The Horror Zine Review
Through the Looking Glass
A Film by Craig Griffith
Director: Craig Griffith
Through the Looking Glass
A Film by Craig Griffith
Review by C. Dennis Moore
Writer/director Craig Griffith’s Through the Looking Glass doesn't fit neatly into a sub-genre. Is it a ghost story? Is it a psychological thriller? Having watched the movie, I’m kind of curious myself as to how Griffith himself would answer that.
No one in this film has names, but the cast is only four: The Artist, The Friend, The Agent and The Life Model. Paul McCarthy (“Grange Hill” and “Tucker’s Luck”) plays The Artist who is living in seclusion in a huge gothic mansion in the English nowhere, trying to paint his next series, as his agent is hounding him to “paint something I can sell.”
One morning The Artist steps outside to get a little fresh air and finds a package outside his door, wrapped in newspaper. He takes it inside and finds a large framed mirror. Shortly afterward The Friend arrives to keep The Artist company, and to get started on his novel (The Friend--by Jonathan Rhodes, “M.I. High”--is a recent divorcee who’s decided he’d like to try writing a novel). As the days begin to tick by, The Friend is having much more luck writing than The Artist is at painting.
Plagued by sleeplessness and strange noises in the house, The Artist is losing focus. He brings in a life model (Roz Povey) for inspiration, but the work just isn’t coming together right and he tells her to leave. She tries to come onto him, but he pushes her away and walks out. When he comes back in a little later, The Life Model is gone, having left her clothes behind.
Sinking deeper into the despair of his creative slump, The Artist locks himself in his studio, obsessing over his work, but still not producing much that’s worthwhile. Meanwhile his hallucinations--if they are indeed hallucinations--are getting more and more vivid. When the Agent (Michael Langridge) comes to visit, The Artist is pretty far gone, having retreated almost entirely inward and offering only the most basic of responses, telling his agent he refuses to muddy his art by making it commercial and if The Agent wants to see what he’s been working on, they’re “in the cellar.”
The Agent doesn’t make it out of there.
Just as things reach their lowest point and The Artist is at the deepest depths of his spiral, The Friend decides he’s had enough and it’s time for him to leave. But when he stops in to say his goodbyes, he realizes things weren’t as bad as they seemed for his chum; indeed, they’re much worse.
Through the Looking Glass is well-made and looks bigger than its small budget. It is properly eerie and unpredictable, very atmospheric and creepy. The tension is high and in several instances I sat there, coffee cup to my lips, refusing to take a drink just yet because something was about to happen and I didn’t want to jump with hot coffee so close to my face.
McCarthy can definitely play the brooding artist to a T, but it wasn’t until the madness is about to close entirely over him and his character is in fully into the “what the hell is happening to me” mode that he demonstrates feeling and depth. Because the film depends on atmosphere to tell the story, the effects are minimal, and most of the interesting shots due to editing rather than make-up.
For all the ambiguity, I think Griffith is a hell of a director and I’m curious to see how he’d handle a script from someone with a little more experience in plotting and clarity of idea (this is Griffith’s only produced screenplay, as well as his first directing gig).
The Artist is obviously losing his mind, but is the cause something sinister hidden within the mysterious mirror, or is it in his own head? He says at the end that he has looked into the face of God and seen his face reflected there. Obviously this line is spoken in madness, but is the madness brought about by the mirror, or has he, in staring at himself too long in the mirror, begun to recognize just how deep is his despair, and is this what has driven him to madness? The questions are many, the answers few, and the only thing we can be sure of in the end is that, whether drawn from his own fragile mind or led there by evil forces, The Artist has definitely lost his marbles.
I don’t quite know what exactly Through the Looking Glass is missing. I just know it needed something in the end to round things out so the casual viewer can grab onto it and say “Oh, so that's what is happening.” Personally I’m fine with a little ambiguity, especially when it’s balanced out with tension and atmosphere, which this movie has in spades. It’s not going to be for everyone, but I liked this movie a lot.
See the movie here:
About the Filmmaker
An award winning writer/director Craig was born in Cardiff, Wales 1969. As a seven year old he became passionate about film making after his parents gave him a Super 8 camera for his birthday and he quickly set about making "film stars" of all his family and friends.
He first started writing as a teenager when he joined the Orbit Youth Theatre Company gaining his first experience of acting, writing and directing.
Craig formed his own production company The Workshop Presents making many short films, music promos and commercials and worked as a director for several production companies such as Angelic, Corkscrew and Addiction.
In 1999 he was asked by Lee Lighting to set up their Kino-Flo department as at that time he was one of the first people in the UK to use them. Spending his time at Shepperton and Pinewood Studios watching the big boys made him more determined to make features.
In 2000 Craig signed to London Management where he developed several scripts. Craig left London Management in 2002 and signed to Renting Eyeballs where he directed music videos aired on MTV.
Craig left Renting Eyeballs in 2002 to make his debut feature film entitled THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. The film has screened at festivals worldwide and won the award for Best Horror at SBFF 2007. It has since been picked up for Worldwide Rights by US distributor Goliath.
About the Reviewer
C. Dennis Moore
C. Dennis Moore lives in St. Joseph, Missouri. He’s been writing just about forever with over sixty stories and novellas published, plus a collection of his short stories called Terrible Thrills. Recent and upcoming publications include the Vile Things anthology from Comet Press and his novella Epoch Winter will be published by Drollerie Press.