THE VOYEUR is riddled with flashbacks and peculiar cutaways to brewing storm clouds while incorporating perhaps cinema history’s most under-powered shoot-out. David Naughton, also in the mirror-based AMITYVILLE: A NEW GENERATION shows up as a detective with a cane (who has his own flashback-enhanced backstory!) and Mark Ruffalo appears as Drago’s brother, a different character to the one he portrayed in MIRROR, MIRROR 2.

MIRROR, MIRROR IV: REFLECTION ** USA 2000 Dir: Paulette Victor-Lifton. 86 mins

Slicker than the mind-boggling previous entry and boasting an atmospheric spooky-theatre backdrop, the final MIRROR, MIRROR movie emphasises the central mirror’s role as a gateway between the past and the future, between heaven and hell. A year after her boyfriend was killed after uncovering said mirror, teenage heroine Kim Mai Guest foolishly decides to return to the theatre where he met his death for a Halloween party full of idiots. Billy Drago, boasting an indeterminate accent and NOT playing the same character he essayed in MIRROR, MIRROR III, educates her on the mirror’s wish-granting properties, and soon she is willing creepy crawlies to invade the under-garments of bitchy women. Like its predecessor, this gets bogged down in randomly inserted shots of clouds (!), flashbacks and dream sequences, and proves lacklustre in the horror department, unless you’re particularly scared by dodgy late-90’s CGI and ghostly hand-jobs. Drago’s musings on death get tired pretty quickly, and there’s a cheap cat scare within the first five minutes, but you have to love the overacting stereotyped Oirish cleaning lady (“Oi should have been an actress!” she trills – er…perhaps not). She locates the mirror at the outset and appears to be belatedly auditioning for the role of Mrs Doyle in FATHER TED.

Reviews by Steven West

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