Trivia By the way, in case you're wondering what the second last line of the movie is, it's, "Another case of dextrocardia with situs inversus?". Never, ever give a line containing such a term to an actor if he has never worked on Holby City, or Casualty for that matter.
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The Broken (2008)
9th Apr 09
Broken mirrors mean more than a touch of bad luck for an American family living in London.
When watching the Sean Ellis interview on the new The Broken DVD, you might notice how many times he uses the term "grown-up" to describe what type of horror experience he wanted to achieve here. By this, his objective was the manufacturing of something, dark, brooding and cerebral, as opposed to trash featuring green goo or naked chicks with guns. Not that there's anything wrong with green goo and chicks with guns, but if that is your bag, then you might be well advised to give The Broken a wide berth.
But for those of you with a slightly more rounded, mature viewing appetite, you will find Ellis' film a chilling, fear-packed ride, which manages to simultaneously raise goose bumps, while also leaving you a little frustrated. The plot revolves around Gina (Lena Headey), an American radiologist living in London. Her perfect family, with respective partners, congregate to throw a surprise birthday party for her father, the US Ambassador to the UK (Richard Jenkins, not Gregory Peck), and immediately following a toast, a huge mirror shatters in the dining room. The following day, Gina sees herself drive past in her jeep, towards her apartment. Understandably shaken, the real Gina is then involved in a head-on road traffic accident with a London taxi.
She recovers surprisingly fast from the crash, with a few cuts and - perhaps more significantly - some bruising of the brain. She spends some time with the psychiatric counsellor to monitor the mental effects of the accident, of which she only recalls "fragments". Her French boyfriend, Stefan (Melvil Poupaud) then takes her back to his apartment, but he's far from is usual friendly self. When she's having a bath, she notices drips coming from the ceiling, which she then investigates in the loft, only to be caught by Stefan who coldly tells her he'll sort it out tomorrow. Gina becomes increasingly distressed, paranoid, and all the while, more fragments are coming back to her, presented to us via quick, unsettling inserts, combined with surreal, creepy images of her family and the moments surrounding the accident. It soon transpires that it is not only Gina being strangely affected following the mirror incident, as the relative doppelgängers of her family emerge and begin to kill off their normal selves.
Make no mistake - Ellis has constructed a mini nightmare with The Broken. An impressively suspenseful and beautifully-photographed experience in the supernatural, it contains its fare share of penny dreadful jump scares and lingering fear in almost equal measures. Gina's recalling of her 'fragments', although slightly derivative in that quick-insert style we're all-so-familiar with, comprise moments of effective terror, which most genre fans would reluctantly admit gave them the willies. The death scenes are also well staged, with some degree of inventiveness, particularly the scene in which her brother's girlfriend, Kate, meets her other self while having a shower. However, this sequence, like others in The Broken, is not unique. In fact, much of what we're watching here is quite derivative, and Ellis makes no secret of his primary influences here, most notably Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (1978) and the work of Edgar Allen Poe.
There's nothing new under the sun, though. If you're able to harness great influences and professionally deliver a strong, stylish piece of work, then why not rip stuff off, and just admit that everything we do is subject to these influences? When Pascal Laugier created his uniquely powerful brew, Martyrs, many genre fans dismissed it as another exercise in torture porn, when in fact it is so much more, infinitely more meaningful and potent than other films which, rightfully or not, exist in that subgenre. In the case of The Broken however, there is some extraneous material (such as the futile scene in the underground station), and unanswered questions which continue to exist even after the credits roll, which will inevitably irritate some viewers, while others may embrace the nightmarish ambiguity.
Of the actors here, no-one gives a substandard performance, yet there isn't much in the way of character development. In fact, one could go so far as to say that they're all quite dreary, generically drawn people, devoid of idiosyncratic traits that define how real humans behave. Everything gets more spicy when the doppelgängers emerge from the other side.
The Broken is a picture that is likely to divide audiences. Be aware that this is a slow-burning, atmospheric chiller (despite its lean running time) designed to deliver some great scares, and it will probably confuse you a little. While Ellis has conjured some fantastic elements here, the whole is not quite as successful as one would hope for. Regardless of such misgivings, this is a homegrown export we should be proud of.
The Broken is out on DVD now
Read about superstitions relating to The Brokenhere