A few days ago, it happened again. I was in the bathroom with the door closed a little too long. When I read a particular guy’s name aloud five times, my wife became suspicious. The noises of the medicine cabinet door, which was opened repeatedly, didn’t help either. She stood outside the door, knocked hard, and called, “Is everything alright? What exactly are you doing there?”. I felt embarrassed. I didn’t know exactly how I would get out of it. “Um, I’m coming,” I said, immediately regretting the wrong choice of words. A few minutes later, I opened the door with an innocent look. My wife went into the bathroom and quickly realized exactly what had happened. The mirror door of the medicine cabinet was open, and on the cabinet in front of the mirror was written something terrible in opposite letters, and my mouth was hanging open as if my jaw was about to burst. “You’re trying again to see if your horror movie scenes is happening in real life?” my wife asked. “Umm… yes”, I answered with a shy look while taking a wipe and starting to clean up all the mess.
Okay, well. The truth is that the story described here did not happen, at least not in this way. Nevertheless, he expresses that horror films have made the spectacle one of the most worn elements in them – what is known as the “Horror Trope,” a term that describes – often in a critical way – worn-out scare clichés typical in horror films. You can see it in horror movies about mirrors and even in exceptionally carved scenes where the biggest enemy is that glass object, which will show you who is the scariest in town.
Mirrors: More Than Meets the Eye
In every home, you will find at least a few mirrors, as befits one of the more valuable items. This device, which has a surface (usually made of glass) that reflects the light rays, recalls the figure of the person looking at it. We use the mirror in countless actions, such as dressing, makeup, combing, shaving, etc.
So what exactly explains the secret of the rather menacing attraction of the mirrors and their impressive presence in horror films? Some things. First of all, for many, mirrors connect to widespread psychological and personal problems of poor self-concept and low body image. The mirrors are supposed to reflect reality – at least the standard mirrors, not those found in the mirror mazes and the various amusement parks – but it scares some people. It may remind us of our flaws, for example, the excess weight or another flaw we would be happy to forget: a mole that appears right in the middle of the face. Horror films, which play on everyday fears, take it to the extreme. In them, we often see the “self” in a particularly distorted or malicious way.
The fear element of the mirrors may be related to what we see in them or sometimes what we cannot see. The image in the mirror is supposed to be similar to reality, but if a specific item is changed, uncertainty can cause fear. Here too, you can point to many examples from horror movies about mirrors in which the figure in the mirror suddenly starts moving even though we are standing, creepily smiles at us, and so on. Besides, when we stand in front of the mirror, there is almost always a dead space behind us. If we put some malevolent character into it – yes, you’ve seen that too in too many horror movies – we’ll get a scene with the potential to be startling or even scary.
In general, mirrors have limited visibility that may make our imagination work overtime. It may happen if we look at them at night, in a place with problematic lighting conditions, or in a fundamentally scary location. Mirrors are often associated with negative beliefs, the most famous of which is that breaking a mirror will cause seven years of bad luck and considerable repair expenses. Some perceptions see mirrors as a gateway to other, even supernatural worlds, such as the spirit world or even hell. Some see the ability to see the future in the mirrors, as you have seen in several scenes where a character stands in front of a mirror, sees something terrible happening to her reflection, and quickly discovers that her fate is similar.
Horror movies About Mirrors You Should See
Whether you think that mirrors have a scary dimension, or you’ve come across countless images of mirrors in horror movies, you should know some of the films that took it to the extreme – and made mirrors the leading player in the movie.
Unsurprisingly, the first film on our list of horror movies about mirrors is called – Stay tuned and prepare to be surprised – “Mirrors.” In the film, directed by the excellent Alexander Aja, Kiefer Sutherland plays an ex-officer and current security man who encounters a mirror that allows a malicious entity to invade and endanger his family’s life. This movie gets the job done, and the thing we’ll probably remember most about it is this fantastic scene where the hero’s sister (Amy Smart. Where has she gone the last few years?) takes a dip in the bathtub after she watches her reflection in the mirror. But the mirror image has other plans, which end in a brutal scene that will make your jaw drop (sorry, I had to). Those who go further will also be able to see the rather mediocre sequel from 2010.
“Candyman” is one of the finest horror films of the 90s, which spawned two mediocre sequels and also a 2021 film of the same name, which is essentially a direct continuation of the first film – with all kinds of progressive additions that adapt it to the social issues of the current era. The film presents a local legend: whoever stands in front of the mirror and says “Candyman” five times will be summoned to our world and die shortly after. A student named Helen (Virginia Madsen), who investigates the subject of urban legends, gets carried away by the story and does the forbidden act in front of her mirror. A series of murders begins, and Helen quickly becomes the main suspect.
I like Mike Flanagan, one of today’s most influential horror directors. Flanagan is responsible for films such as “Huse,” “Ouija: Origin Of Evil,” “Before I Wake,” “Gerald’s Game” and others, as well as two of the most talked about horror series of recent years: the excellent “The Haunting Of Hill House” and its sequel, “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (which was a little less “splendid”). He entered our distinguished list thanks to the supernatural horror thriller, “Oculus.” At the center of the plot is an ancient mirror responsible for a long series of deaths in the family, and two brothers (Karen Gillan and Brandon Twist) try to prove it. This film was very effective, with memorable scenes, a tight script, and excellent acting by all involved.
Behind You (2020)
We continue with a slightly less successful film, as can be deduced from the reviews it received and the fact that I don’t really remember anything about it, even though I saw it not long ago. “Behind You” is the story of two responsibilities who arrive at their aunt’s house after Iman dies. They discover several rules in the place, one of which is not to enter the basement. Of course, they choose to enter the basement because we are in a horror movie, only to discover that all its mirrors are hidden or covered. One of them will not resist her curiosity and cause an evil demon to be released from the mirror or something similar. Beyond the problematic script and mediocre execution, most of the scares here were basic. Well, you can describe by the name of the movie what was the standard scary mirror technique in it.
Look Away (2018)
Moving to Canada for a film based on the idea of “The Evil I In The Mirror.” Maria (India Eisley) is a young woman who suffers from what can be called a hard life: she is quite a social outcast, she has almost no friends, her father is distant, and her mother is prone to depression. One day she discovers her evil apparition in the mirror, who offers to “fix her”, by switching with her. From that moment begins a journey of revenge against everyone who hurt her, who might remind some of you of “Carrie.”
The Unborn (2009)
Let’s start with a surprising fact: in the poster of the movie “The Unborn,” an evil-looking boy also appears in the mirror. You can see him standing right next to the sexy body, dressed in underwear and a tank top, of stunning Odette Annable (“Cloverfield,” “House,” “Supergirl”).
The movie itself is less successful than the poster. Casey is a young woman who suffers from some disturbing dreams. She discovers that she is actually a twin and that her brother did not survive the birth. The problem is that now he wants to emerge into the world, and the mirror is a beautiful gateway. The film included some decent scares, including one related to our favorite sleep paralysis. Still, it was a bit too messy, mainly due to a not-very successful combination of several stories and eras, like a modern take on the Jewish possession story, “Dybbuk.”
Scary Mirror Scenes In Horror Movies
It’s not hard to find mirror scenes in horror movies. Even when not dealing with them in the main plot, mirrors are an integral part of many horror films that (also) deal with other subjects. You know, all those pretty cheap scares we’ve gotten used to seeing. But sometimes, there is a scene that manages to be pretty scary.
“The Shining” Mirror Scene(s)
Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “The Shining”‘, featured some great-looking scenes. In the opinion of the writer of these lines, we mean, of course, the Redrum scene, one of the creepiest we’ve seen in horror cinema, and another scene that showed us why it’s crucial not to open your eyes when kissing a naked sexy girl. The fear, of course, is that we will look in the mirror and discover that we are having an affair with a much older woman with a disturbing laugh (to whom hasn’t this happened?).
The Mirror Scene In “Poltergeist”
“Poltergeist” is one of the most iconic horror films. Even if what happened outside the set is no less terrible than the film’s plot, some scenes in it became classics. The “They’re Heeeree” scene, choking the clown, and the mirror scene, in which the demons make someone – at least in a dream – peel off their face, as viewers see the layers of skin being removed one by one.
Mirror Maze Scene in “Us”
A mirror maze can be an even more exciting element, and Jordan Peele’s “Us” did it perfectly. The scene in which Adelaide enters the maze of mirrors is a masterpiece of filmmaking, thanks to the direction and precise acting of the young actress. Later in the film, we may discover that this scene had a broader meaning, but until then, we will settle for an excellent scene.
Can Horror Movies About Mirrors Steel Scare Us?
The truth is that the average horror fan will go on alert almost every time we see a room with a mirror, so scares like “a figure closes a medicine cabinet and discovers someone behind it” or “a figure bends down to wash his face at the faucet and discovers a scary figure standing up” are pretty old-fashioned and expected.
A few movies have done this successfully, but the key today is to make that very predictable, even clichéd, scene into one that works. For example, we saw Ari Aster manage to surprise in “Midsommar,” where we saw the character in the mirror at the beginning of the scene without having time to prepare. Or the original “Candyman,” where we expect to see a figure in the mirror door that just opened, but instead, we get a hand with a hook that enters the frame. And there are many more successful examples.
The familiar “reflection moves by itself” scare, you probably saw in dozens horror movies about mirrors (and other horrors), can still work well, and a surprising reflection can be used in any item you can think of, not just the mirror. An effective way to surprise is to use other means to convey an image so that this convention takes place in them: a computer screen. We saw Mike Flanagan do it superbly in “Oculus” with mirrors and video cameras. Or a window the character is peeking through to discover another window with a person that looks similar to him but not exactly (“1408”). Or the unhappy brother in “Hereditary,” who looks bored at his reflection in the classroom window and discovers that the evil-looking figure is smiling at him.
Here’s an excellent overview of the well-worn horror tactics involving scary mirrors, with some suggested solutions.
In other words: although mirrors have become a well-worn item in horror films, some would say maus, you still can’t close the scroll on them. With a bit of creativity, imagination, and thinking outside the mirror, we might get some very successful scenes. And if it doesn’t happen? We’ll return to the successful mirror films, the memorable scenes, or our attempts to direct a horror movie in our bathroom.