Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A group of people head out to a remote cabin in the middle of the woods. Cut off from all outside communication, their situation slowly turns from strange to dangerous as the evil outside rears its ugly head. Isolated and unable to escape, they fight for their lives against an unstoppable force, hell-bent on bringing about their demise. Will they survive, or will they become the next victims of the ancient and unspeakable evil?
Wait, so you have heard that one? I’ll be honest, I’ve heard that one too. Many times. It’s a tried-and-true horror scenario, but it’s a solid one. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. And when it’s good, it’s unbeatable.
The Breach is the latest iteration of the trapped in a cabin story. Based on the novel of the same name by Nick Cutter and directed by Rodrigo Gudiño, it’s everything you could hope for in what can sometimes be a predictable subgenre. The Breach is fun, interesting, and fundamentally gross. In other words: my kind of movie.
The story begins when a body washes onto the shore of a lake. The local sheriff, John Hawkins (Allan Hawco) consults the town’s medical examiner Jacob Redgrave (Wesley French) hoping to learn what exactly happened to the dead man. Both men are baffled by the unexplained mutilation of the body, and its inexplicable lack of bones.
The investigation leads to the work of eccentric scientist Cole Parsons (Adam Kenneth Wilson) who rented a remote cabin to run his experiments. The duo recruits the help of the local wilderness guide Meg Fullbright (Emily Alatalo) to lead them through the lake and the forest to find the secluded cabin, and hopefully find some answers.
They find the answers they’re looking for, but quickly learn that some things are better left unexplained.
Cutter’s stories have a reputation for being top-notch body horror, and The Breach is one more piece of evidence supporting that reputation. As the horror elements come into play, the bodily disfigurement gradually ramps up from the moderately uncomfortable to the truly grotesque.
The pacing is on point. The film wastes no time in setting up the characters and their situation and moving things right along. Within the first half-hour or so, we’re at the cabin. From there the movie has no qualms with throwing a solid curveball at us to keep us on our toes.
Perhaps a tad too many curveballs, however. Cosmic horror is, by nature, meant to be mysterious and unknowable. That’s part of the appeal. However, The Breach dips its toes just a little too deep into the mysterious pools leaving a few too many things unexplained by the end.
What exactly was Dr. Parsons researching? Are there also ghosts in the cabin? How do the insects play into all of this? Do those things have to be naked?
If you’re hoping for answers to these questions, you may come away disappointed. Fortunately, the rest of the movie is entertaining enough that you can just roll with it. While The Breach takes a few too many liberties on the shrouded-in-mystery department, it more than makes up for it with solid tension, gross-out effects, and great performances.
And as an extra gift for the nerds out there (me included), The Breach features an excellent cameo appearance from Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson. Conveniently playing a character named Alex, Lifeson handles the task of getting all that pesky exposition out of the way. He prattles off conspiracy theories about satanic cults and the Large Hadron Collider and offers a little bit of background information to help make sense of the goings-on at the doomed cabin of Dr. Parsons.
It’s never quite clear if his dialogue is meant to provide an actual explanation, or if it’s meant to be the musings of a crank. Presumably it’s a little of Column A and a little of Column B. Either way it doesn’t matter. Lifeson’s appearance breaks up the monotony of the earliest investigation scenes and gives us something to think about as we wait for the chaos to unfold. Plus, Rush rules so The Breach gets bonus points just for managing to sneak the legend in, even if only for a few moments.
Speaking of music legends, none other than Guns n’ Roses guitarist Slash takes the dual role of producer and composer for the film. I had reservations on how Slash’s work may shake out on the score front, but I had no need to worry. The score is a perfect companion to the film itself, successfully evoking a peaceful forest which hides an evil secret. Aside from the occasional moment of rocking bombast, the music consistently complements the imagery on screen, but never overpowers it.
The music, much like the writing and performances, manages to take what should be a generic movie, and forges it into something much stronger than it could otherwise be.
It’s not easy to craft another interesting cabin-in-the-woods type story. The simplicity of the premise lends itself to tired tropes and cliches. Try too hard to avoid the cliches, and you run the risk of straying too far into left field, undermining the very simplicity that makes this type of story worth watching.
Rodrigo Gudiño, along with screenwriter Ian Weir strike a delicate balance between the two extremes. They’ve crafted a solid newcomer to the fold. Mysterious, gross, and always entertaining, The Breach is a welcome entry to the evil-in-the-woods subgenre.