In the horror genre, the hoary old theme of the ‘backwoods slasher’ never seems to go out of fashion. Every few years a new film of this type appears, and rarely do any of them bring something new to the table. Such is the case with Matthias Olof Ekh’s Break.
The first crucial error made by the filmmakers is that they did not make the film in their native language. This is clearly a German film, but everyone speaks in heavily accented English. This odd decision makes for a confusing atmosphere, and ensures that any interesting cultural themes can be simply overlooked in favour of simplistic, derivative storytelling.
Speaking of simplistic, the plot could be the definition of the word. Four girls of indeterminate age go out into the woods camping. They are attacked by cannibal rapist rednecks. That’s it. No theme, no subtext, just a paper-thin script filled with ageing clichés and offensive scenes of rape, torture and mutilation – offensive purely because they are so one-dimensional, meant only to titillate and not to illustrate any facet of human nature. There’s no real sense of horror or outrage, no sense of threat, because the film is so blandly put together. Brutal scenes which should leave a viewer reeling because of their savagery instead have no emotional impact whatsoever. Break is a vapid exercise in gratuitous exploitation that fails at even the most basic level of shock factor.
If the film had been made in the German language, and brief, meaningless scenes like the meeting with a German hiker had been examined in greater detail and given cultural weight, this could have been an interesting addition to the sub genre. A film like the excellent Norwegian effort Cold Prey (Fritt Vilt) shows how this can be done successfully, blending Hollywood style slasher elements with an identity of its own. Unfortunately, the people behind Break were content to simply create a shallow, empty exercise in hand-me-down cliché. This isn’t good enough. It was never good enough. Films like this drag the horror genre down rather than seeking to build upon its heritage.
Add to this the problems of muffled dialogue, poor phonetic delivery of the lines in stilted English, a script lacking in even a single original idea, a soundtrack that is so inappropriate it becomes laughable, and a director who can make even beautiful countryside appear flat and lifeless, and all you have is a celluloid void.
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