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Film Review: Broken @ FrightFest 2016

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★★★★☆

Shaun Robert Smith’s grim British chiller, based on real life accounts of life as a carer for the disabled, is certainly a slow burner, but proves itself worthy of the misery it evokes. 

Revenge queen Morjana Alaoui (star of Pascal Laugier’s much-celebrated original Martyrs) returns to the horror genre with this seriously sharp and beautifully crafted thriller, centering around a young French woman attempting to escape her demons whilst caring for a tetraplegic former rock star (Mel Raido). 

Evie’s unhappy with her placement as the often abusive and foul-mouthed John’s carer, but with her manager proving little help, she’s forced to stick with it for the sake of them both, despite beginning to suffer from a series of insanely visceral flashbacks surrounding her abusive past. 

As you can probably guess, this one isn’t exactly rainbows and smiles. Smith’s film is very sparing with its use of happiness, hope or even any sense of positive emotion altogether. This certainly makes for something of a tough watch, but by all means, don’t let such a thing put you off. 

Underneath its grumbling tone and claustrophobic setting (shot entirely within a musky London house), Broken proves to be a total masterclass in acting, playing Alaoui and Raido off of each other to great success. The pair’s winning chemistry make their scenes together not only riveting to watch, but also just emotional enough to really draw you in to their united crisis. 

But in reality this isn’t quite the heart-wrenching human drama it at first seems; well at least not entirely. The first two acts may be largely concerned with the central pair’s inner struggles - the opening John’s, the second Evie’s - but as the bloody finale inches ever closer, Smith’s quietly gestating love of genre begins to gradually bubble to the surface. 

This is where Broken really ignites, delivering a truly explosive climax that strikes hard enough to completely shatter all that was built before it. Fans of the more sensitive approach may find this late gear shift a little jarring, this much is true, but in unleashing himself in this way, Smith gleefully reveals all of the careful foundations he had laid out leading to this very moment. 

Suddenly it becomes clear that Broken is far from the straight-forward weepy it at one stage may have seemed. The inner darkness Smith sews into the lining of every frame doesn’t so much rise as it does explode from the seams of the picture, making for a short, sharp and terrifically brutal conclusion. 

Horror devotees may ultimately find Broken a slow watch, but with Alaoui at the top of her game and a total sucker punch of a finale to look forward to, it’s worth the (at times, rather dry) wait. 

In the vein of Paddy Considine’s terrificTyrannosaur, Smith’s feature debut is a similarly stunning technical feat, and although thoroughly miserable, proves itself a worthwhile watch by the end. 

Broken was screened as part of HorrorChannel FrightFest 2016. More info on the festival and its films can be found here.




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