Sundance - The Broken (2008)


If you've seen the British import Cashback, then you already know that director Sean Ellis has a real gift for visual storytelling. Even if you hated the flick, there's little denying that Ellis has a good eye for clean, beautiful shots and some strangely appealing visual tricks. (Plus the movie has tons of awesome female nudity in it, if that's the sort of news that'd make you rent the thing.)

So I was both curious and somewhat psyched to see Mr. Ellis' sophomore project, partially because I did enjoy Cashback -- but mainly because the filmmaker's second effort is (yes!) a horror movie! The Broken is a quick-paced, very stylish, and smartly sneaky little psycho-thriller, one that offers a few too many "jolt scares" and covers just a little familiar material, but for the most part I was quite impressed by the film's tone, pacing, and overall mood of downright creepiness.

The lovely Lena Headey (also known as the mega-hot queen from 300) plays a medical technician who catches a glimpse of a woman who looks -- exactly like her! Thus begins a series of horrifying events that spread out and infect poor Gina's dad, brother, and a few assorted friends. (To say much more about the plot would be a disservice to the viewer, but things do get pretty supernatural, scary, and (yes) gory.)

So while The Broken is little more than an old-fashioned campfire-style horror tale (which is usually good enough for me), the movie offers a few cool components that elevate it beyond typical genre fare. First and foremost is the director's crisp, clean and progressively more creepy visual style; Ellis indulges in only one (!) dream sequence -- but it's a good one that actually adds a little something to the story. And while I'm usually not a fan of the "loud bang" sort of scare, most of the jolts in The Broken arrive as the characters themselves are being scared out of their pants. And that's not really a cheat.

Leading lady Lena Headey anchors the movie so well, heck, I bet she could have saved the thing even if it wasn't any good. Her Gina McVey character is sweet, smart, and thoroughly realistic -- which really helps to sell the story once things get a little crazy. (And boy do they.) Ms. Headey is supported by some excellent back-up players, including Richard Jenkins as her kind-hearted pop, Melvil Poupaud as her "disconcerting" boyfriend, and the adorable Michelle Duncan as a friend who has no idea what horrors await.

Although it probably doesn't qualify as "stunningly unique," The Broken is certainly fresh enough to qualify as "something different." It's not a stalker flick or a ghost story, although it's sort of a combination of both. And even if you do figure out where the horror is coming from well before the characters do, you'll probably be quite pleased that it's not just the same ol' slasher stuff.

Plus the movie looks like a million bucks.