Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mirror Mirror III: The Voyeur


Mirror, Mirror 3: The Voyeur (1995)
Dir. Rachel Gordon, Virginia Perfili
Written by Steve Tymon
Starring Billy Drago, Mark Ruffalo, David Naughton, Monique Parent



As you have perhaps gathered by this point, I have something of a weakness for franchises, and for grinding them out to the bitter end. Early on I reviewed the entire PUMPKINHEAD and HELLRAISER sagas, then Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN sequence, and more recently, I watched every single fucking RINGU and JU-ON sequel, a fate which I mercificully spared you from having to suffer through with me. I also spared you from reviews of MIRROR MIRROR 1 and 2, 90’s direct-to-video filler about a haunted mirror so bereft of worth that it didn’t seem worth bringing up. But then MIRROR MIRROR 3 showed up during October, and you know I’m honor-bound to review every movie I see in October, no matter how obscure or worthless, even if it takes me a whole year like it did last year because of laziness, physical infirmary, pontification, etc.

So, lucky you! You get to hear about MIRROR MIRROR 1-3 all in one breathless, ecstatic binge, to bring you up to speed! What’s that, you say, you don’t care at all? What if I sweetened the deal a little by mentioning that beloved Hollywood superstar Mark Ruffalo (MIRROR MIRROR 2: RAVEN’S DANCE, MIRROR MIRROR 3: THE VOYEUR) is in parts 2 and 3? That do anything for ya? Probably didn’t do much for his career, but if it was reason enough for me to watch ‘em, surely it’s reason enough for you to read about ‘em?

MIRROR MIRROR 1 is mostly pretty boring, it’s just the story of a angsty high school girl (Rainbow Harvest, a couple TV movies in the 90’s*) and her dysfunctional mom (Karen Black, Robert Altman’s NASHVILLE, IT’S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE) who move into a new house and discover an obviously evil mirror which gives the daughter mild Carrie-like powers to punish her enemies (including GROUNDHOG DAY alum and one-time Seagal adversary Stephen Tobolowsky) in fairly dull psychic ways. BLADE RUNNER’s William Sanderson and CELLAR DWELLER/THE TEN COMMANDMENTS Yvonne De Carlo are in there too, but there’s pretty much nothing interesting or fun there, just a low-budget no-imagination 1990’s Carrie ripoff with ugly overlit lighting like they did in the 90’s. (Alternate opinion: “I loved this movie!!! 'smiles'... Rainbow Harvest was erotic and powerful in this one. I'd have to say this movie is her best. She's all goth/punk if you will, she's hot. I like the plot, its kind of '80's but its a cool flick... I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys Gothic erotica or just plain fun…” -- IMDB commentator Jade-30 from Florida, 18 January 2003.)



But MIRROR MIRROR 2: RAVEN’S DANCE gets interesting. It’s still ugly and cheap and garish and 90’s, but rather than just follow its predecessor’s CARRIE ripoff structure, MIRROR MIRROR 2 strikes out on its own and creates a… plot, I guess, (?) which I would argue is pretty unique. Or at least, I would argue that, were it decipherable enough to tell what it’s actually about to begin with. You know it's a pretty good movie when 50 minutes in, I was still grappling with basic questions like "wait, where is this set, exactly? Is this, like, a nunnery / mansion / dance studio / punk band practice space?" Let’s take a look at the conversation me and my stalwart franchise buddy Dan P had afterwards, trying to interpret what we had just seen:

And all that is before I even mention that Mark Ruffalo (Brian Yuzna’s THE DENTIST, in only his second film appearance) shows up as a mysterious teenager who is always sneaking into the protagonist’s (Tracy Wells, the beloved role of “Schoolchild” in GREMLINS) room at night to say ambiguous and vaguely insinuating things to her. Well, you’ve seen a movie before, so you know he’s obviously the physical personification of the evil mirror which is trying to seduce her to evil. And she knows it too, so eventually she up and stabs him. But then it turns out he’s not related to the mirror, he’s just some local weirdo who spends his time sneaking into church orphanages (?) at night and chatting up whoever he finds in an elliptical but subtly menacing way. Huh. Also Roddy McDowell is in there. And Veronica Cartwright. And William Sanderson is back as a different character, a mentally ill custodian/groundskeeper who is enlisted to gaslight our heroine and is filled with remorse and rips the heads off his extensive doll collection but then feels bad and tapes them back on. It’s a weird movie, but the more I think about it the more I’ve convinced that it may actually be some kind of dada masterpiece. Well worth your time. Thumbs up.

MIRROR MIRROR 3, our main dish this evening, continues the tradition of radically changing up the formula, in this case going even more starkly minimalist in the plot department. How do you top a movie where it’s not even clear what the basic setting is, let alone why or how any Ravens are dancing? Well, by substituting any remaining remnants of ostensible horror movie for a long string of softcore sex scenes with various nude women riding a mostly-out-frame Billy Drago (INVASION USA, THE UNTOUCHABLES), who’s a producer on the film for whatever reason. Considering how little he actually figures into these scenes (he’s barely visible laying on the floor or bed while the camera pervs out on the boobs halfheartedly swaying above him), you could probably have shot all his sex scenes (and hence, 50% of the movie or more) with a double and saved a little cash on your big star, which you would think he would be in favor of, as a producer. But fortunately Billy Drago is a real pro and knew that the actresses’ sense of the scene would be seriously undermined if he did some diva shit like that, so for the good of his craft it looks like he stayed for every one of these scenes. Probably even multiple takes, that’s what kind of artistically generous big famous movie star Billy Drago is. Good to see some professionalism in this industry from time to time.



Unfortunately --or maybe fortunately?-- it’s the only professionalism anywhere in the movie, which is a hilariously uneventful dreamy 90’s mess of empty, overlit rooms --some of them with an evil mirror in there which sits around looking evil but doesn’t actually do anything-- and a inexplicably convoluted series of flashbacks to what I can only meaningfully call the real plot, since nothing actually happens during the ostensible A-story. The nothing that happens is: Billy Drago moves into a mansion which used to be owned by his former lover, who was murdered by her drug-dealer boyfriend two months earlier. He then spends his time having sex with his new girl, but also sometimes the ghost of his old girlfriend comes along to judgmentally also have sex with him, and sometimes we see flashbacks of them having sex in the past. Mark Ruffalo (A FISH IN THE BATHTUB) returns to the series in a hilariously pointless role as his shifty younger brother who also has sex with one or both of the women, so yay for you, you get to see that if you can make it to the climax of the movie. Also David Naughton (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, THE SLEEPING CAR) is on hand, continuing his Shogun-like quest to wander the Earth proving that even when he’s only got a worthless supporting role in absolute unmitigated shit DTV 90’s softcore movies, he’s still irresistibly charming for some reason. At least he gets to walk with a cane here, that’s new for him.

Anyway, that’s it, that’s the whole movie. There’s an ongoing series of flashbacks which gradually explain the non-mystery about what happened with the drug dealer girlfriend and serve to fill the movie out to feature length, so I guess it’s valuable in that regard. But I am not exaggerating when I say the movie is mainly softcore Billy Drago sex scenes where nude women straddle him in a room with that mirror from MIRROR MIRROR 1 and 2. I guess the mirror is probably the titular “Voyeur” here, because it spends a lot of time watching people have sex but doesn’t really do anything except sit there and provide a different motivated Point-of-view angle and occasionally leak some blood that no one notices. At the end I think it eats somebody like in PRINCE OF DARKNESS, but I can’t help but notice that to the extent there is any conflict at all here, it comes from the ghost girlfriend and her annoyance that Billy Drago is banging some blonde in her house two freakin’ weeks after she died. If the mirror is secretly the criminal mastermind behind the drug deal gone wrong or whatever I sure didn’t pick up on it, and the only official plot description I could find for the movie is only 6 lines long, so maybe they didn’t know either.

Our beloved evil mirror, sort of the Freddy or Chucky of this series, ostensibly the villain but so universally beloved we can't help returning to it again and again. Remember those innocent years in the 90's when this mirror turned up everywhere and all the kids had toys of it and dressed as the mirror for Halloween and all that? Man, the 90's were great.

To compensate for not having a story of any kind, co-directors Virginia Perfili (Special effects on MIRROR MIRROR, graduating to co-writer on MM2, and now co-director here, and also I think it worth noting that her one other directorial effort is a movie called “BIKINI WITNESS”) and Rachel Gordon (director of films with titles such as DUNGEONS OF DESIRE and ANIMALS ATTRACTION III, but obviously most beloved for her one acting role as “severed head” in 1991’s NUDIST COLONY OF THE DEAD) appear to have decided to make the film as visually scattershot as it is narratively sparse. Much of the film (and particularly all the flashbacks) is composed of every type of video effect 1995 was capable of producing, from stretched images to color-corrected nonsense to endless inversed footage of an unidentified car driving through LA. Fuckers think they’re Oliver Stone here. I would like to assure them definitively that they are not. It's pretty brazen stylistically though; the title doesn't even appear until a solid 18 minutes in. Power moves.

Anyway, you don’t care about that, you want to know about the Ruff. I get that. The good news is that Ruffalo’s ineffable Ruffaloisms are already in full effect by this time, and he gets all the twitchy, eccentric babbling you could want. The bad news is that Hollywood had not yet figured out how to film them so he doesn’t look like a total goofball. Probably doesn’t help that he has nothing whatsoever to do in this movie except be a small part of one sex scene. Not that anyone else is much better served. Frankly, although there is a ghost, this is barely a horror movie, and in fact barely a movie at all, let alone a MIRROR MIRROR movie, not that it would be any great shakes if it was. It’s terrible and baffling, but not in a stunning way like part 2, more in a 90’s softcore cinemax kinda way. A lot more like that, actually. You’ll be sorry to know that we have been so far unable to locate any copy of the fabled MIRROR MIRROR 4: REFLECTION (yes, that’s the real subtitle) so I cannot tell you if the series gets any better.** But I can tell you that Billy Drago returns in a new role! I’m sure that he found his experience on MIRROR MIRROR 3 so ...artistically satisfying that he couldn’t resist returning one more time. This may be a really shitty franchise, but at least it’s inspiring to know that you got folks like Billy Drago out there who care enough about their craft to put in the legwork.



APPENDIX A: Alternate opinions:

UGh [sic] all it is is these 2 people having sex for an hour and a half then some people die. The mirror does look the same as in the other films but that does not matter.” -- IMDB commentator whammy666 from United States, 13 February 2005

“Mark Ruffalo's half-naked body is the only reason I stuck with this… Literally one of the most dumbfounding experiences I've had watching a movie. Monique Parent spends virtually the entire film naked, so there's that, and Ruffalo also shows his body off at the end, serving as proof that he's always looked great.” --- IMDB commentator Robert_Lovelace from New York, NY, United States, 7 July 2016

One point worth mentioning: Billy Drago is in it. He was absolutely great as the vicious bad guy Ramon Cota in "Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection". But let's face it: besides that, his career is not great.” --- Anonymous IMDB commentator from Belgium, 23 February 2010

*IMDB Trivia: Many are surprised to know that her real name is indeed "Rainbow Harvest".

**It doesn’t have enough ratings to even list an IMDB star ranking, so I don’t think I’m the only one who can’t seem to find it. I think it may well have played only a time or two on cable and never become available for home viewing.



CHAINSAWNUKAH 2016 CHECKLIST!
Good Kill Hunting

TAGLINE
Forbidden desires are unleashed ...and unspeakable evil is watching.

Well, I don’t know how “forbidden” normal vanilla cis sex with a steady partner is, but I guess an unspeakable evil IS watching. It just doesn’t really do anything, because it’s an evil mirror and can’t even touch itself.
TITLE ACCURACY
There are a few shots of a mirror, but calling this MIRROR, MIRROR is laughable. We do get a few shots of the mirror’s perspective while people bone, so I guess that’s the Voyeur part? Sure as hell don’t know what else it would be.
LITERARY ADAPTATION?
Ha.
SEQUEL?
Yup, and followed (supposedly) by MIRROR MIRROR 4: REFLECTION
REMAKE?
No
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
USA
HORROR SUB-GENRE
Haunted/ Cursed Item, I guess. Realistically, “erotic thriller”
SLUMMING A-LISTER?
None, because Mark Ruffalo wasn’t famous yet. But now, Mark Ruffalo.
BELOVED HORROR ICON?
David Naughton!
NUDITY?
Constant
SEXUAL ASSAULT?
No
WHEN ANIMALS ATTACK!
Ruffalo finds a stuffed Raven in a cupboard while he spends a whole scene dancing and making a peanut butter jelly sandwich. He seems happy to see it, perhaps remembering the raven imagery in part 2. But while it does provide a lame jump scare, it does not attack or come to life or anything.
GHOST/ ZOMBIE / HAUNTED BUILDING?
Definitely a ghost, possibly a haunted mirror which never does anything
POSSESSION?
Surprisingly no, just regular haunting.
CREEPY DOLLS?
No dolls, or even furniture of any kind except beds for fucking and that stupid mirror.
EVIL CULT?
None
MADNESS?
No
TRANSMOGRIFICATION?
None
VOYEURISM?
The movie is called “The Voyeur,” which I guess translates to the mirror sitting in the bedroom watching people fuck, but never doing anything.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Not all franchises are created equal, but if they go on long enough eventually one of the later sequels will have an embarrassing early performance from an actor who will go on to be beloved and famous and that will keep them from ever entirely slipping into obscurity.



1 comment:

  1. maybe the "forbidden desire" is having sex with his ex gf's ghost? that's kind of a form of necrophilia.

    ReplyDelete