Break (2012)

When you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big “absolutely no surprise whatsoever”. Dear horror filmmakers: please stop making prologues featuring skimpy-clothed women running through the woods. It’s really really boring and – because of its familiarity – lazy, predictable and amateurish. Welcome to Break.

Unfortunately this dull start is immediately followed by a dialogueless characters-getting-picked-up montage that features a genuinely angering bad song that warbles something about the word “break”. This annoying soundtrack continues into the next scene too, with more crap songs and a worthy, archaic score… and by six minutes in we’re weary and bored. Not a great start.

So what’s the plot of Break? Four twenty-something ladies are going on a holiday together, seemingly for a laugh, but Sarah (Lili Schackert) is reluctant to go because she’s just split up with her cheating boyfriend. Apparently they’ve been planning this trip for four months, so the others force her to go. Their plan? Travel into the “Canadian” wilderness and camp somewhere they’ve been before. They planned this for four months? I’d hate to see them organize a wedding…

So Sarah and her three friends go for a camping trip in Canada / somewhere in Germany and encounter a pair of hillbilly psychos (one massively retarded, one intelligent and obviously resilient to bullets). What happens next?! You’ll never guess!

Stalking, violence, rape and death ensue, and Sarah must muster all her new-found hatred for men and stab, shoot, beat and scream “fuck you” a lot at these rapey backwards psychopaths. Sound familiar?

Now originality has never been a strong point in horror, but Break should win the annual plagiarism awards for the constant and liberal stealing of ideas from a gazillion other horror films. There are moments from Wrong Turn, The Descent, Deliverance, Pig Hunt, I Spit on Your Grave, War Games, Paintball, A Lonely Place to Die and every other backwoods horror flick I’ve ever seen. Yet – unlike these – Break never shows a spark of originality. Break is a shameful rehash of a hundred other films.

Yet it doesn’t end with just the setup and violence – the character and dialogue feel overly familiar too. And did I mention the music? At one point it sounds like the soundtrack for Brokeback Mountain. And it’s so fucking intrusive.

To survive Break without smashing up your television, you need write a list of backwoods horror film (and general horror film) clichés and down a shot of vodka / gin / bleach every time one of them turns up; with hillbillies, bear traps, bow ‘n’ arrows, skinnydipping, no mobile phone reception, a surprise pregnancy reveal (spoiler! Oops, too late) and a “photo of the group before everyone dies” moment – you’re guaranteed to be utterly pissed before anyone even remotely encounters any peril. Add rape, murder, idiotic decisions, cannibalism, a virtually unstoppable killer, cars not starting, protagonists leaving weapons lying around for the “dead” killer to use… and your liver will explode after 90 minutes.

Perhaps the problem is in production. Despite everyone speaking in English and – although it’s desperately perpetuating the idea this film is set in America (oh look, an American flag!) – it is clearly made in a foreign country, showing a desperation to appeal to a broader audience and cut a slice of $$$ from the subtitle-hating American marketplace. It feels false and shameless and ultimately unlikeable because of this.

Break is German made. It feels German, it looks German, it sounds German. Every character has an odd accent, slipping from America to German to – I dunno – some insane hybrid from scene to scene. It gets laughably terrible when our strongly-acted “Americans” encounter a German tourist whose accent is less thick than theirs! It’s awkward and confusing. And did I mention the music? My God is it annoying.

So what’s good about Break? It’s reasonably well directed by Matthias Olof Eich – in places exceptionally so – and the gore / violence / special effects are very well done. Unfortunately Eich’s dialogue is horribly on-the-nose and lacks all subtlety, either due to translation issues or incompetence. Maybe both. Break is as subtle as a hillbilly fucking a chicken, there is no subtext or twists or shock reveals in this film.

Break is an overwhelming generic addition to the ‘hillbilly killers in the woods hunting girls’ sub-genre of horror. Poorly written, unforgivably lacking in originality and hugely predictable, I cannot recommend Break to anyone who’s seen a horror film before.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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