From a Place of Darkness
According to IMDb:
"Miles Kody, is a documentary filmmaker. Living off a long ago
success he's now searching for his "second" break. He finds that in the seedy
world of snuff films. He interviews Vic, a seasoned pro with a menacing,
mysterious dark side. Miles becomes obsessed with the subject matter and his
subject. Miles' primary investor, Carl, is also very interested, more in the
hypnotic allure of the movies and potential for profit. As Miles tapes his
interviews with Vic he becomes aware of the appearance of "ghosts" captured on
his video monitor. He realizes that the faint energy fields of these ghosts,
past victims of the snuff films, are picked up more readily on video. As a
ghost becomes more powerful they become more visible to the naked eye. He soon
realizes that Vic is in league with the Devil and delivers the souls of his
victims to attain more power."
That summary doesn't seem to me to be precisely what happened in the film,
but given that it was written by the writer/director, Douglas Alan Raine, I
think we have to assume it represents what he meant to portray.
As you can deduce from the fact that it involves Satan and snuff films, it
is not a light-hearted Apatow comedy. All of the characters are either morally
corrupt to begin with, or are eventually possessed by the evil Vic, whoever or
whatever he may be. Although Vic channels the power of Hell itself, he
certainly has not sold his soul in exchange for filmmaking talent. The quality
of his snuff films is somewhat below the quality of bin Laden's movies,
although still slightly better than the ones with Kate Hudson and McConaughey.
Nearly every scene, whether in the film or in the snuff films within the film,
is shot in virtual darkness, mostly in the creepy old warehouse where Vic
creates his little cinematic marvels, in which scenes are illuminated by light
streaming in from a fan vent, or by the characters' flashlights.
Surprisingly enough, given the uninspired premise and the lack of budget,
the film is quite effective in some ways. The script is ridiculous, but the
film meets or exceeds the genre requirements for gore and kinky nude scenes,
and the direction is adroit enough to transmit and sustain a dark, depraved
vibe throughout, while generating some shocking moments along the way.
Accomplishing that was obviously the director's priority.
Some of the actors are unpolished, but other performances are quite
interesting. John Savage, now a youthful 60, is quietly sinister as the
mysterious Vic. One of the minor roles, a sleazy investor hoping to profit
from snuff films, is played with surprising conviction by ... (wait for it)
... a famous television sitcom douchebag. I won't tell you exactly who that
is, but I'll tell you that it comes from the following list: Pottsy, Balki,
Cliffy, Squiggy, or Barney Rubble.
Or, if you speak Norwegian or Danish, "The The Fraction." Kind of an odd
title, eh? The film has nothing to do with Scandinavia or with fractions, so I
think that the people who decided on that spelling just thought the
ø looked really cool, because Scandinavians are scary, with those blue
eyes and those horned hats. Or something.
As Count Floyd would say, "Pretty scary, eh kids? Aroooooooooooooooo!"
It's like how they always turn the R's around in films about
The Broken is a slick psychological/supernatural mystery in the Hitchcock/Serling
style: lots of stylish design, lots of slow tracking shots, lots of
foreboding, lots of people acting mysterious for no apparent reason. Usual
deal. It is refreshing in that it is a major departure from the direction
horror films seem to be going these days. It is not particularly gory and it
features very few "boo" moments. It tries to create its chills with an ongoing
atmosphere of impending doom, and it tries to hold the audience's attention by
pulling back the veils slowly, occasionally even increasing rather than
decreasing the story's opacity.
Is that good? Well, maybe. It's a classy film, art-designed and
sound-designed to the nines, filled with expensive helicopter shots, a
slow-mo car crash, and some dependable performers. Those are the good points.
Those are also, in a sense, the bad points. The film's forward movement is so
deliberate and so saturnine that the ongoing replays of the slo-mo car crash sometimes feel like
the fastest parts of the film. To say that the pace is langorous is like
saying that President Obama is kind of a bad bowler. This film isn't just
moving slowly; it often seems frozen in time. This would make a nice, nifty
little 22-minute episode of The Twilight Zone. Unfortunately it is padded out
to 90 minutes, and the extra 68 minutes is not filled with guilty pleasures,
the way Brian DePalma would do it, but with footage of people acting puzzled
and with the slo-mo crash being repeated again and again.
I guess I might have been able to live with the pacing if the basic premise
had been plotted better, but it is one of those films where every scene is
pushed forward with the gimmickry necessary to produce a chill in that scene,
without regard for whether the entire story still holds up in the face of
MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD. SKIP TO THE NUDITY IF YOU PLAN
TO SEE THE FILM.
It's a doppleganger movie. Lena Headey spots another Londoner who looks
just like her and seems to be driving her car. She follows her twin to an
apartment, where there is an inexplicable picture of Lena and her dad (Richard
Jenkins). Skip forward. Lena gets in a car crash and can't quite remember what
happened, but all around her, people seem to be changing. Her boyfriend seems
like a different guy. The world seems to have a Body Snatcher thing going on,
presumably engineered from "beyond the mirror."
The big surprise ending is that the Lena we follow is actually the evil
Lena from beyond the mirror. She killed the real Lena, then got in a car
crash, forgot about the killing, and forgot that she was evil.
The important thing here is that virtually none of the preceding scenes
make sense after that revelation. For example, Lena complains to the doctors
that her boyfriend is not really her boyfriend. He seems like a different
person. She was right, of course. They entity was not the boyfriend of the
real Lena. He was the evil replacement from Mirrorland. The problem is, how
could Evil Mirror Lena have known that? She never met the real boyfriend.
What's more, Evil Mirror Boyfriend should not have felt "wrong" to Evil Mirror
Lena, since he was the one she was meant to be with.
You can continue with those sorts of observations for virtually every
scene. The script hides the secret from us in the clumsiest possible way - by
presenting us with detail after detail that could not possibly be true, given
the secret, then defying all the rules at the end and pulling the old soap
opera switcheroo where the kindly babysitter who robbed the house turns out to
be Ms. Evil Twin Sister, even though Ms. Evil could not have known the
combination to the safe.
So I was not only yawning while waiting for the big secret, but I was also
annoyed once I knew it.
But the film is technically superlative. So there's that.