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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Watching "The Broken" is like playing an endless game of Clue without ever finding out who killed Mr. Boddy. It's a mystery without a solution, a tense psychological drama that reveals nothing other than how tense and psychological it is. It plays mind games only with itself, leaving the audience to watch from the sidelines in a bored, confused stupor. The idea behind it is intriguing, and for a time, it successfully builds itself up. The thing is, the act of building is pointless if there's no height requirement. At a certain point, it becomes painfully clear that the story will only keep building without ever reaching anything. I do give it credit for creating the right atmosphere; the characters inhabit a moody, subdued world where nothing seems safe, not even a person's own home. But atmosphere can only go so far, even in a horror film. It also needs an understandable story with an ending that doesn't leave us with more questions than answers. It doesn't help that "The Broken" is unbearably slow, and this is despite the relatively short running time of eighty-eight minutes. Specific shots are dragged out so long that I eventually stopped waiting for something shocking to happen. It works only the first few times, at which point I kept in mind that suspense is most effective when things go slowly. After those few times pass, however, the film comes dangerously close to being boring, moments of horror and all. This is probably because it does a fine job showing us what happens, but it does a terrible job explaining why or how it's happening. By the end of the film, I was unable to make heads or tails of what I had just seen. What a shame, especially since it opens on such a promising note. The film begins by quoting the final lines of Edgar Allen Poe's short story "William Wilson": "You have conquered, and I yield. Yet, henceforward art thou also dead--dead to the World, to Heaven and to Hope! In me didst thou exist--and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself." The story, you see, explores the theme of the doppelganger, or the double, where the self is divided amongst two separate yet identical bodies. In Poe's story, another William Wilson--who looks similar and shares the same birthday--continuously haunts the protagonist to the point of insanity. The same theme exists in "The Broken," which tells the story of Gina McVey (Lena Headey), a British radiologist who, after seeing a clone of herself, gets into a serious car accident. As she recovers, she begins to fear that things aren't quite right, that her French boyfriend, Stephan (Melvil Poupaud), isn't the person he once was. From here, the story takes a long-winded journey through strange territory, where mirrors constantly shatter and fragmented bits of memory keep flashing on the screen. Gina keeps trying to make sense of the crash, and apparently, so is writer/director Sean Ellis, who constantly shows it in slow-motion replays from various angles. He also relies greatly on composer Guy Farley, whose score is almost entirely made up of dissonant crescendos. It creates a mood, but what good is mood without context? Scary things keep happening, yet there's no explanation for any of it, which tells me one of two things: Either this movie is an experimental art piece that intentionally challenges rational thought, or Ellis was so taken by the psychological themes that he neglected to focus on an actual plot. It's difficult to believe that it's the former, given the fact that Gina is not the only character with a doppelganger problem. Her American father (Richard Jenkins), her brother (Asier Newman), and her brother's wife (Michelle Duncan) are all affected in some way, probably because of a scene early in the film--when the entire family eats dinner at the father's house, a large mirror in the dining room suddenly falls over and shatters. For the sake of argument, let us say that "The Broken" is intended to challenge rational thought. Are we to assume, then, that the plot itself is irrelevant, that we're only supposed to follow the psychological implications? If that's the case, then there's no better example of it than a plot twist near the end of the film, which, if you choose to interpret it metaphorically, effectively raises questions about which side of a mirror represents the reflection. But again, the fact that more than one character has a doppelganger makes the idea difficult to accept. How could such a broad psychological concept apply to so many people? Maybe this film would have worked had it focused entirely on Gina, because at least then the mystery would be much less open to interpretation. There would be some sense that the story is actually reaching for something. When you have multiple characters with evil doubles of themselves, the symbolic ideas are bound to get hopelessly confused with one another. Such is the problem with "The Broken," a film that puts too many characters into a needlessly enigmatic story. I have no doubt that Ellis is trying to get at something, but for the life of me, I haven't a clue what it is. The only thing I got out of it, aside from the atmosphere, was a desire to reread the works of Edgar Allen Poe. So maybe seeing this film wasn't such a bad idea after all. - Chris Pandolfi
Imagine if Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Lynch all worked together to make an
existential and truly scary film mixing elements of Invasion of the
Body Snatchers and sixth sense made mostly for adults, where the plot
is a pure ruse or mcguffin to examine the dark side of humanity.
This film wowed me, this is not your average EXCITING FAST PACED new age horror film, this is a classic horror film that uses atmosphere and theme to frighten us not just superficially but to our own personal core. The use of haunting and beautiful imagery and sound design with a quietly creepy slow boiling pace equates to one of the most truly scary films I have seen in years. This is for fans of The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, Psycho, The seventies Invasion of The Body Snatchers, and Edgar Allen Poe. In fact, I saw the screening on Poe's Birthday, which the director announced, made our screening so special. In fact, it opens up with a brilliant quote by Edgar Allen Poe, which explains the theme and ideology behind the film completely.
The plot follows a woman who sees a mirror image of her self, driving her car, which leads to her following the woman to her apartment then a car accident. This leads her on a mentally challenging feat to retrace her memory and piece together what happened during and before the wreck. Her boyfriend no longer seems like her boyfriend, she has frightening nightmares that include some deeply disturbing and creepy imagery that chilled me to the bone. The violence is minimal; the couple of scenes that are bloody are disturbing as hell, including a great kill scene with a wink to Psycho.
So, before you go to this film realize you need to open your mind up, be ready to think, and feel in order to be terrorized by this film. This is not a simple man's horror film. You need to be patient and allow yourself to be wrapped into the films pace, I will warn you again, this is not a FAST PACED horror film, and that is what makes it so wonderful, Ellis uses his camera to paint beautiful yet quiet and haunting images to creep under your skin and fill your nightmares.
They say that a broken mirror is sure to cast seven years of bad luck
(or bad sex, as a character quips early on) to those who break it, and
although such a concept is deeply rooted in mystic superstition, there
nevertheless remains an eerie, foreboding core to its warning. Perhaps
coincidentally however, is the much more tangible, but inherently
linked concept of the doppelgänger, who is said to appear either as an
omen of sickness or death. Indeed, both share common principles with
the mirror even producing doppelgänger's of a metaphysical sense, but
both also share the undeniable clause for weariness or suspicion. Of
course, in our daily lives, thinking with clear mind-frames and
perspectives, such concepts are folly best left to those with padded
walls. Yet, brought into the domain of film, there still remains a
sense of wonder about them that allow the extra-dimensional nature of
the medium to truly shine.
The Broken, which comes from up and coming writer/director Sean Ellis who last year wooed me with the surreal and abstract romance Cashback, not only indulges in these somewhat supernatural concepts tenfold, but does so in ways that the horror movie does so best. Taking a leaf from the genre's forefathers David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock, with just a little nod here and there to the American Romantic macabre writer Edgar Allan Poe, Ellis here crafts a feature which borders on the surreal once more, this time on a much more subversive and subtle level. If you had told me that this young film-maker would go on to make a horror movie the following year after Cashback, I would have laughed it offand yet, I would have had to choke back that laughter after catching a glimpse of what is offered here.
It all takes place in the busy city of London, as a family settles down for a small celebration of the father's birthday and retirement. During a warm, friendly dinner, the conversation is abruptly drawn to a silence when a mirror suddenly crashes down onto the floor, much to the shockand then bemused laughterof those there to witness. From here on in however, the laughter is far and few between from those family members. The Broken dabbles in and out of the idea that behind each of those family members' mirrors, lies an arguable alternate reality, or at least, person (read, doppelgänger), who is given form and begins to walk their own reality as if it was their own. Of course, it's certainly an unsettling idea that someone could infiltrate your own existence and somehow seek to replace you, and you can bet Ellis does well to capitalise on that sense of threat and claustrophobia.
Rather than stoop to genre clichés and derivatives however, Ellis subscribes instead to the roots of the more artistically-driven horror movie focusing largely on atmosphere and suspense with plenty of mystery in tow. By approximation, The Broken can not possibly have had any more than perhaps two or three hundred lines of dialogue inherent to its story, and so the amount of detail then that is pushed upon creating a slow-moving, but very intricate analysis of tone and eerie aesthetic, is potent. The result is a horror movie that doesn't necessarily feel like one that is out to scare you, but rather, unsettle youmake your mind race, and question the reality of what is going on within the characters' minds. Indeed, as opposed to simply delivering cheap "boo" moments, Ellis opts to get behind enemy lines, and scare from within, albeit cerebrally.
What is most interesting about The Broken however -as is usually the case with the best examples the genre has to offer- is not how Ellis manages to unsettle you, but how he gets you thinking. Behind the cold exterior and horror-movie façade of The Broken lays an intriguing allegory that sets about detailing the death of a person, or persons, through self-inflicted means. Be sure that I am not referring to suicide, or anything of a literal, substantial meaning, but purely of a psychological, or metaphysical sense. In the world of The Broken, central character Gina (Lina Headey) is on the verge of committing to a relationship; her father (Richard Jenkins) facing old age and retirementit could be argued that many of the people within The Broken's story are facing the points in their lives where they symbolically end, with said doppelgänger therefore representing that very shift from life to death by their own hands. From this perspective, the ending to the movie attains a very poignant, and clear message.
Whether or not the viewer takes such a message away from what Ellis has to say here however, is beside the point. There still remains plenty of value of The Broken's story with or without the added benefit of subtext or allegorical meaning. The movie does have its fair share of problems most of which reside within the extremely slow-paced second act, which perhaps throws in a few too many indulgent scenes here and there with dubious characterisation; but such flaws are minor in comparison to those that we as audiences are so accustomed to when being treated to the average modern horror fare. Overall, The Broken is nevertheless a fine psychological analysis of ourselves as human beings, and how easy that barrier from sanity to insanity can be broken, with or without the accompanying seven years of misfortune. It's compelling, gripping and actually manages to scare while simultaneously tickling the intellectnow when's the last time a horror movie did that? - A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
I have yet to write a review on Sean Ellis' debut, Cashback, because it
left such a strong impression on me. I consider it one of the rare
10/10 movies I have had the joy to experience and so it was with
trepidation that I awaited his next one. I would lie if I said it met
my lofty expectations but it turns out to be better than it is credited
for. The premise is simple. Radiologist Gina MvVey believes she sees
herself, someone exactly like her, driving her car on a street. From
that point on, the movie is a slow-paced but suspenseful journey to
find out what is going on.
There are very few jump-out-of-your-seats attempts in the movie and we are far from MTV-style editing and pacing here. The dialogs are equally restrained. A lot in this movie is implicit, from the various characters and relationships to the story unfolding. The performances here are solid but discreet. Nobody is going to wow you but you do believe those actors. Ellis may not be the best director when it comes to guiding his actors but as far as building mood and capturing great moments, he is one of the better of his generation. The Broken has a lot of static shots and slow camera work that tells a lot more than the script could, some credit goes to Angus Hudson, who had worked with Ellis on Cashback as well. A few of the shots are extremely memorable and haunting. Composer Guy Farley, who was responsible for the amazing music in Ellis' previous movie is also back. This time, the music's role is a lot more subdued but he contributes here and there and especially to the final scene.
Most negative comments I have read seem to concern the derivative nature of the story. The Broken does indeed explore a theme that has been visited before, because it is a frightening proposition. It is in fact a primal fear of human beings. That the idea has been touched upon before is thus only natural. The treatment of the idea is also a bit derivative, I must confess. That is something I am less willing to forgive and thus I subtracted one from my final score. The film has also been criticized for the lack of an explanation. This is something I completely disagree for, for many reasons. Firstly, everything you need to know about The Broken is clearly laid out. In fact, the "twist" at the end is rather predictable and even hinted at early in the movie. To have a strong denouement doesn't mean to solve the puzzles but instead to build a great ride and an ending with impact. Why or how this particular phenomenon is happening is totally irrelevant and the lack of a 3rd arc where we are bombarded with some kind of mystical Mumbo Jumbo is not only refreshing but prevents the movie from being ruined like so many movies with supernatural/mystery overtones. We know exactly what is going on with this movie, we just don't know why. Audiences have been spoon-fed some "whys" for so long on their movies that it seems some just can't live without it.
Where I have had a bit of a problem is with the director not exploring secondary characters as much as I hoped for. I sense some missed opportunities there. Clearly, Ellis was more concerned with the journey of Gina McVey and quickly set up the ensemble around her to move on with the plot but I can't help but feel this prevents the last arc from being as strong as it could have been. The last scene with her and her father, the last scene with her and her brother... those could probably have turned out better with some fleshing out of the story. There are also a few moments I felt were a bit awkward. Such as a scene where Gina tries to recover a photograph in the subway, which just doesn't feel right from a storytelling point of view.
But those are nitpicks. I have greatly enjoyed The Broken. It is suspenseful and beautiful. I demand a lot from the director of Cashback, which I consider a gem. I feel Ellis has not let me down, even though I suspect it could have been even better. This isn't a slasher movie or teen horror. It doesn't follow the growing trend of injecting humor, irony and self-derision in horror movies either. In fact, it may not even be considered a horror movie by today's standards. In tone and pacing, it is more similar to a Shyamalan or a Kiyoshi Kurosawa movie. It has a strong, haunting, primal thematic and it lets us dwell on it for the whole 90 minutes.
And it contains enough memorable scenes for us to be permeated by its mood and dwell on it long after the credits have rolled.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In London, the radiologist Gina McVey (Lena Headey ) organizes a
surprise birthday party to her father John McVey (Richard Jenkins) with
her boyfriend Stefan Chambers (Melvil Poupaud), her brother Daniel
McVey (Asier Newman) and his girlfriend Kate Coleman (Michelle Duncan).
On the next day, she sees herself driving a car on the street and she
follows the woman to her apartment, where she finds a picture of her
father and her. While driving back, she has a car crash and loses parts
of her memory; further, she believes Stefan is another man. Gina
decides to investigate what is happening and unravels a dark reality.
"The Broken" is a kind of slow-paced and stylish "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" through mirrors in London. Unfortunately the intriguing story has a disappointing and pointless conclusion without any explanation for what is actually happening. The director and writer Sam Ellis fails in this regard and he should have followed Adrian Lyne's "Jacob Ladder" style, giving the explanation to the events to a psychological disturbance of Gina after the car accident. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): Not Available
Having read many of the comments here, I'm surprised that no one has recognized this as basically an overlong remake of a Twilight Zone episode from 1960 called "Mirror Image," starring Vera Miles. Rod Serling did a much better job of creating an effective spooky tale in 24 minutes than Sean Ellis did in 88 minutes with this tedious snooze. A short piece can be effective with a mysterious and unexplained ending, but in a feature film, there should be a bit more substance and the story should make sense. Sadly, substance and sense are two things missing from "The Broken." Yes, it has some moments, but they are not enough to justify your time. Some further observations: although this is clearly a contemporary story, not one character in the movie has a cellphone! And even though a car accident is the event that gets the story going, there is never any reference to an insurance company, to the person who was driving the other car, or to the police who would have been required to do a report. My advice: skip this bore and watch the original instead!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is weird how The Broken seems to have slipped under so many radars.
Cashback, Ellis' first film, gained the director many fans which should
be more than excited to see his follow-up. Maybe it's because The
Broken is very different in style, maybe it's because Mirrors has a
superficially similar theme or maybe it's just because this film could
be quite difficult to market, even to Ellis' fans.
While Cashback was quite light, humorous and even poetic in tone, The Broken is simply dark and menacing. Something Ellis' claims to be closer to his home territory, and who can contradict him after seeing his newest film? Every part of the film is tweaked to inject some sense of dread into the audience and for the greater part the film succeeds pretty well.
Ellis started out his career as a fashion photographer and it shows in his films. He is very keen on eye candy and he likes to show off. Even though the photography of The Broken has little in common with the flashy and glamorous look of fashion photography, Ellis' attention to detail and almost perfect use of color owes more than a little to his former line of work.
The film looks dark and gloomy from start to finish, with no bright or strong colors ever penetrating the darkened haze lying over the film. The editing is timid and the camera work often slow and even a little off-key. Intentionally so, as one strong scene with a mirror breaking off screen just after the camera has had it in frame for a good 30 seconds demonstrates. It's scenes like this that add a lot to the mystery and uneasy atmosphere in the film.
The score is nice and atmospheric, though could've contributed a little more to the film. While it definitely adds to the atmosphere, it's only in the last minute (and during the end credits) that Ellis shows more should've been done with it. The broken electronic of that last track fits so well with the film, but it's the only time such an effect is applied. A missed opportunity, even though the rest of the score remains more than decent enough.
It's not the visuals or music that will keep audiences away from The Broken though. The film is only 90 minutes long, but even in that small time frame Ellis keeps things vague and slow. Even though the uneasy atmosphere is ever present, there is not much happening on screen. There are two or three pretty effective scare scenes, but that doesn't draw an audience to the theater anymore.
The biggest problem with The Broken is that it never reveals much about what is going on. We follow the main character while stuff happens to her. Weird stuff that is never explained, not even hinted at. We see the "what", but never understand the "who" or "why". While this will definitely kill the movie for many, to me it was Ellis' most brilliant move. It elevates The Broken above all those horror flicks trying to explain the unexplainable with some weak or badly thought up story twists. None of that here.
And even though there is some kind of twist at the end of the film, it is hinted at a lot earlier so it shouldn't really come as a big surprise. Ellis confirmed himself he didn't set the film up to have a twist ending and by letting the audience in on it bit by bit he simply increased the mysterious feel as the film progressed.
Whether you can stomach being left behind in the dark is up to you, but if you think you can handle the lack of information on what the hell is happening, there is a little masterpiece hidden in The Broken. Ellis' style is refreshing in between all the horror flicks fighting to be the goriest. Ellis' focus is an uneasy atmosphere by leaving the audience in the dark and simply showing the facts from one point of view, and he succeeds remarkably well.
By far one of the most stylish horror films to come out of England in quite a while. Ellis proves himself a great director, who can handle more than one style. I don't really care what he does next, as long as it's as good as Cashback and The Broken, I'll be there, buying my movie ticket. 4.0*/5.0*
From the beginning this film had an eerie dark feel which I love, although the first half is quite slow and I was disappointed with the numerous musical pieces that lead me to believe something was about to happen, but did not. The story itself tells little about anything, and of course makes no sense, even the characters or the menacing force that's intruding into their lives is faceless, but I will say it has a "body snatchers" and "the astronaut's wife" feel. I understood the ending, but it still leaves one to wonder what the hell was going on. It's one of those films where you kinda want a sequel to continue the story in hopes of understanding it, but at the same time you know one is not coming, and even if one was, the characters are all pretty much used up anyway. For an independent psychological horror I loved it, but it leaves one asking for more than they should have to. Maybe that's the idea of the film. For me this film is conflicting, I originally gave it a 6 but had to bump it up.
I would classify this movie as a horror only because of a certain gory
bathroom scene. Otherwise, it is rather a psychological thriller topped
with a great amount of fantasy. I extremely loved the concept of the
creepy body invaders as well as the mysteriously breaking mirrors that
just added up to the eerie atmosphere.
Occasionally, I felt the movie to be a wee bit repetitive, showing the accident from various angles over and over again and the story was also quite easy to puzzle out after a while. However, these factors do not make the movie less enjoyable. Also, many complained about the slow pace and the lack of "action" but honestly, I liked the fact that the film wasn't filled up with unnecessary carnage and slaughter and that thanks to the slow flowing of the movie I had time to contemplate on what was going on instead of getting ready-made answers, even though towards the end everything became pretty obvious, if one payed close attention.
All in all, it was a good suspense movie and I wouldn't mind watching it again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Some people complain that nothing is explained, nothing is revealed in
The Broken. They obviously are not capable of figuring things out for
themselves.They are used to stereotypal horror crap, in which excited
dialogues are alternated with gory so called actions scenes. The Broken
is different. It is stylish and visual, relying on fear in stead of
gore. If you are sensitive to that and don't think any movie slow that
does have less than five bloody victims per minute you will appreciate
it. What's more, the plot is incredibly simple: images breaking through
the mirrors, taking over and killing the originals. So switch your
brains on, rewatch the key scene in which Kate is killed and everything
becomes crystal clear.
Now The Broken is far from perfect. The main problem is that it tries to be three different movies. There are a couple of gory scenes, especially the key scene with Kate in the shower. Predictably they are the least frightening. The Broken is also a movie about amnesia and the fear involved when the main character Gina does not entirely recognize her surroundings anymore. The third important theme is identity, indeed similar to Body Snatchers. In the last scene Gina's identity has been taken over as well; that's why her brother Daniel runs.
In my opinion the Broken should have focused more on the amnesia theme, always keeping the question open: is the fear based on reality or based on fantasy connected with the amnesia? It must be a frigging nightmare indeed when you don't recognize your own house (or parts of it) anymore. The identity theme should have remained latent. The director should have cut even more on the gore, which only provides a few anticlimaxes. If you think Texas Chainsaw Massacre intelligent then The Broken is not for you anyhow.
Now the result is a mixed bag. Besides the gore another weak point is the annoying music. On the good side it knows how to build up tension, how to keep the spectator guessing and especially how to reflect fear. As such The Broken is certainly worth watching and in fact shows what horror really should be.
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