When science fiction and horror get together in a gruesome display of body horror, the audience wins. Effects-heavy body horror films like Event Horizon, The Void, and The Incredible Melting Man are the kinds of films with practical effects that horror lovers show up for. The preview for The Breach made my skin crawl with excitement for what would hopefully be a surefire midnight movie win, featuring slimy humanoid monsters and a bottlenecked group of murder investigators.
Not messing around, The Breach thrusts the viewer into the middle of an intensely curious situation to start. A boat drifts ashore, interrupting a family get-together, and the police are called when its contents reveal a horrific scene. John Hawkins (Allan Hawco), just days from exiting as sheriff of the small town of Lone Crow, finds the shocking disfigured remains of a man that is a captivating start to the film’s mystery.
This investigative thriller introduction was very reminiscent of Thunderbird, and later in The Breach, Natalie Brown, the star of Thunderbird, joins the cast. But, as we meet our characters, the investigation feels secondary. Hawkins and his deputy, Connie (Mary Antonini), identify the victim as Cole Parsons (Adam Kenneth Wilson). A missing persons report surfaces involving the disappearance of Parsons’ daughter Isabelle (Ava Weiss) under mysterious circumstances leading Hawkins to want to check out Parsons’ house. First, he needs to allocate a boat from Meg Fullbright (Emily Alatalo), his “it’s complicated” on Facebook, and solicit the help of a local coroner who is also Meg’s ex, Jacob Redgrave (Wesley French).
Where the movie should begin getting fun is where it slows down immensely. The intriguing start becomes a slow-moving investigative thriller, complete with a love triangle that never gets interesting because we never get to know the characters outside of their hostility for one another. Nick Cutter, the pen name of Craig Davidson who wrote the film’s screenplay, cuts down his nearly seven-hour acclaimed horror audio novel to ninety-two minutes but focuses too much on the character relationships and never finds an even balance between their arcs and the exciting plot points. As a result, much of The Breach’s first hour is sluggish, with conversations between the love-tangled characters becoming a round robin of group dynamics monotonizing the film’s pace after arriving at the woodsy abode. When Linda Parsons (Brown) comes looking for her husband, we get a slight reprieve as Redgrave begins exhibiting unusual symptoms caused by a bug bite that causes him to sleepwalk into Parsons’ strange attic machine. However, the film regresses to a lag in no time at all.
There are a few elements worthy of the viewer’s attention. The art department’s work is one terrific aspect. It’s easy to see that a lot of effort went into crafting the look of Parsons’ house, attic laboratory, and the otherworldly keyhole device. Rock legend and The Breach’s executive producer, Slash’s score helps provide atmosphere when little else is happening in the film. And also, to the film’s credit, the special effects and makeup work are genuinely satisfying. Daniel Baker, the prosthetics artist responsible for the film, should never stop making horror creatures, and any film looking for prosthetics work would be lucky to have Baker on board. The Breach features what is sure to be a qualifier for best kill of the year, with one of Baker’s creatures crawling out of its body horror victim in a gory, violent display of wriggling discomfort and muscle-tightening fright. Honestly, it’s the film’s best moment.
I think it’s safe to say that Rodrigo Gudiño is a horror movie fan. The minute that Hawkins, Redgrave, and Fulbright enter Dr. Parsons’ house, the movie begins to feel like an inspired mashup of at least half a dozen films. The main plot is the haunted house atmosphere of Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond combined with the resonator from Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond, which I guess makes The Breach “From Beyond the Beyond” or something like that. Furthermore, he sticks the idea in a cabin in the woods ala Evil Dead, utilizes some Invasion of the Body Snatchers measures, and there’s even a scene involving walking melty mutant corpses that looks a lot like the final stand sequence in Fulci’s Zombie.
Many pieces of The Breach are very entertaining, but the film as a whole is a very muddy affair that never achieves cohesion. Even in its epilogue, it leaves too much confusion about the events witnessed, never making it clear what the intent of the otherworldly ghouls is, why the bugs are an essential part of this plot, or why an anomalous “breach” is significant. Sci-fi horror films can be an entertaining, creative meld, but it’s also hard to pull off. The Breach ends up in a pile with many high-concept films I had high hopes for that end up focusing their efforts on the wrong parts of the story. Heightened by its initially exciting minutes, The Breach proved it couldn’t keep up with the pace it desired to attain.
Ultimately, The Breach ended up leaving me disappointed about what it could have been. There’s a great idea here, and I think many genre fans will be drawn to the film based on that, the many horror movie influences it employs, and the excitement produced by the hyped-up trailer. The Breach ends up being a dull and convoluted look into the beyond.
The Breach played as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival on July 25.