Monday, February 16, 2009

Mirror, Mirror (1990)

Reviewed By: Billy

We talk a lot about women like Linda Blair and Sybil Danning on this site, and yes, if there was ever a Great Women of Sleaze convention, they would get the first invitations. But, to be honest, we’ve too long ignored a woman who helped pave the path the rest, someone whose promising career nose-dived into bizarro-indie hell with such an alarming intensity that it ought to be studied in aviation classes. Well finally, with Mirror, Mirror, we have the chance to give credit where credit is due. Ladies and gentlemen: for your consideration in the Tower Farm Ladies Hall of Fame…Miss Karen Black.

Our first shot of Karen here tells us everything we need to know – wearing a wide brimmed hat, bad blond wig, and some kind of floral Easter dress, she looks like a drunk Ellen Burstyn. As the movie progresses, we’ll find out that she’s also acting like a drunk Ellen Burstyn, so at least there’s some consistency here. Karen is playing another crazy mom, which, of course, is her forte. This movie actually serves as the perfect bridge between the just-getting-crazy Karen Black of Burnt Offerings and the please-find-a-straight-jacket-pronto-crazy Karen Black of such classy fare as Miner’s Massacre and Firecracker; she's hamming it up all right, but not yet to the level of art that she'd discover in the DVD age.

Anyway, Karen and her antisocial Goth daughter Megan are moving into a house with a haunted mirror. This is really all the plot explanation you need for now; you can probably guess that eventually the mirror is going to allow the Goth daughter to get revenge on all her new a-hole classmates. Megan is played by an actress named Rainbow Harvest, which for my money is the best stage name this side of Texas Battle (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End). I’ve never seen Rainbow Harvest in anything else, but people online seem to feel she bears a strong resemblance to Winona Ryder. Personally, I think she looks suspiciously like Lori Petty here. Being that Petty’s Tank Girl is one of our favorite celluloid disasters, this resemblance only adds to my enjoyment of her performance. In fact, a quick IMDb check reveals that Rainbow seems to have disappeared after about 1991. Being that this is right as Lori Petty’s career was taking off, I’m just going to go ahead and say they’re the same person.

Now…for a cheapo 1990 release, you might be thinking that Karen Black and a Lori Petty look-alike would provide enough star power. But the makers of Mirror, Mirror have much bigger ambitions, and shoot for the moon in assembling a supporting cast. Unfortunately, they miss the moon by a long shot and apparently end up on Mars with the insane pairing of Yvonne De Carlo and William Sanderson. De Carlo plays an antiques dealer; she is, of course, best known for playing Lily Munster in “The Munsters.” Some of you will remember Sanderson as Larry from “Newhart” and none of you will remember him from Savage Weekend. Sanderson, who specializes in playing nutty country-boys, plays another one here…except that instead of being crazy from years of inbreeding, he’s crazy from having served in Vietnam. Anyway, both supporting actors are barely in the movie and make much more of an impact on the VHS box cover.

So…back to the plot…if you’ve ever seen Carrie, The Craft, or 976-Evil, nothing in this movie will surprise you. If you’ve NEVER seen those movies, what the hell are you doing at Tower Farm, anyway? Gothy Megan has a sex scene with the mirror and it starts doing her bidding. By sex scene, I mean she rubs against the mirror and licks off some dripping blood. And by bidding, I mean giving the popular bitch a nosebleed and her math teacher an asthma attack. Personally, I’d ask for a few million bucks and a whole new life…but that’s just me. Finally, an hour into the movie, one of the jock boys gets his face skinned off…and it’s about time. I’d love to tell you about the special effects, except that there are none; we get some nice closeup shots of a pair of hairy hands, and I guess we are to assume that they’re coming out of the mirror. Yvonne’s death scene is so cheap – honest to God – the only thing we see is a stock shot of glass breaking. Meanwhile, Karen does the concerned mom bit and comes off like the most annoying John Waters character ever. She does get one of the best death scenes, though, when she sticks her hand down a garbage disposal and it gets whacked off. In real life I’m not sure that losing a hand would immediately kill you…it seems like lots of people lose a hand and go on to fulfilling lives without it. Hell, JM and I once saw a Discovery program where a skydiver survived after her parachute failed to open and she completely smashed her skull upon landing. Now that’s horror. Anyway, delicate Karen holds her blood-spurting stump in the air and then falls over dead on the kitchen floor.

There are some other death scenes before the mirror finally unleashes its power, which appears to involve several wind machines and some fake leaves. Rainbow Harvest and her only friend get to run around screaming, before Rainbow is finally killed by the mirror. I wish I could tell you about this death scene…but, as are several in this movie, it’s off camera. The little trickle of blood running from her mouth was a nice touch, though. In a classic final girl move, the best friend screams into the mirror that she wants everything back the way it was. As we all know, Nancy tried this in A Nightmare on Elm Street and ended up in an ugly convertible while her mother was transformed into a cardboard cutout and pulled through a window. So we should all know it’s not going to work this time, either; instead of waking up with all her friends back, our heroine wakes up in the 1920s/1930s, back when the mirror first started causing trouble.

With Krazy Karen and a semi-clever ending, I can’t say I hated Mirror, Mirror. But I liked it much better when it was called 976-Evil and featured a phone instead of a mirror. The problem is that there’s really no one reason to watch this movie. If you want to see a pale, bony-ish girl who talks like a 12-year-old boy, rent Tank Girl. If you need to see a good high school revenge movie…well, take your pick. And if you want to see Karen Black at her best, then I’d suggest renting anything post-1995, when she’d figured out that the lower the film’s budget, the higher her name would appear in the credits. The really good news is that there are sequels to Mirror, Mirror. I don’t know how in the world this movie morphed into a series…but I’m not complaining; we all know that sequels are always an improvement. In fact, I just looked up Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance and see that it stars Roddy MacDowell (Fright Night), Sally Kellerman (MASH), Lois Nettleton (Deadly Blessing), Veronica Cartwright (The Birds), and William Sanderson…playing a different role! Now THAT'S an all-star cast. So I’m gonna go ahead and predict that the sequel becomes my favorite movie. And for now, I’ll give this one…


No comments:

Post a Comment