Barry Woodcock reviews the Region 3 release of Into The Mirror, a Korean supernatural thriller with some striking visuals and interesting concepts that unfortunately fails to deliver the thrills horror fans expect.
The planned grand re-opening of a department store is threatened by a series of mysterious deaths within the building. The fact that all the deaths occur beside mirrors is ignored as irrelevant by the police investigators, but the store’s head of security begins to suspect that supernatural forces may be at work and he begins an investigation of his own.
The fascination of mirrors has resulted in them being featured in a number of horror films such as The Evil Dead, Mirror, Mirror and Candyman, however, in Into The Mirror they take on a central and integral role, both in terms of the film’s story and its visuals.
In fact the striking visuals are the film’s major strength, with many shots using mirrors as a clever aid to composition. Unfortunately, the quality of the script does not match the standard of the images. The murder mystery plot, although given an extra twist by some interesting supernatural concepts, is too simplistic to satisfy and fails to generate any real suspense.
Yu Ji-tae, Kim Hye-na and Kim Myeong-min all turn in competent if unexceptional performances in roles that rarely transcend the clichéd, including the borrowed Hollywood stock character of an emotionally-scarred former cop who lost his job after a shooting incident.
Many horror films have proven to be hugely entertaining despite weak plotting and mediocre characterisations, but unfortunately Into The Mirror fails to provide enough chills or gore to compensate for these shortcomings, leaving only the visuals, a distinctive mood and some interesting concepts as reasons to watch the film.
As has become standard for Korean releases of Korean films, Into The Mirror is presented as a two-disc special edition. The discs are supplied in a standard double-amaray case, itself contained within a cardboard slipcase with a reflective silver-metallic finish. The initial pressing also comes with a limited edition Korean-language book of the screenplay.
The anamorphic transfer is not quite as sharp as has come to be expected from Korean releases, but colours are strong and flesh tones appear to be rendered accurately. The print is relatively free from damage, but there is a fair amount of grain, particularly in the darker scenes.
Whereas some horror films take full advantage of the dynamic and spatial range afforded by modern surround sound technology, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of Into The Mirror is a comparatively subtle affair that makes sparing use of music and sound effects, resulting in a functional but unimpressive surround mix.
The English subtitles are of the usual high Korean standard, with only very minor errors, although some lines of dialogue do disappear a little too quickly.
The menu system is presented in a mixture of English and Korean text and is easy to navigate.
As usual for a Korean release, none of the bonus materials supplied with Into The Mirror feature English subtitles. However, this is not an issue with the three short films by the director that are included as part of the set.
The first of these, I The Eye, is a seven-minute blackly comedic short about adultery and murder that is English language with optional Korean subtitles.
The five-minute Love Virus demonstrates that the director’s fascination with mirrors didn’t begin with the main feature, as they are also significant here. Love Virus is entirely spilt-screen with no dialogue, the only soundtrack provided by a Korean pop song in a similar vein to The Cardigans.
The third and final short film, the five-and-half-minute Chase, is a cleverly edited race between toy cars before a toy audience that ably demonstrates what can be achieved with limited resources but plenty of talent. Like Love Virus, Chase has no dialogue and instead uses a suitably cheesy techno track to provide the soundtrack.
Apart from these three short films, the lack of English subtitles means the rest of the bonus materials are of limited value to non-Korean speakers.
These comprise of two feature-length commentaries, four video interviews with the director, a storyboard-to-film comparison, five mostly uninteresting deleted scenes, two making-of documentaries, a gallery of stills and artwork, a music video, the theatrical trailer, a TV spot, and Korean-text biographies of the director and the three leads.
An interesting failure, Into The Mirror is redeemed to some extent by some striking visuals and a distinctive flavour, but is likely to disappoint most horror fans.
The Cinema Service DVD features competent audio and video and some worthwhile extra, with the three short films being of most interest to non-Korean speakers.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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