Courtesy Raven Banner Entertainment

Premiering at the Fantasia Film Festival, Rodrigo Gudiño (founder of Rue Morgue) creates an interesting collaboration with his big return to feature-length films. With his second movie THE BREACH, Gudiño follows the main characters as they head into the woods of Ontario to uncover a gruesome murder only to find an even more unexplainable mystery. The story takes a bit of time to get started and for really the first half hour most of the intrigue comes from the Slash-fueled score and the beautiful Canadian landscape. However, when the second and third acts get underway the film starts to show off some strong creativity in the genre as it includes mad scientists, body horror, and a cabin in the woods with failed experiments running amok.

Beginning with a simple, yet ominous scene, we see a lone canoe navigating through a wooded waterway only to eventually come to rest at a picnic site. A family that was gathered on the shore for a picnic takes a break from their fun to investigate the curious sight, only to run away screaming. Inside the wayward vessel, investigators find the remains of a John Doe. But Mr. Doe did not die of any kind of natural causes. Very far from it, in fact. The deceased is missing all of its insides, leaving only the very mutilated skin for Chief John Hawkins (Allan Hawco) to ponder over. The small town of Lone Crow becomes rocked by the news and to uncover the gruesome murder, Hawkins must team up with his ex, Meg Fulbright (Emily Alatalo), and her ex-Jacob Redgrave (Wesley French).

Obviously, tension exists between all of them, but the story necessitates that the trio set out on the river to retrace the steps of the deceased to find out why he met such a horrible end. And to increase the urgency of the mystery, once officially IDing the body as missing physicist Dr. Cole Parsons, they realize his murder coincides with the disappearance of his young daughter. So, now a curious death also includes a race against time to find a missing child.

During his time in Lone Crow, Parsons leased a house deep in the woods only accessible by a day’s travel on the river. The doctor wanted his privacy and when our heroes arrive at the secluded rental, they see the good doctor made quite a few changes. Cables run throughout the house and all lead to a strange machine in the attic. And despite being surrounded by northern wilderness on all sides, the air holds a metallic taste, and everything feels off. And with the arrival of some very unexpected houseguests, the secrets grow, and the hidden dangers make themselves loudly heard.

The atmosphere of the house hits all the right spooky notes and the way the characters describe their surroundings really helps create an immersive environment. But what really had me jumping was the body horror. All the body mutations and a really creepy thing with an eyeball make the film a whole lot of fun to watch with a crowd. And aside from being filled with some great practical effects and make-up, the film also relies on some good teeth-gritting grimace horror. You know, the kind of horror which makes you brace your face and inhale sharply through your teeth? Like when you see someone step on a nail or bend their fingernail all the way back?

THE BREACH originally premiered as a seven-hour audiobook written by Nick Cutter (pen name of Craig Davidson), so fans of the original might miss some of the details which obviously had to be cut to fit into an hour and a half long film. And audiences new to the story might find the character development muddled as Gudiño just does not have the time to completely elaborate on the love triangle and all the backstory involved with that. I actually feel most of the romance could have been removed and instead let the visuals and the mystery dominate the film. I understand the inclusion of the plot points which focused on the jilted and angry hearts were meant to add tension as the three main characters hold a lot of history, but it did more to slow down the pacing of the first part.

Since I am not familiar with the original source material, I cannot speak to the faithfulness THE BREACH has to the audiobook, but as a standalone movie, the main story and practical effects offer plenty to keep the audience on edge. Taking on the mad scientist qualities of Stuart Gordon and mixing with the body-horror of Cronenberg, this strange, secluded story offers a lot of horror do’s but at certain points, the story does become bogged down with a lot of horror don’ts.

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