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Coroner’s Report: The Broken

The Coroner has temporarily left the building. Old Sawbones Fure took one look at the 8 Films To Die For in this year’s After Dark Horrorfest and flew into an immediate rage. So Rob Hunter is stepping in to help out.
By  · Published on April 16th, 2009

The Coroner has temporarily left the building.  Old Sawbones Fure took one look at the 8 Films To Die For in this year’s After Dark Horrorfest and flew into an immediate rage.  He marched right in to Executive Editor Neil Miller’s office (bypassing a proper check-in with the secretary, Cole Abiaus) and threw three of the titles onto the desk.  “These are foreign films,” he snarled, “You know I don’t watch movies when I can’t understand the language!”  Long story short, Miller and Abiaus assuaged Fure’s anger with martinis and a massage (respectively) and then assigned the British, Australian, and Korean films to yours truly.

The Broken is about a woman who watches a car drive by and sees herself behind the wheel.  Not in the same way you think “oh that purple Scion is lovely and how I wish it were mine” but in that she’s standing on the sidewalk and literally watches as her doppelganger drives right past.  Curious and stunned, Gina McVey (Lena Headey) follows the car to a parking garage and the driver to an apartment where she finds a photo of the mystery woman with her own father.  She races to discover the truth but not before her family and friends are slowly drawn into the terror beside her.  Can she solve the mystery before it’s too late?  And will you still be awake by the time she does?

Kills – The movie features at least four deaths, but only two of them are on-screen.  The two that are shown both come in the final thirty minutes so be sure to wake up before the end credits.

Ills – One woman has a fist shoved into her mouth which understandably chokes her but inexplicably also causes blood to gush and pour to the ground.  Another has a plastic bag placed over her head before she’s bludgeoned and suffocated to death.

Lust – I was hoping my brief guest stint here at the Coroner’s Report would provide me with plenty of opportunities to say “boobies”… and I will not been disappointed.  Lena Headey’s boobies are glimpsed as she sits up in bed, stands, and then skulks in and out of the shadows.  Unfortunately they’re mostly in shadows, but on the plus side she does also show off her nice backside and bottom from a distance as she walks nekkid throughout her apartment.  You do have to sit through two utter tease scenes beforehand though, one in the bath and one in the shower, before her boobies finally work up the nerve to say hello.  Another woman takes a proper shower meaning she flaunts her shapely boobies in the brightly-lit bathroom.  Headey also has a terribly unsexy sex scene consisting solely of her boyfriend thrusting and drooling on her offscreen boobies beneath him.

LearningThe Broken doesn’t teach us anything new, but it is a strong reminder of one of the most important lessons from horror films over the years.  Mirrors are very, very bad.  Nothing good can ever come from (or through) them.  Sell them, cover them, get rid of them.  Also, you have a fifty/fifty chance of surviving your shower.

Review –  I love the final thirty minutes of this movie.  Unfortunately, the sixty that precede it move slower than a dead snail’s bowels.  I’m not against slow movies in general either.  Sean Penn’s The Pledge is a molasses movie but it’s still an incredible film.  It also benefited from a powerful central performance by Jack Nicholson, and while Lena Headey is far sexier than that rotund thespian, she’s not quite in his acting league.

Shortly after Headey’s character sees herself drive by, she’s involved in a car accident that sends her to the hospital with possible brain injuries.  From that point forward, her paranoia and suspicions build as she struggles to figure out what’s happening.  As the events in The Broken unfold you’ll have a fair sense of what’s going on before she does, although you’ll have no idea why.  A certain science fiction classic (and all three of it’s remakes) will come to mind as an obvious inspiration, but there’s a little bit more at play here.

Gina’s path is paralleled to a smaller degree by her father, played by the always wonderful Richard Jenkins.  He, like several of the film’s main characters, experiences a mirror shattering shortly after he’s stared into it’s depths followed by some odd occurences and sightings.  Mirror scenes in horror films are cliched by this point, but The Broken does some interesting things with them.  The most obvious and impressive are multiple shots from within the mirror… not simply behind it with the character on the other side, but from within the mirror’s dark and almost liquid world.  It’s reminiscent of some of the final scenes in John Carpenter’s goofy but underrated Prince of Darkness, and it’s a very cool and eerie effect.

Writer/director Sean Ellis provides some very direct clues to the story in scenes of mirrors breaking outward and shards falling to the ground followed by a foot stepping out.  As liberal as he is with the ‘what’ though he keeps the ‘why’ shrouded in implication and inference.  It’s okay for a film to keep it’s secrets from being revealed too soon, but aside from a vague conversation about a rare mental condition and some minor vanities there’s little material for the viewer to build a resolution upon.  This along with Ellis’ penchant for static shots, inaction, and an overall dreamy atmosphere make the first hour drag.

That final third is worth the wait though.  Not only do both onscreen murders occur here, but the final twist is pretty damn cool.  No, it doesn’t resolve everything.  Yes, it opens up a shitload of questions about everything that preceded it.  It’s still damn cool.  The Broken is an interesting and thought provoking film.  If you can handle movies with highly nontraditional pacing (as in none at all) and like your horror a bit metaphysical at times then it is definitely worth watching.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.