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“Mirror Mirror”: A shocking early ’90s reflection of evil in the tradition of “Carrie” and “Heathers”
Mirror Mirror — MTV video director Marina Sargenti’s feature film debut, now streaming on our Night Flight Plus channel — is a shocking early ’90s reflection of evil in the tradition of revenge-themed teen horror films like Carrie, Heathers, and The Craft, with additional elements of malevolent supernatural powers, goth girl angst and student body bitchiness.
After an intriguing prologue from the distant past, set sometime in the 1930s and involving two sisters (one of which might be a witch) and a bloody knife, the movie’s present-day plot kicks in.
We’re introduced to our story’s heroine, a moody goth teen named Megan Gordon — played by intriguingly-named actress Rainbow Harvest, who many reviewers seem to think looks a lot like Winona Ryder, who had just played a gothed-out teen in the horror-comedy hit Beetlejuice a few years earlier (we don’t see the resemblance, personally).
Megan has just moved to a small California town with her widowed mother, Susan, played by the always awesome Karen Black, who has decided to transplant herself and her lonely daughter in order to start a new life after the death of her husband, Megan’s dad.
We also meet a woman named Emelin — an antiques dealer who was brought in to remove the items left behind in the spooky old house — is played by another large and small screen legend, Yvonne De Carlo (you might remember her as Lily on the 1960s TV hit, “The Munsters”).
Megan immediately begins having a hard time adjusting to her new private school, which is understandable considering that she stands out in her raccoon-eye makeup and dark lipstick, wearing a wardrobe which consists of mostly black clothes.
There doesn’t seem to be a goth scene at this particular high school, which is weird because we thought every high school in the 80s and 90s had one.
She pretty quickly becomes the most unpopular chick in school, picked on by a pack of nasty bitches — their leader seems to be the buxom rich girl Charlene Kane (Charlie Spradling) — who make her the butt of their mean jokes.
Speaking of butts, Ms. Spradling — she would play the part of “Wanda” in 1991’s Puppet Master II — provides some nice NSFW nude scenes before getting all steamy in the locker room shower.
Their treatment just forces Megan to isolate even more than usual.
She ends up making friends with just one girlfriend, Nikki Chandler (Kristin Dattilo), who helps protect her, and Nikki’s handsome jock boyfriend Ron (Ricky Paull Goldin) seems to think she’s pretty cool too (most of the male characters are presented as well-meaning oafs or pawns to be manipulated by their evil girlfriends).
At home, she spends most of her time in her bedroom, where she becomes captivated by an antique full-length mirror left behind by the original owners of the house (the aforementioned sisters, who Megan doesn’t realize until much later were pretty much insane).
The more time Megan spends in front of her creepy goth mirror (it bleeds!), the more terrible things seem to happen to those who choose to torment her at school.
Emelin stumbles upon the previous tenant’s diary — which spells out the truth about the evil mirror and its deadly powers, and that it might actually be possessed by a demonic force — and her further reading in a book on demonology reveals that the mirror might actually be a portal-type gateway for demons to be able enter into their world.
It must be true, because it’s in a book!, that whoever owns the mirror is granted evil powers to exact revenge on her persecutors, and so she decides that the only to find out if its true or not is to break into the house and steal it.
Then, a series of mysterious, supernatural transformations start to happen in Megan’s life, right about the same time that she also begins having nightmares about her father (she wishes that dead dad was still around, and what do you know?, he shows up, corpse-like and creepy, that night in Megan’s bedroom).
Megan also begins to physically transform, now dressing differently and attracting the eye of a boy at school, who just happens to be Charlene’s good-looking jock boyfriend Jeff (Tom Bresnahan).
However, she soon begins to realize that the dark magick mirror might have something to do with her newfound attraction and the powers that she realizes she can use to her deadly advantage.
Nikki — armed with a dagger and some vague sense of what her friend should do in order to stop the murderous mirror — confronts Megan and tries to help her get away from the full-length reflection of evil, before it’s too late.
Filmed in the summer of 1989, Mirror Mirror — also released outside the U.S. as Cauchemar Miroir (Nightmare Mirror), and Reflexo do Demônio (The Demon’s Reflection) — arrived during the late 80s/early 90s transition period for the horror genre, after the popularity of slasher flicks was ending and the nineties new wave of horror hadn’t yet fully kicked in, during a time when it seems like theatrical horror movies were in decline as more and more fiends of the genre began renting videos instead.
Mirror Mirror wasn’t exactly a straight-to-video release, though, considering it was screened in a limited theatrical release in 1990 before arriving on home video in 1991 (the original VHS release, by the way, came with a lenticular holographic cover featuring the mirror demon reaching its hands out with a tilt of the box).
This was the first theatrical feature — screened at the Chicago International Film Festival on October 19, 1990 — by music video director/producer and commercial director Marina Sargenti, who seems to have gone back to doing more music videos after also directing a couple of made-for-TV movies: Child of Darkness, Child of Light (1991), which also featured Dattilo, and Lying Eyes, (1996). She also directed episodes of TV shows like “Models Inc.,” (1994–95), and “Malibu Shores” (1996).
The feminist-friendly Sargenti co-wrote the script for Mirror Mirror — with two self-described “twisted sisters,” Annette Cascone (she also uses the name “A.A. Cascone) and Gina Cascone, who have written more than twenty-eight books together, mainly young adult thrillers, as well as the Deadtime Stories series of horror-theme books which are geared towards middle-grade readers.
The Cascone sisters have also written several episodes of the Nickelodeon TV series, “Deadtime Stories,” based on the Deadtime Stories books, and Gina Cascone has also penned the original stories (she’s credited for story and concept) which were used for a couple of the Mirror Mirror sequels.
Producer Jimmy Lifton — he composed the score here, which can be found on a soundtrack released via Orphan Records in 1990 — went on to direct, produce, write and score the first of the three sequels: Mirror Mirror 2: Raven Dance (1993, it featured an early film appearance for Mark Ruffalo), and he also produced Mirror Mirror III: The Voyeur (1995), co-directed by Virginia Perfili and Rachel Gordon, and Mirror Mirror IV: Reflection (2000), which was directed by Lifton’s wife, Paulette Victor.
Rainbow Harvest (yes, that’s her real name) appeared in a handful of features from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, making her screen debut, age 16, in the leading role in Old Enough (1984). She doesn’t appear to be working as an actress these days.
The talented supporting cast for Mirror Mirror also features a host of great character actors.
For instance, you may also recognize Kristin Dattilo from her many roles on TV, including co-starring on “The Chris Isaak Show,” (2001-2004), and guest appearances on “Dexter,” “Two and a Half Men,” and many, many more.
There’s also Megan’s science teacher “Mr. Anderson” (great actor Stephen Tobolowsky), and “Mr. Veze” is played by the great William Sanderson, who you may know from “True Blood,” “Deadwood,” and other TV shows as well as many feature films.