Into The Mirror (거울 속으로, Kim Sung-ho: 2003)

Wu Young-min is the head of security at a shopping mall which is about to reopen after a terrible fire. An ex-cop, he is haunted by the tragic event which resulted in his decision to leave the police force. When a young woman is found dead inside the mall and the investigative team arrives to look into the murder, Young-min finds that he knows the lead detective on the case – Ha Hyun-su. Young-min wants to leave the police to their job of finding out what happened to the girl but finds himself being pulled into the case – especially when another dead body is found in the same building…

Recently remade in the U.S. as the Kiefer Sutherland-starring Mirrors, Into The Mirror is one of those films that will appeal to fans J-Horror. With some interesting ideas hidden within its average plotline, the style of film is familiar: an ex-cop who is haunted by his past is forced to confront his fears. Throw together some creepy murders, an ex-college who dislikes him and a friend who just so happens to be a psychologist (what a coincidence!) and you sort of know what type of film this will be from the beginning. And in the middle. And in the end.

The film sets up its opening premise – the suspicious death of an employee of the mall – and then branches off into two intertwining narratives. The first of these follows ex-cop Young-min in his job as the head of security, a job which gives him access to confidential files and employee records which he looks at with his ‘cops’ perspective. Throw into this some heavy drinking and nightmares and we soon see a man who is thrown into a who lot of confusion. The second thread is the investigation by detective Ha Hyun-su – a man who wants the case closed as quickly as possible and who incidentally dislikes both Young-min and his ideas about the case. Of course, its only a matter of time until the two men have to confront each other and decide whether to work together to try to make some sense out of what they’ve found.

Director Kim Sung-ho brings some nice visual touches to the film – it’s more surface than depth – and seizes every opportunity to use mirrors and reflections in any scene possible. This leads to some impressive effects and some genuinely creepy moments. The film themes of reflection, duality and perception are also fairly direct and it seems a shame that they aren’t developed a degree more more throughout –  having said that, the final moment of the film is a very welcome touch. Performance-wise this is okay: Yoo Ti-hae gives a solid enough although unremarkable performance and Kim Myung-min impresses in the slightly lesser role of the detective.

On the negative side, Into The Mirror doesn’t really produce anything that we haven’t seen before aside from some clever visuals – unless you’ve never seen any of these types of films you’ll join the dots way in advance of the cast. The plot is a bit worn and there are a few obvious holes. It doesn’t really help that the film also can’t really decide which way it wants to turn and so comes up with an uneven mix of police procedure and ghost story. The (just short of) two hour running time feels a bit overlong, it’s plodding pace means that your attention may start to waver about halfway through and the explanation of what has actually happened in the mall is a combination of the obvious and slightly ridiculous mixed with a couple of clever ideas. The term ‘mixed bag’ covers Into The Mirror fairly well.

Fans of asian horror might like to check this film out. While the Into The Mirror doesn’t produce anything to push it up to above average it’s still a fairly solid couple of hours. In fact, give this a watch without expecting it to provide any great scares and you certainly may appreciate the ‘police investigation’ aspects.

거울 속으로 (Into The Mirror)
Directed by Kim Sung-ho
Produced by Kim Eun-young
Written by Kim Sung-ho
Starring Yoo Ti-hae, Kim Myung-min, Kim Hye-na

Into The Mirror Image © Keyplus Pictures