Writer-director Sean Ellis got on my radar with his feature film Cashback, which I rated as the best of the 2007 films, and The Broken is the follow up feature he had done which is a complete opposite to his debut, one that is part of 8 feature films made for the After Dark Horrorfest series of films. Gone are the whimsical romantic moments that he had deftly crafted and in comes something more serious and high tensioned.
Lena Headey plays Gina McVey, a hospital radiologist who seems to be leading the good life, with a good job, caring boyfriend Stefan (Melvil Poupaud) and tight knit family relationship with brother Daniel (Asier Newman) and dad John (Richard Jenkins). However, she encounters an inexplicable moment when she chances upon someone who looks like her, only to get involved in a car accident, and everything else from that point on goes awry. It'll be easy to put it down to post-trauma by the various medical and counselling experts she consults, but things start to go really out of whack especially with a series of broken mirrors she encounters, threatening both her life, and those of her loved ones.
For those of us familiar with the doppelganger, then this film will likely not come as a surprise as it follows quite closely with stories like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and various other spin offs and peers. What made this work is Ellis' direction which keeps the story tight, and creates a totally creepy environment devoid of cheap shots of sudden loud noises, door slams, and movement. Instead, it follows much like Asian horror in the building of atmosphere, although there are moments when it went a little overboard and didn't know when to disengage.
London is seen even more grey and bleak here through assured cinematography, and the highlight of this film will have to be the car accident, where it plays out something like a crash test dummy sequence, that you're left to wonder how this was filmed with its different angles each played at different points in the story, as if holding something key to unlocking the mystery of the story. The other key sequence here involves that rare blood and gore that pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock's famed shower scene in Psycho, with a sicker treatment executed for the modern, jaded audience.
Lena Headey does a commendable job to hold our attention for all those 80 over minutes as she becomes the film's scream queen (without the scream) as she tries to uncover just what exactly happened during the crucial minutes before that iconic accident scene, which we have a glimpse of before the fade to black. Fans of horror and sci-fi films will likely to have guessed accurately the big reveal of the story, but even then, The Broken is still stylishly delivered, though a little less than satisfactory to the promise that Sean Ellis holds from Cashback.
The Code 1 DVD by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is presented in an anamorphic widescreen format, though curiously the aspect ratio shifts after the end of the opening credits. Audio is presented in the English language with either 5.1 Dolby Digital or 2.0 Dolby Stereo, while the French language is presented only in the 2.0 Dolby Stereo format. Unfortunately there are no subtitles nor close-captioning, and scene selection is broken into 16 chapters. No other extras are available in this bare-boned edition.