Dir. Pablo Proenza
When her family moves into a new home, photographer Deborah (Lisa Vidal) gradually begins to suspect sinister things are stirring from the house’s past. She catches glimpses of shadowy figures and doorways that aren't there in the mirrors and reflective surfaces. When she talks to her new neighbours she discovers that the previous owner, a famous artist, vanished in mysterious circumstances. Deborah is further convinced something evil lurks within the house as everyone she photographs dies in unnatural circumstances. Is Deborah experiencing a nervous breakdown? Or are there actually evil spirits trapped in the glass surfaces of her new home, waiting to pounce into our world?
The mirror has featured heavily throughout horror cinema as a source of danger and fear. Psychologically speaking they are often used to address ideas revolving around the fear of one’s self and psychological breakdown. A common visual motif in films in which someone is suffering from psychological issues is to show them looking in a shattered mirror, signifying their shattered psyche, confused identity and warped view of the world. To echo Dr. Frank Mandel in Dario Argento's Suspiria: Bad luck isn't brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds. In overtly fantastical narratives mirrors can also act as spooky gateways to other dimensions and realms from which demonic forces can enter our lives. Ideas such as these stem from all sorts of superstitions and urban myths throughout the world and are touched upon in Dark Mirror.
Hauntingly ambiguous, the film is not only a moody, lo-fi ghost tale; it also works well as the study of a lonely woman’s increasingly fractured mind. Deborah has a hard time readjusting to her new life in LA. Her husband works long hours, her new neighbours are weird, she feels a distance forming between her and her young son and her hopes of working as a professional photographer are constantly dashed. The odd occurrences are initially explained away when it is suggested they are figments of her frustration. When her estranged mother comes to visit, she tells Deborah that the cut glass throughout the house is, according to traditional feng shui, used to trap evil spirits and prevent them from entering the home. Spooky.
A modestly budgeted film, Dark Mirror relies on few locations, the main one being Deborah's new house. Boasting myriad cut glass windows and mirrors, it resembles a jewel box; a sort of supernatural glass house. The cinematography by Armando Salas utilises shadows and light to rather elegant effect and imbues the film with a distinct look and atmosphere. The rippling light reflected on walls from the cut glass windows is eerily, shimmeringly beautiful. Given the unsettling mystery surrounding the glass and mirrors in the story, this provides a suitably ominous atmosphere throughout. That much of the horror actually happens during daylight hours, and is created by sunlight sparkling through ornate glass, also enrobes the film in an odd and distinct atmosphere.
Dark Mirror is a thoroughly decent thriller with a strong performance from Vidal and an intriguing central mystery that benefits from often strikingly beautiful and odd camera work. As it reaches its increasingly fraught climax, there are more than a few moments of atmospheric intensity, while the tragic and ambiguous ending proves hauntingly effective.