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Fantasia 2022 Critique: Navigating the Chasm of Mystery in “The Breach”

Rodrigo Gudiño, the visionary behind Rue Morgue magazine, ventures into familiar yet uncanny territory with his second film, The Breach. A full decade after his debut with the eerie tale of The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, exploring estrangement and spiritual hauntings, Gudiño presents us with a Lovecraftian mystery infused with police procedural elements. The film teems with engaging twists, although it doesn’t quite eclipse the shadow of his first film – a sentiment shared by Our Culture in their review from the 2022 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Adapted from Nick Cutter’s original audio drama, The Breach trails the protagonist John Hawkins (played by Allan Hawco), a lawman on the verge of trading rural solitude for city life. However, duty calls with one last bizarre case in the sleepy town of Lone Crow: a gruesome discovery on the banks of the Porcupine River. A name is attached to the mutilated body thought to be Dr Cole Parsons (Adam Kenneth Wilson), a physicist tucked away in the reclusive wilderness. Teaming up with coroner Jacob Redgrave (Wesley French) and boat pilot Meg Fulbright (Emily Alatalo), Hawkins embarks on a journey towards a secluded house where enigmatic contraptions promise to unlock otherworldly pandemonium.

In true Gudiño style, The Breach masterfully intertwines police drama with horror-science fiction, rising above the conventional to offer an initial breath of fresh air. It echoes Larry Cohen’s cinematic flair, celebrating the ordinary clashing with the inexplicable. Yet as the narrative unfolds, viewers might recognize shadows of other Lovecraft-inspired works, from From Beyond and Prince of Darkness, to newer additions like The Void and Color Out of Space.

Writers Ian Weir and Cutter weave a story that whilst intriguing, treads on familiar ground and perhaps overindulges in overt exposition. This narrative choice seems unnecessary since the film’s homage to classic genre tropes suggests its trajectory to seasoned viewers. Moreover, it leaves lingering questions, choosing ambiguity over solid conclusions – a bold move that leaves dialogues concerning earlier in the film feeling somewhat redundant.

While the story could have dug deeper into its characters’ internal challenges and implications of ‘science versus nature’, it instead revisits a trusted theme of the consequences tied to humanity’s audacity. Not a new narrative path by any means, yet it’s depicted within the modern context, though lacking a revitalized underlying message.

Nevertheless, there is much to be admired in The Breach. Cinematographer Eric Oh impresses with a visual distinctiveness, especially in the attic-based sequences. The space, vibrant with colors reminiscent of old-school Technicolor horror, feels like an artful tribute. Additionally, the movie honors the spirit of classic horror through the use of practical special effects. Daniel Baker’s work invokes the legacies of effects maestros like Rick Baker and Stan Winston. Fans of the grotesque will find satisfaction in the latter part of the film where physical effects steal the show, turning earlier frustrations into a forgotten afterthought.

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