Suggested Audio Candy:
 The Sisters of Mercy “Lucretia My Reflection”
 Javier Navarrete “Mirrors”
I have always held a fascination for mirrors. They tell no lies, offering an identifiable reflection of one’s soul, and can reveal your true self where you’ve habitually tucked it away from plain sight. I’m naturally a reflective spirit, pragmatic behavior doesn’t come naturally but the ability to reflect on my actions, both after the event and on-the-move gifts such inimitable insight and a great deal of enlightenment, if implemented freely. When facing my personal demons it was this mirrored approach which brought them to the forefront and enabled me to do battle with them once and for all. It can be easy to slumber through one’s existence but the mirror never lies.
As a teen keen on chemical experimentation, mirrors played a fundamental role in my development. LSD was always my drug of choice as it altered my perception and allowed my imagination to run free. Colors became more vivid and vibrant, shadows each told their own story and a freed-up mindset afforded the encouragement to explore my less-traversed inner sanctums. Invariably, after an evening tripping with my associates, I would return to my home and stand before my bathroom mirror making grotesque faces at myself like a reprobate.
I think, if we’re honest, we’ve all been there, done that. Tell me you haven’t cruised down the interstate singing Mahna Mahna to yourself within the trappings of your own automobile and I shall retort that you’ve missed a trick. It can be somewhat liberating to act the buffoon.
While primarily the function of a mirror is for personal grooming, the earliest examples of obsidian mirrors date back to 6000BC and they have had all manner of uses within that protracted time frame. They were used by Archimedes during naval battles and astrologists frequently utilize them for telescopes and other precision instruments. Yet, it is that dual-layered face-to-face mirror which resonates most to me. The looking glass. When faced with one’s own reflection every movement is mimicked. Add a little imagination to the mixing pot and the ability to become lost in yourself becomes readily available.
Mirrors have had extensive representation within works of dark fiction for as long as I can recall. From Kevin Connor’s imposing Amicus anthology From Beyond the Grave with its imprudent demon stepping from beyond the smoke to Alexandre Aja’s flawed fantasy, Mirrors, with its dastardly reflections, they have played their part. Roger Cobb unwittingly stumbled upon a portal to the netherworld through one such looking glass in Steve Miner’s tongue-in-cheek House, and the great Robert De Niro got to recite those infamous lines as Travis Bickle squared up to his own reflection in Taxi Driver before embarking on his rampage.
Downtrodden Ash attempted the same approach in Evil Dead II but discovered swiftly that his reflection wasn’t averse to knocking seven barrels of shit from his rosy cheeks. Raimi’s sequel was lighter in tone than its predecessor and this allowed Bruce Campbell to partake in some gloriously goofball antics as he entered the ring with himself. Only Ben Foster in Pandorum has been subjected to such an absolute shit-kicking but the chin abided in style here, culminating in one of the movie’s standout moments of bravado.
Candyman was always on hand to assist with flossing should his name be uttered five times on the bounce. Tony Todd spent three months in a nearby state hospital during the shoot for attempting to pluck unsightly nasal hairs under the guidance of the mirror in question. Of course he didn’t, I’m blowing smoke up your ass with that one, but his flesh-strewn hook was admittedly the last thing you would wish to see hovering over your shoulder as you spit out your mouthwash before bedtime. Helen didn’t mind, she was just pleased to feel what he was packing against her back paddock and desired nothing more than a little pollination.
Countless slashers plundered us with jolts we could all see coming as their sufferers closed that bathroom cabinet or wiped away any condensation. Never a wise move as Henry Winkler discovered whilst jumping back and kissing himself Fonzarelli-style in Scream. This ain’t Happy Days Winkler, nobody in Woodsboro is the vaguest bit interested in seeing your cossack no matter how uplifting it is. Time to introduce a splash of red to those luminous white socks.
Poor old David Warner came a cropper to some sheet glass in Richard Donner’s The Omen. This afforded the opportunity for Donner to really mess with his addressee, slowing the bouncing bonce while we gazed through our feelers in sheer horror at the reflection of Jennings’ last stand minus his barnet. James W Roberson’s superior low-rent occult horror Superstition fed one hapless quarry a grill filled with shards as did Ulli Lommel’s less sightly brother The Bogey Man.
Dario Argento had a wicked fascination with mirrors and glass as attested by the opening kills in both Suspiria and Phenomena. Maitland McDonagh’s written thesis entitled Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento gives insight into Argento’s perversion and these became trademarks synonymous to his method of storytelling.Meanwhile, Gary Sherman’s Poltergeist III was ill-omened from the get go and Heather O’Rourke died during filming from cardiopulmonary arrest and intestinal stenosis. Final scenes involving a mirror featured a visible double which almost adds an extra layer of discontentment.
Speaking of Poltergeist, parapsychologist Marty decided against applying post-shave balm after peeling off his own face blanket under the mirror’s obstinate gaze. Spielberg managed to stifle Tobe Hooper’s involvement on this project but there was no mistaking the contorted shrine where that wonderful scene derived. I feel pity for the sorry douche on clean up after watching him teasing his pustules.
Who could forget fishwife Wendy’s whimpering reaction upon a mirror providing her the Intel that Danny hadn’t in fact been busy plugging product placement for vintage rum all along. I have to come clean y’all; after spending the winter shacked up with the old windbag in The Shining, it was I who handed the infant that crimson crayon and suggested he get creative. Poor old Shelley Duvall suffers with regularity at the hands of Keeper and it isn’t that her performance wasn’t startlingly authentic. The spineless purely make the most sumptuous sufferers.
David Naughton’s David Kessler became American Werewolf in London and was having a hard time coming to terms with the painful transformations. Unable to catch a break during his back packing travels, waking from lurid nightmares of Nazi zombies and suffering the indignant inclination to cock his leg up each lamppost he passed, he was also forced to endure frequent visitation from his old pal Jack. This in itself would be considered good fortune in my books as Griffin Dunne is one of my personal heroes. He hadn’t kept well however and between an exposed rib cage and flaying face flap, he wasn’t the most welcome mug shot to find staring back at you.
It just wouldn’t feel right not mentioning Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs when talking of mirrors. Whilst not horror, Walt Disney’s fairytale was decidedly dark fantasy, and its vain and wicked queen was not the monarch to be fucked with under any circumstances. After forcing poor Miss White to become a scullery maid, she spent the remainder of her days asking her mirror whether or not she was “the fairest of them all”. When you think about it, the real villain on the piece was said mirror. If it had simply retorted “not you, you ugly cunt” then a lot of heartbreak could have been averted and the queen in question would likely have topped herself with prescription medication and alcohol. However, it lied through its glass teeth, and it all went to her head. That’s cause and effect right there. Who said Disney movies didn’t have a deep underlying message?
Mike Flanagan’s Oculus was one of the better supernatural chillers to emerge in 2013 and featured a cursed mirror with a history of malignant mayhem, stretching back to anyone who ever dared hang it on their wall. Kaylie had every intention of destroying The Lasser Glass after coming across it while working at an auction house and blaming it for a long history of family tragedy which runs parallel with her father purchasing said mirror. The most fascinating factor here was that, on reflection, it posed the question of whether it caused the violence or simply reflected it. Bearing the tagline “You see what it wants you to see”, Oculus was a well-made and effective thriller and reminded me once more why I don’t possess any ornate furniture.
Don Coscarelli’s magisterial nightmare maker Phantasm had a doozy involving a full-length closet mirror which offered the unwelcome reflection of Angus Scrimm’s chilling Tall Man as he uttered his infamous “boooyyy!” slogan and pulled his sorry victim through the never. There are few sights more capable of crafting a butt nugget and feeding it through than that of this far less than cordial tormentor of souls. If it were between sharing a hearse with him or taking a sharpened spherical death orb to the brow as it bores through my cerebellum I think I’d actually opt for the latter.
It seems only fitting that we end with Aja’s Mirrors. It may have lacked the enduring impact we had hoped for after such a delectable entrée but the scene where Amy Smart took her final soak in the suds is hands-down wizardry and one of my all-time darling dispatches to boot. As she climbed naked into her tub the addition of an on-site mirror appeared something of a bonus. However, by the time she had wrenched open her own jaw basket and laid dead in the water with her lower teeth halfway down her midriff it all went flaccid in an instant. On the plus side, she no longer needed that reach toothbrush to get to those hard to reach back gnashers.
So, as you can see, mirrors are a horror buff’s best friend. Clearly there are rules to abide and smashing one invariably leads to seven years of cursed luck but, when implemented astutely, there are few household objects so culpable for the causing of restless nights. Over anything else it is the anguish of knowing that whatever stares back at you may not be consistent that troubles me most. Now I’m off to dig out my pot of green emulsion as there’s still plenty more of these bad news bearing blighters I haven’t painted over yet.
“Fuck it. I’ll still take you over Wendy!”
Mirror mirror on the wall
I wish to ask a question
am I the fairest of them all
I bid for your suggestion
Forget about my facial mole
set aside my double chin
for I’m convinced you can console
by seeing what’s within
I make a point to act with kindness
every single day
but others seem to suffer blindness
as they don’t see things that way
I look at you my looking-glass
and feel the fog is lifting
you see me every time I pass
and clearly know I’m drifting
I glance your way and double up
each time you gift reflection
by not choosing to cover up
you allow sweet introspection
No need to hide away my flaws
as I am not alone
that’s half the time to do my chores
and make this place like home
I’m glad I took a chance that day
and hung you on my wall
because of you I start each day
the fairest of them all