Film Review: Mirror Mirror (1990) Weird But Watchable Hybrid
The film Mirror Mirror stars Karen Black in a campily entertaining role as the mother of a Goth Girl gone bad.
Mirror Mirror (1990), directed by Marina Sargenti from a script by Annette and Gina Cascone; starring Karen Black, Kristin Datillo, Rainbow Harvest, Yvonne DeCarlo, and William Sanderson.
Mirror Mirror is a weirdly hybrid genre film that could only have grown out of the Golden Age of Teen Horror Films, aka the '80s. It’s a part-slasher, part-high-school-drama, and part-demonic-possession flick. It’s strange and campy in some places and scary in others. Its various pieces don’t necessarily fit comfortably together. Nevertheless, Mirror Mirror is worth watching. The ending isn’t typical of a classic slasher, and the near-perfect late 80s/early 90s zeitgeist is a treat for fans of that era.
The film starts out with a prologue set in 1939. A young woman is stabbing another to death in her bedroom, while radio music plays and an ornate full-length mirror shakes, makes weird noises, and starts to bleed. The prologue ends and the story moves to the main event.
This begins in the present time (early 90s in this film), as a real estate agent and an antiques dealer sort through the belongings of an elderly woman who has just died, in preparation for selling her house. The furnishings include the same mirror from the prologue and a box of old diaries and books. The antiques dealer, played by an unrecognizable Yvonne De Carlo (almost thirty years on from her halcyon days as Lily Munster), takes possession of the box and prepares to sell the other furnishings, including the mirror.
The buyers of the house, however, decide to purchase the mirror and keep it with the house. They are Susan Gordon, a recent widow, and her teenage daughter, Megan. Mrs. Gordon provides most of the camp in the film as a self-absorbed neurotic dressed in over-the-top florals and ever-changing wigs. She’s played memorably by Karen Black, who at the time was in the early stages of her inexplicable slide from Oscar-nominated A-Lister to low-budget camp horror queen. Megan is played by '80s teen star Rainbow Harvest (her actual name), who bears a startling resemblance to the young Wynona Ryder. The director/producers play up the resemblance for all its worth, by dressing Megan in Goth clothes and heavy make-up that Lydia Deitz from Beetlejuice would have loved.
At her new school, Megan predictably falls afoul of the usual spoiled Mean Girls and their dopey, subservient jock admirers. The butt of constant teasing, Megan is befriended by All-American Nice Girl Nikki Chandler (Kristin Datillo), who feels sorry for her and tries to help her fit in. Meanwhile, Emelin, the antiques dealer, reads the diaries and books she found in the Gordons' house, and discovers it was once occupied by the Weatherwood sisters, one of whom practiced black magic that centered around the creepy old mirror — which is now in Megan’s bedroom.
The mirror begins to exhibit strange phenomena and Megan soon discovers that the more she engages with it, the more she seems to develop scary, supernatural powers. Predictably, she uses those powers to punish her tormentors, who include a reigning Mean Girl named Charlene Kane (Charlie Spradling) and Stephen Tobolowski, in his familiar role as a jerky school teacher.
At first the punishments are relatively mild, but they become gruesome and fatal as the mirror’s power over Megan grows. First to go is Charlene’s boyfriend, then Charlene herself; it goes on and on until Nikki turns against Megan, at which point the possessed Megan goes after Nikki. To the film’s credit, the final confrontation between Nikki and Megan doesn’t end the way the viewer expects. Nice Girl Nikki does indeed triumph as the Final Girl, but in the end the mirror still wins — sort of. The various death scenes are creepy and/or creative, especially one that takes place in a bathtub and a garbage disposal scene that ends up as a viewer might reasonably expect.
For a low-budget, teen-oriented horror film, Mirror Mirror has some fairly prominent talent on display, including Black; the Original Goth Girl De Carlo; Tobolowski; and William Sanderson, the well-traveled character actor who played Sebastian in Blade Runner and the sheriff in True Blood. Sanderson has a hilarious role as a suitor for Black, although he’s not used as much as he could have been. Rainbow Harvest is an excellent actress, who unfortunately quit acting a year after this film debuted and seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth.
Despite its flaws, Mirror Mirror is decently watchable and is under-appreciated at a 5.6/10 audience rating at IMdB. I feel it at least deserves a 6; maybe a little higher. Currently streaming at U.S. Amazon, free to Prime members.