January 25, 2006

INTO THE MIRROR (2003) movie review

(South Korea, 2003)

Starring Ji-tae Yu

Written and Directed by Seong-ho Kim

From the brooding poster (pictured), I got the impression I was going to see a psychological thriller about a killer with a split-personality. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to get a movie with a split-personality - half detective thriller, half horror movie.

Into The Mirror begins in a huge department store at night. The last employee to leave does some last minute shoplifting before dying in a bathroom, her throat cut. Next day, the head of security doesn't think it's suicide and is about to start an investigation when a second mysterious death occurs...

Ji-tae Yu stars as the store's security chief, who's resigned from the police after a hostage situation went horribly wrong (that may sound corny, but they've added plenty of twists). This young and attractive actor is one of Korea's biggest stars, judging by some of his recent credits - he was suitably sinister in the superb Oldboy, he starred in the futuristic police actioner Natural City, voiced a character in the sci-fi animation Wonderful Days (aka Sky Blue), and had major parts in Siren (aka Libera Me) and the enjoyable teen slasher Nightmare (aka The Horror Movie Game). No wonder he looks familiar.

Once the supernatural elements have emerged, the film reverts to a detective story, keeping the film firmly in the realm of the realistic. The cast are likeable and play it suitably seriously. The actor playing the lead detective (who refuses to believe that ghosts are involved) was so convincing that I almost believed it was all going to be explained away rationally.

One or two of the mirror effects are a little cheesey, but for the most part they are quite startling. The direction is imaginative and whenever the story starts getting a little too familiar, there's always another twist on the way.

I couldn't recommend Into The Mirror as full-on horror, and would be reluctant to sell it as a police thriller because of its supernatural content. But I can recommend it as unique and entertaining.

UPDATE, January 2008: Alexandre Aja set to release a remake of this as Mirrors, starring Kiefer Sutherland!

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