Lena Headey as Gina McVey
Richard Jenkins as John McVey
Asier Newman as Daniel McVey
Michelle Duncan as Kate Coleman
Melvil Poupaud as Stefan Chambers
Directed by Sean Ellis
Many of you will be aware of Sean Ellis’ previous work Cashback, in which a man daydreams about being able to stop time and subsequently decides to disrobe a number of attractive females. As a feature debut it certainly made its mark, however Ellis’ second outing into feature films is more subtle, and as a result, not as noticeable.
We begin with Lena Headey’s Gina at a family dinner only to be interrupted by the dining room mirror inexplicably smashing, all is ignored however and things carry on as before. It’s after this dinner that Gina becomes aware of someone who looks unexplainably like her and so decides to follow her. One of her stalking outings ends in a car crash and she ends up in hospital, only to be released with a heightened sense of paranoia of those closest to her. She begins to believe that her boyfriend has been replaced by an exact replica and she follows this theory onto the rest of her family members. To tell any more would surely ruin the story which does offer many twists and turns and creates an impending feeling of dread throughout.
However, even though we are treated to an intricate web of development, nothing really actually happens. The film is also chock full of cheap scares, but nothing much in the way of story progression occurs and subsequently, much like Gina, The Broken seems stuck in limbo and desperate for answers. And although characters may be given them, the audience is not. For all the questions that are raised, including one glaring matter, the audience is never treated to any satisfactory resolve.
The film has a preoccupation with mirrors and the story revolves around them to some extent, offering cheap, unrelated scare after cheap, unrelated scare using them as a medium. As before, although the reason behind the mirrors is hinted at, it is never fully fleshed-out and ultimately leaves the film with an almost unfinished feel through its lack of closure. Many films utilize the mysteriousness of an open-ending to great effect, but The Broken‘s conclusion is not so much open, as slightly ajar. It is this refusal to answer the film’s fundamental reason for being that causes the ending to fail, even though it was probably meant to be this way. The explanation for this is possibly that overlooking a plot-point so obvious could only be done deliberately; it is just perplexing as to why Ellis chose to do this.
For some, the ending may work as it allows the viewer to devise their own solution to the film’s proceedings, but this is only successful when they are given adequate clues along the way (Donnie Darko, for example) or if the ending is decidedly ambiguous (American Psycho). This falls into the category of films such as Shallow Ground which seem to offer no closure just for the fun (or lack) of it.
On the positive side, the performances are all top-notch and they handle their confusion and fear with ease, and the composition of the film is also very professional. Ellis handles his scare-tactics with aplomb and delivers some truly frightening jolts (even if they are quite cheap); making for an involving and tense picture that draws the viewer deep into the story-world through its maze of twists and turns (until the disappointing finale). The film oozes style and as a former fashion photographer, Ellis’ eye for a well composed shot is up on their on the screen in every case making for a slick, polished film with an unfaltering pace that never gets boring.
This review may seem full of mixed opinions, but it is intentional as the film evoked mixed emotions, for a while it was an engrossing horror thriller for the majority of its running time. The Broken ultimately falls short of greatness due to its anticipated, but disappointing and never fully-realized finale. For some this film will provide enough scares and clarity to emerge a competent horror thriller, but for others, it (read: the ending) may perplex and/or frustrate to an extent that causes it to lose some of its intended impact. For all its faults, it really is not a bad movie – it is certainly a proficient and accomplished feature – it’s just that some aspects will appear below some viewers’ expectations. Of course I could just be missing the point. Let’s hope other viewers don’t and this English horror entry finds its audience.