Break (2009)

a.k.a. - Break - No Mercy, Just Pain! (GER)

Matthias Olof Eich's mean spirited German take on the redneck slasher film. Trinity X UK R0 DVD.

The Film

Four young women in Washington State USA go on a camping trip into the mountains. As they are making their preparations a young woman is being brutally hacked to death by two sadistic killers. The girls arrive at the picturesque camp site but are being watched by the hunters and soon find themselves victims of their brutality...

Originally written by director Matthias Olof Eich in German, Break was translated into English and is set in the American Northwest - this is probably the film's biggest disappointment - the redneck slasher film became something of a genre trope in the 2000s with films like Wrong Turn (2003) and Hill Have Eyes (2006) and with Eich's script offering nothing revolutionary in storyline terms, it would certainly have made the film more interesting to have been set in Bavaria (where it was mostly filmed), following the lines of films like Hostel (2005).

The storyline, although not revolutionary, does at least have a few interesting ideas. The lengthy build up to the killing scenes are spent not so much individually characterising the group of girls as individuals, but emphasising the group relationship and the quality of their friendship - as a result there is no real 'lead character' making it hard to predict who is going to survive. The reasons for the group to end up where they do are somewhat more detailed than many other genre films making the whole situation a bit more believable, aided by the fact that they all act plausibly when faced with the situations that develop. The killers however are rather less successfully defined - the lead of the pair is a seemingly completely rational hunter (although no motive is given for his actions), while his partner (the relationship between them is never specified) is a more genre typical interbred 'Mongo' character, as though the script was unsure whether to follow the path of The Hills Have Eyes and its kin or try something a little different with Dangerous Game style human hunting ideas and as a result it never really succeeds at either.

The first half of the film is quite slow, taken up with the build-up to get the girls to the site, although the well written interaction between the characters avoids these scenes dragging making the few flashes of a pre-credits murder seem rather unnecessary and the sequence feels to have been added just to up the gore quota (if anything its presence somewhat reduces the shock of the otherwise unheralded gory direction of the second half). The middle part of the film sees the inevitable torture and killing of some of the girls and the script certainly delivers some gruesome and mean spirited ideas here, although for fans of hard-gore films they will probably be rather too brief as the script moves very quickly into the chase and inevitable fight-back climax. These sequences are well paced, although there are certainly no surprises for genre regulars.

It is hard to tell exactly what first time director Eich was aiming for with Break, the editing in particular often feels very disjointed with frequent use of very slow fades to black as scene transitions and the interspertion of brief scenic shots (almost a la Terrence Malick) - it could be simply poor editing or a deliberate attempt to provide a disorientating experience, if it is the latter it certainly works to a degree although it would have been more effective if it started off slowly and become more pronounced as the mental state of the survivors deteriorates. Fortunately, despite a number of point-of-view shots in the early scenes through a character's camera, the film never goes down the grating Blair Witch Project (1999) hand-held route. The gory effects are very well done and look realistic throughout, although the gore is generally somewhat underplayed, aside from the excellently inventive first death of the main characters, the most horrific "highlight" is the rape scene (somewhat truncated in the UK DVD print, but still quite vivid).

There are no familiar faces in the all German cast, certainly not to Anglo-American viewers, but the performances are very good for the genre and the women in particular have to put up with a hell of a treatment from the script, looking realistically bloody and brutalised, although their distinctly German accents are rather noticable throughout and somewhat belie the film's attempts to pass itself off as an American film.

A modern German take on a classic low-budget American horror genre raises hopes of a dark genre satire or the unrelenting gore-fest that you would expect from a director like Andreas Schnaas or Olaf Ittenbach, instead Break is a decently scripted but rather straight forward film missing the opportunities to relocate the genre to Germany, or emphasise the killers as hunters rather than retarded rednecks. Fans of films like Hills Have Eyes will probably enjoy this mean spirited and bloody genre entry, although hardened gore-hounds might find the film does not quite match the intensity of some of the more modern torture-porn entries.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one well known.
Directed by anyone interesting? Matthias Olof Eich - a first time German director, working on another horror project Cerusit (2013).
Any gore or violence ? Several strongly gory death scenes.
Any sex or nudity? A couple of short topless shots.
The uncut print includes female nudity during a brutal rape scene.
Who is it for? Fans of the redneck horror genre will probably enjoy this bloody if somewhat unoriginal entry.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The digital print receives a flawless transfer.
Audio English 2.0 - a number of lines of dialogue are hard to make-out in the balance, although this probably dates from the original editing and might be intentional.
Subtitles None.
Extras None.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? No US release at present. Available in Germany as Break - No Mercy, Just Pain!, the retail version is reportedly cut by several minutes. A fully uncut 2-disc edition is available on DVD and Blu-ray with extra features (language options unconfirmed).
Cuts? This print is cut - BBFC enforced cuts of 53 seconds to remove elements of nudity from a scene of sexual violence that eroticise sexual violence in a potentially harmful manner. The cuts are edited around so there are no visible jumps. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 13th February 2012.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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