After seeing herself drive down the street, Radiologist Gina McVey unravels a mystery centered around a broken mirror.After seeing herself drive down the street, Radiologist Gina McVey unravels a mystery centered around a broken mirror.After seeing herself drive down the street, Radiologist Gina McVey unravels a mystery centered around a broken mirror.
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 off—and 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 shock—and then bemused laughter—of 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 you—make 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 retirement—it 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 intellect—now when's the last time a horror movie did that? - A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
- Apr 5, 2009