PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 October, 2008, 12:00am

Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton, Amy Smart

Director: Alexandre Aja

Category: IIB

'Caution: objects may be closer than they appear.' So says a warning printed on the wing mirror of the car driven by Ben Carson, the protagonist in Alexandre Aja's paranormal thriller Mirrors. It's an explicit pointer to the film's theme, that reflections are never as close to reality than one might think.

Unfortunately, it's also a notion that sums up Aja's film, an adaptation of a Korean thriller from 2003, which is a sprawling mess with gaping plot holes and a hackneyed family-in-peril narrative.

Mirrors is also yet another example of Hollywood's cack-handedness at remaking Asian horror films. It retains only the most basic premise of the film that spawned it, Into The Mirror, in that former detective Ben (Kiefer Sutherland, above), disgraced by a shooting incident in which he mistakenly killed a colleague, is forced to take up a new job as a night watchman. But other than that, Aja's film bears little resemblance to the original, from the story itself to the psychological makeup of the characters.

Ben is on the edge of losing it, struggling with alcoholism and depression and trying to come to terms with a wrecked career and a broken marriage. His drastically unbalanced emotional state - brought about by his near-addiction to psychiatric drugs - provides a lot of leeway for audiences to interpret his experience later on, when he sees gory visions in the mirrors in his new workplace, a burned-out, gothic hulk of what was once a grand Manhattan department store.

The film's first reel manages to keep audiences guessing what the next twist is, but Aja seems bent on lacing his film with as many red herrings as possible, and by the time the denouement arrives most viewers will be past caring.

Aja's strength has always been keeping audiences at the edge of their seats and daring them to look at the grotesquerie he presents, and there are many shocks in Mirrors. But just like his 2006 adaptation of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes, the film is a hulking, shallow remake in which the social subtexts and human drama of the original are sacrificed for cheap thrills.

The credibility of Mirrors diminishes so quickly that even a fine performance by Sutherland can't rescue it.

Mirrors opens today