Dark Mirror (Pablo Proenza, 2009)
I've been sitting here all day writing good-to-great reviews of things like The Maltese Falcon and Black Swan, so it's almost a relief to get to a film that I can without reservation call a pathetic piece of crap. And I readily admit that this is not nearly as bad a movie as that would make it out to be; it's paling in comparison to the company it's been keeping on my retinas. It's not the worst movie I watched that weekend, even (that would be the execrable 2008 remake of It's Alive), but it's derivative, badly-acted and -directed and all-around silly. You deserve better than this. Give me a few and I'll tell you how you can get it.
Deborah Martin (Star Trek's Lisa Vidal) is a former photographer who gave up her career to get married and start a family. The batch of them, Deborah, husband Jim (Flight of the Living Dead's David Chisum), and son Ian (Joshua Pelegrin in his first and, to date, last big-screen role), are moving out to the country to get away from it all. They look at an endless succession of houses, but there's one that they step into, and immediately Deborah is taken with it. (You've heard this before, right?) After dithering on so many other houses, when she says "we'll take it", Jim is thrilled he can finally stop looking at houses, and they do. Deborah soon learns that the house was originally inhabited by a reclusive, possibly crazy, painter who may or may not have killed his entire family and hidden them somewhere in the house. More importantly, their spirits may be trapped in the house's mirrors. (You've heard this before, right?)
It gets better. The big twist ending has been done to death. In fact, the movie is often compared, and never favorably, to a classic flick that has the same twist ending. It's also been done more recently in two excellent movies, and I'm not even considering the genre classic that started it all, and the almost-as-excellent homage to it that came out thirty years later. (I'm avoiding names in order to avoid spoilers; if you want to know the films I'm talking about, they'll be at the bottom of the review after spoiler space.) As well as, naturally, any number of dozens of movies that have tried it and failed miserably. This is only one of a huge crop. It doesn't help that few of the actors in this movie are any good, and those who are are relegated to stereotype roles at best (Lupe Ontiveros is the most visible member of this cast in that regard). Writer/director Pablo Proenza was working on his first feature-length movie. He's not an awful director, and maybe if he'd had some original material and a few decent actors to work with, he might have come up with something worthwhile. This ain't it. **
POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW
For the record, and if this roster doesn't give away the twist ending, then I can't help you.
"In fact, the movie is often compared, and never favorably, to a classic flick that has the same twist ending." (Roman Polanski's Repulsion.) "It's also been done more recently in two excellent movies," (I'm thinking specifically of Naboer and Black Swan, though I'm sure you can come up with half a dozen others) "and I'm not even considering the genre classic that started it all, and the almost-as-excellent homage to it that came out thirty years later." (Psycho, of course, and Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre.)