It is nearly impossible to tell what you're going to get with any micro-budgeted horror film. I have always been a supporter and fan of independent movies in general, especially minimal ones where there are essentially nothing but odds stacked against the filmmakers. Most of the time if someone is making a movie for, say, two thousand dollars, they're making some schlepy zombie film, blowing their load on still bad special effects, essentially making a film for themselves and buddies to laugh at. There was a time when I enjoyed that but not so much nowadays, as it does get a little old. When a fellow blogger, B-Movie Becky of The Horror Effect, posted that she had been working on a horror film with her husband, I jumped at the chance to take a look at the movie and give it a review. But as I said, it was impossible to know what I was getting into beforehand.
Break was made for only two thousand bucks and shot over two weeks time with a lengthy editing process that was wedged in between work and school for co-creators Becky and Nick Sayers. The story starts out simple enough, focusing on a group of kinda-sorta teens heading out to some random secluded house for a bit of the usual debauchery. After a whole lot of wild partying, things start to go down a very strange road for the friends as everything feels a little off about the location and each of the characters start to suffer from violent visions that appear all too real as they are happening. These visions, as well as the environment, have an adverse effect on the group, and soon their friendships are turned into mistrust, and arguments form into something much worse than the usually friendly spat.
While this is all going on, there is a side story involving a young man that has taken a girl hostage and is keeping her tied up in his apartment. The connection to the other set of characters is that the victim is actually dating one of the guys in the group, but besides that, their connection to the story is ambiguous, at first. There is, however, a tie to the story as a whole that treads into spoiler territory, but I will say that in the big scheme of things, there is a lot more going on for all the characters in Break than any one of them could imagine, and their connection serves a major role in how things are to unfold in the conclusion.
How Break starts out and ends as a story, is how it starts and ends as a film in many ways. I wasn't expecting much, to be honest, and how could I with such a meekly budgeted movie. Things jump off in such a way that did not surprise me story wise. Friends hanging out, getting blasted and, even before anything happens, you know that eventually something bad is going to happen to the group. You know…like a masked maniac hacking them to pieces or a two-zombie zombie attack of some sort. With that came a movie that was technically rough around the edges early on, which is to be expected, but as the film moved forward, the technical aspects began to become more competent and a sense of individual style would form. This would also be the case with the story line, which went in a direction that is interesting, bold and quite surprising for a film of such low production cost.
Now, I won't say that Break is without its issues, because it isn't, but these are mostly the types of issues that are due to money and inexperience. Overall, the acting isn't awful for this type of film, but it is obvious that most of the actors are far from professional. With that comes the dialogue, which is standard and nothing too original, and money doesn't necessarily buy good dialogue, but on the flip side, it's not like Johnny Depp was delivering the lines either. Still, a few lines were all too familiar and felt somewhat standard in a way. There are also some scenes with sound issues and messy editing more towards the film's front half, but that seemed to be less of a problem as the movie went along.
One thing I do when watching a no-budget horror film, is I like to look for what was done right. Was there any sort of talent shown or a hint of competency from the filmmakers? Surprisingly, there was, and while it's nothing ground breaking, Break has, as I alluded to earlier, a lot style for such a small movie, and the style is handled quite well. It's virtually impossible to hide incompetence in a movie with a budget this low, and most of the editing, the camera movement and the angles used came together cohesively and felt far from completely amateurish. I wouldn't go as far as to say that the style is nothing I have never seen before, with what appears to be influences from Rob Zombie and a splash of Argento with the use of multicolored lighting gels (which isn't a bad thing, mind you), but it was certainly unexpected and really surprised me.
What I took from Break is the film could definitely be better if there were more time and money, and that's obviously not the case with ultra-indie horror cinema. My complaints are minimal, but I see a movie that does a whole lot for what the filmmakers were granted, and I saw a sense of growth from where the film started, to where it finished. Growth is clearly an important thing when creating anything artistic, and now moving forward, the Sayers have something under their belt that works as a true learning experience and is something that can only lead to stronger movies down the road. But for right now, Break is solid first feature and certainly worth a look for anyone that enjoys low-budget independent horror.
*If you want to learn more about Break, check out the official blog for all news, production history and anything else you may be curious about*