Welcome to Act 1 of Sean Ellis’ 2008 horror The Broken. Where is Act 2 and Act 3 I hear you ask – I haven’t got a clue! Lena Headey is the scream-queen in this riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Directed by: Sean Ellis
Written by: Sean Ellis
Starring: Lena Headey, Asier Newman, Michelle Duncan, Melvil Poupaud, Richard Jenkins
Released: 2008 / Genre: Horror / Country: UK / IMDB
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There is a fifteen-minute sequence in The Broken when actress Lena Headey takes a bath, investigates a leak in the attic and goes to bed. There is very little dialogue and the soundstage is either the odd ambient noise or complete silence. It could be intriguing given a well-conceived set-up, some interesting characters and better pacing, but it isn’t. Simply, nothing happens. And at the end of Sean Ellis’ 2008 film The Broken you are still left wondering if anything will happen.
Headey plays radiologist Gina McVey who spends an evening with her family at her father’s home in London. During dinner a mirror falls off the wall for no apparent reason. Next day Gina sees a woman driving a car identical to the one she owns. Much like the car, the person driving also looks just like Gina. She follows the woman home and, although she fails to find her, discovers a photo of herself alongside father John in a frame on a table in the apartment. Confused, she leaves the building. Moments later, while in her car, she has a head-on collision with a taxi and ends up in hospital. After some days of recuperation she returns home to discover that her boyfriend’s personality has changed. When asked by the hospital-appointed psychiatrist what is wrong, Gina tells him that although her boyfriend hasn’t changed physically, the man she knows and loves is not inside his body.
The Broken has been likened to Invasion of the Body Snatchers but isn’t half as fun. Ellis’ meditative approach would seem to suggest he values substance over style but there is little of either. The film’s pedestrian pace would turn off the casual viewer but even hardened movie fans would be hard pushed to maintain their interest. The problem may lie in the fact the film remains far too ambiguous. But there’s nothing terribly frightening about the events that occur despite a few moments of horror including a gruesome scene when one character takes a shower. That’s because there’s never really a threat of any kind. The viewer is asked to wait endlessly for a clue as to what is occurring and it never comes. Perhaps Ellis’ ambiguity is a creative decision, a metaphor for lives that have reached a crossroad where the path to turn next is undecided. But the director coaxes such poor performances from a bland cast that it doesn’t matter. Richard Jenkins, for example, is a shadow of the man who has so successfully lit up the screen for the Coen brothers and the Farrellys. Both he and Headey look as confused about the plot as the audience inevitably is.
The Broken is simply Act 1 without a middle or an end. It looks the part with its washed out aesthetic and helicopter shots of the city of London but it has neither the style nor the substance to hold your attention. The shower scene that plays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho could have been a fun reminder just how exciting horror cinema can be but in this context it simply highlights the pretensions of a director shooting above his weight.
Review by Daniel Stephens – See all reviews
This review is part of 31 Days of Horror: