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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD. Trinity X.

BreakOn paper, Break is pretty impressive stuff – a brutal, gory and grim backwoods slasher in the great tradition of the sub-genre, featuring a couple of inbred hillbilly psychos hunting down a car load of tourist out in the middle of nowhere. Hardly original, perhaps, but that’s not a problem if the film delivers the goods. The fact that Break turns out to be a crashing failure is, therefore, particularly disappointing.

After a savage and impressively gruesome pre-credits sequence, the film gets down to developing the story, introducing us to four girls – Anna, Claire, Rose and Sarah – who are taking a camping break out in the wilderness. An early encounter with a weird looking hunter hints at bad things to come, but for most of the first hour, the only really bad things on display are the four leads. Because there’s something very off about Break, and once you adjust to the muffled dialogue, it’s easy to see what it is: while clearly set in America, all the leads are very obviously German. They are not supposed to be German tourists – in fact, an encounter with a fellow hiker who is German makes this very clear – but the heavy accents are quite the giveaway. You have to wonder what is going on here. Did director Matthias Olof Ekh think audiences wouldn’t notice this, or simply that they wouldn’t question it? Did he think that having his cast pretend to be American would somehow make the film more internationally commercial? Doesn’t Germany have forests and woods where a film like this could take place?

It might seem a minor point, but it’s a massive stumbling block that the film never recovers from. Apart from immediately pulling the viewer out of the story, it also results in stilted performances from a cast who are obviously delivering dialogue that is not in their native language. I’ve not idea how well any of the actors speak English in real life, but their one-dimensional performances suggest phonetic delivery. I could be wrong - they might simply be rotten actors. Either way, it’s hard to find their emotional bonding and revelations of personal secrets (Sarah has had a bad relationship break up and is pregnant) remotely interesting.

BreakWorse still, when the killers turn up – and yes, the sinister character encountered earlier was not a red herring – the ensuing slaughter is oddly uninvolving. There is a lot of nastiness here – mutilation, dismemberment, disembowelling and a thoroughly unpleasant rape – but none of it has any real impact. The villains are not convincing, the victims too dull for us to really care about their fate, and the whole thing feels weirdly detached. There’s no sense of shock, of horror or of outrage, because the whole thing is so blandly filmed. Ironically, I suspect director Ekh was trying his best to be as offensively nasty as possible – certainly, the blood-drenched rape scene is shot in an utterly gratuitous manner, there’s even more gratuitous nudity and the gore is extreme. It’s quite an achievement to make the end results so dull.

It’s a real shame, because a film like this should work. God knows, it’s worked often enough in the past. But in all honesty, it’s pretty weak, and the first disappointment from the Trinity X label.






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