From writer/director Mike Flanagan (Absentia) comes a mind bending supernatural horror film. The story, essentially, boils down to a woman who is hell bent on proving that her father is not guilty of the murder of his wife; it was the antique mirror hanging in his office. Yup, known as the Lasser Glass, it is held in a single piece of ostentatiously carved Bavarian black cedar and all of it’s previous owners have succumbed to bizarre deaths.
The film flips back and forth between present day and eleven years ago. Eleven years ago, Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) witnessed a horrible sequence of events that sent Tim into an institution and Kaylie on a tour of the foster system. The two have reunited on the day of Tim’s release and, conveniently enough, Kaylie has finally gained possession of the Lasser Glass. The two of them made a promise to one another that they would kill the evil that lived in the mirror; Kaylie has, seemingly, spent her entire life preparing for this very event. Despite being a child of the foster care system, Kaylie still has ownership of her parent’s home, a university education that seems to cover all subjects and a large disposable income. She has thought of everything; this house is rigged in every possible way to help her entrap and kill the evil entity that lives in the mirror. She is absolutely, singularly focused on proving that her mother and father were driven insane by this mirror. The catch? Her brother does not remember their fateful evening the same way that she does.
From here, Kaylie and Tim debate the true events of eleven years ago all while they are enticing the evil entity to come out of the mirror. The tagline of the film is “you see what you want to see” and that is how the story is told; everything is viewed through the eyes of Kaylie and Tim both in present day and the past. This is what I enjoyed the most about the film. The characters are alternately played by their adult selves and their younger selves; there is no change of hue or any of the other myriad ways films use to let us in on the fact that we are moving between two different time lines. The young actors playing Kaylie (Annalise Basso) and Tim (Garrett Ryan) are absolutely outstanding; no annoying child actor mannerisms here. Truly, these two youngsters played their roles with strength and vulnerability better than a lot of adult actors can.
At the very beginning of the story, all of the facts are laid out and you are expected to keep up; this is great for moving the story along and keeping the pace up. My biggest complaint is that of all of the information we are given, the one thing we never learn is the exact origin of the mirror. It is called the Lasser Glass because it’s first known location was in the castle of Philip Lasser of London. Maybe it’s just me, but I need the who, what, when, where, why and how; who felt compelled to create this mirror, why did they do it, where did it come from, what is it’s ultimate goal? Perhaps this is being saved for a subsequent film; because you know this movie ended with the possibility of a sequel(s).
Every single element of this movie is spot on. All of the actors did a fantastic job, especially Ms. Basso; it looks beautiful, the effects, or rather, lack of, are perfect. Paranormal stories work best when everything is bare bones; it just makes it so much more believable. The way the story builds really is a perfect dance of story and action. So, why did I leave the theatre feeling less than enthused? Maybe I just let what I perceived to be a lack of history make me overthink everything and that took me out of it a little bit? Maybe I wasn’t scared, at all, by the demons that came out of the mirror. Maybe I have paranormal fatigue. I don’t know. I only know that I really enjoyed Flanagan’s first feature quite a bit, and on all levels, this is a superior film, but it just didn’t do it for me.