Making its world premiere at Fantasia, The Breach, not to be confused with Breach, is the second feature from Rue Morgue founding editor Rodrigo Gudiño (The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh). Co-written by Nick Cutter and Ian Weir (Dragons II: The Metal Ages, Arctic Air) based on Cutter’s novel, its mix of haunted house and mad scientist themes attracted a lot of pre-release buzz which I was hoping it would live up to.
John Hawkins (Allan Hawco, The Child Remains, Frontier) has one week left as sheriff of Lone Crow. Then he can put the town, and his ex Meg (Emily Alatalo, Spare Parts, Sorority Scare Game), behind him and start a new job in the city. That, of course, means something terrible has to happen before he can leave.
And it does when a canoe bearing the mutilated remains of theoretical physicist Cole Parsons (Adam Kenneth Wilson, Alien Mysteries, The Family: Inside the Manson Cult) washes up at a local park. Parsons had been staying in an isolated house outside of town, so isolated that Hawkins has to hire wilderness guide Meg to get him and Jake (Wesley French, Skinwalkers, Unsettled), the local coroner, to it.
Through the first half hour, not a lot happens, but cinematographer Eric Oh (The Fight Machine, Vikingdom) helped by the score from Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash creates an ominous sense of doom from the moment darkness falls as they make their way upriver the river. The Breach also smartly uses this time to give us just enough of the backstory between the three leads, Jake and Meg also have history, to set up interpersonal tensions without letting it devolve into a soap opera. The script wisely introduces Parson’s wife Linda (Natalie Brown, Dawn of the Dead, Channel Zero) just in time to push it into the background.
On its surface, The Breach resembles a lower-budget version of films like From Beyond, Outpost and Event Horizon with its mix of science and supernatural evil. The key to whatever is going on lies with the machine Parsons has built in the house’s attic and the cryptic notes and symbols all over the walls. Just what it does and how it’s related to the disappearance of his daughter is the mystery.
The Breach’s script teases out details from what we see in the house and from video calls between Deputy Parks (Mary Antonini, Degrassi Goes Hollywood, On the 12th Date of Christmas) and a conspiracy theorist named Alex played by Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson (Trailer Park Boys: The Animated Series, Suck). It’s never quite enough to get ahead of the plot, just enough to keep the viewer from getting lost and losing interest until all hell breaks loose in the final act.
While it’s based more on atmosphere and dialogue than I expected, The Breach is never dull. Gudiño and the cast have a firm grasp on the material and help keep even the film’s more innocuous scenes feeling quite the opposite. The final act provides a fitting and appropriately gory pay off with plenty of gruesome practical effects. I do wish they could have found a better final scene though, while fitting it also feels tired. The nicely gothy song that plays over the end credits somewhat makes up for it though.
I don’t know how faithful The Breach is to the original novel but if there were changes, having the book’s author working on the adaptation seems to have made sure they were well handled. The result is a solid little horror film that makes good use of limited but well-designed sets and a small but talented cast.