Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Fantasia ’22: The Breach

This will be John Hawkins’ final case as Lone Crow’s chief of police, so you know it will be a rough one. It is also a pretty interesting one too. Things get pretty wild along the Porcupine River, an offshoot of the Yukon that eventually empties into Alaska, but Hawkins usually expects earthly dangers rather than the uncanny and eldritch that await him in Rodrigo Gudiño’s The Breach, which screened at the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival.

The body that washed downriver aboard a canoe is about as grizzly as they get. It even shuts up coroner Jacob Redgrave. Typically, he has a lot to say to Hawkins, knowing the police chief was his ex-girlfriend’s rebound. Since then, Hawkins broke up with Meg Fulbright, the local charter-boat tour guide. Super-awkwardly, Hawkins will have to travel with both of them up to the remote cabin where the extremely-late Dr. Cole Parsons was staying.

The cabin looks considerably more decrepit and distressed than Fulbright remembers from ferrying Parsons up a few months ago. It definitely looks like the physicist was conducting some very strange experiments, under less than pristine laboratory conditions. However, it is hard for Hawkins to get a full picture, because a mysterious force is clearly toying with them. It also quickly keys-in on Redgrave.

The Breach
is based on an audio-original novel written by Nick Cutter (an open pen-name of Craig Davidson), which might make it something of a cousin to podcast adaptations, like Homecoming. Its audio roots make sense, in a good way, given Breach’s atmospheric setting and intriguing slow-build. Davidson and co-screenwriter Ian Weir keep revealing eerie genre elements at a steady pace, thoroughly hooking and creeping out viewers.

In fact, there is a lot of stuff in here. Yet, the film also takes the time to fully establish its characters. As a result, the audience will really pull for Hawkins and Fulbright and enjoy check-ins with Dep. Connie Parks, who is lucky to be holding down the station in the chief’s absence. Allan Hawco and Emily Alatalo have great chemistry as the two former lovers. They are almost like a Lovecraftian version of
Northern Exposure’s Fleischman and O’Connell, while Mary Antonini brings some refreshing energy and attitude as Parks.

Admittedly, the last fifteen minutes or so look and feel like a lot of other movies, but most of the film is quite distinctive. It also features an original score by executive producer Slash that is appropriately dark and ominous, but not at all derivative of his familiar recordings with Guns N’ Roses. Throughout it all, Gudiño maintains a strong air of mystery and builds the suspense quite dexterously. Highly recommended for horror fans,
The Breach had its world premiere at this year’s Fantasia.