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MirrorMask - horror/sci-fi DVD review
MIRRORMASK rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 3 1/2 stars
Actors: Stephanie Leonidas, Jason Barry, Stephen Fry, Rob Brydon
Director: Dave McKean   Studio: Sony Pictures
DVD release: 14 Feb. 2006   Runtime: 104 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Day 16: A Time-Lapse Video of One Day On-Set, Neil Talks: A Conversation with Neil Gaiman, ComicCon 2003 Q&A, Behind The Scenes w/ Dave McKean, Flight of the Monkeybirds and Off-Set, Making-Of Featurettes

Back in the late '80s i found an upscale comic called Sandman. Written by Neil Gaiman and with each cover beautifully created by Dave McKean, it was based on the adventures of Morpheus, the god of dreams - you know, the Sandman. Gaiman was one of the God-like writers of the genre, as were Alan Moore and Frank Miller, the new blood that brought comics into their third renaissance. McKean was producing some of the most emotionally charged comic covers for DC Comic's Vertigo line. The two met and have been collaborating in print since; MirrorMask marks their first collaboration on the big screen.

In this fantasy about two worlds, Stephanie Leonidas plays Helena, a young artist whose parents run a circus. She'd rather be drawing but is needed for a juggling act. During a performance, her mother, Joanne (Gina Mckee), falls ill and is hospitalized, leaving Helena feeling guilty about what she said in an earlier altercation. Later, Helena is wakened from her sleep by music. She follows the music outside and sort of tumbles down a rabbit hole, chased by an all-consuming destructive darkness. On the other side is a strange world not unlike her drawings, but more richly realized. A street juggler named Valentine (Jason Barry) befriends her - or vice-versa - and they're off to find a charm to help stop the darkness from overtaking the world. On this other side, there is an ailing Queen of Light (Gina McKee) and a Queen of Shadows (Gina McKee).

On the other side, every scene - nay, every frame - is a work of art. Every shot is composed beautifully and inspires the viewer to hit pause from time to time just to examine every bit of the shot. This IS Dave McKean. Visually compelling Sphinx-like housecats have human faces seemingly taped on over their cat heads. The picture here has a dream-like quality and seems covered in gauze. There is a flickery quality to the light, and the center of the frame is more well-lit than the edges, as if the projector were lit with a candle. Visually stunning; I can't say enough about it.

While interesting, the story seems like a loose vehicle used to propel the dazzling and amazing imagery ahead. MirrorMask is worth seeing. Just don't be too concerned about the story; it's a touch disappointing.
reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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