DVD Review: Dark Mirror (2007)
Review by Nia Edwards-Behi
I don’t think I’ve ever watched an American ‘TV movie’. I’m sure there are plenty of good ones, but I have a preconception in my mind that I associate with the phrase ‘TV movie’ that is less than complimentary. It conjures up bad lighting, melodramatic acting and illogical plot lines. Dark Mirror is not technically a TV movie, but boy, does it feel like one by my definition.
An inexplicably middle class couple and their young son move into a new house (bored yet?), and soon the mother, Deborah, starts to see strange things happening in the mirrors and windows. She’s a photographer, and soon her camera starts to act strangely, and she gets to have plenty of ‘I know it sounds crazy but…’ scenes. Cue some terrible lens-flare effects and some almost comedically conspicuous scenes of exposition, and you have got one very boring haunted house film on your hands.
Conceptually, Dark Mirror is actually quite interesting. The film makes reference to a Chinese belief that spirits can be held within glass, and the windows of this particular house have, er, Chinese glass in them. So, there are some nice ideas: the spirit in question travels through the different panes of glass in the house, with the ability to manipulate what is seen through the windows, and consequently is able to use Deborah’s camera as, in effect, a weapon. The trouble is, these ideas seem to have been side-lined in an attempt at fulfilling a checklist of ‘what our audience will probably want from this sort of film’-type plot twists and attempted jump scares.
The trouble with the film is that it’s distinctly anaemic. Horrendous murders are taking place, yet all we get are frustrating cut-aways and half-hearted climactic flashbacks. Slightly less anaemic is the tremendously hammy acting. Lisa Vidal as Deborah is adequately competent, for the most part, but those around her are slightly less so, particularly in the moments of high-drama that, in actuality, call for some restraint. Having said that, though, there’s maybe some charm to be had in possibly the worst child acting this side of Fulci. Though the film is full of stock characters (frustrated career woman! sort-of neglectful husband!), some secondary characters come across as full-on caricature, particularly wannabe actress/model/singer next door neighbour, Tammy, who is baffling cartoonish.
I did watch the behind-the-scenes featurette that’s included on this DVD, and, having done so, I’m a little more sympathetic toward the film. This is a first feature, made on a low budget, and with that in mind it becomes something of a ‘nice try’ of a film. The ideas are there, the fleeting moments of talent are there, they’re just swamped somewhat by the limitations of low budget filmmaking. In the featurette the producer states that, due to some funding being lost, some 30 pages worth of script had to be cut. Perhaps this explains the uneven pacing, the underdeveloped characters and the skimming over of certain ideas or plot points. There are some nice moments to be had in the film, and in fact that climax comes together relatively nicely. Ultimately, this isn’t a terrible film, by any stretch, and it does offer some nice moments, some nice ideas. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t come together to be as genuinely frightening, or profound, or simply as entertaining as it could have been.
Dark Mirror is on Region 2 DVD on 30th July from Arrow Films. For another take on the film (not much more positive), here’s Annie’s review from 2009.