Breeder  Review: A Body Horror that Struggles to Sustain on Cheap Thrills
At a moment in the film, when the married couple, Thomas and Mia, are exchanging a moment of sensual closeness, they are stunned by the sudden banging on the door of their house by a frail human shadow. The figure at their door is, perhaps, as helpless as the audience, desperately trying to rid themselves of the unprecedented chaos they are stuck in. Breeder, a Danish horror film, directed by Jens Dahl, is neither sufficiently thrilling nor adequately gory to do justice to either of the genres of medical thriller or body horror respectively, both of which otherwise sound adequately promising when brought together.
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The film surrounds a new genetics project that Dr Isabel Ruben, played by Signe Egholm Olsen, is in the process of developing. This new project, which Ruben has named Reserructa, promises to unfold surprising age-reversal effects on human beings. Thomas Lindberg, played by Anders Heinrichsen, is involved in Ruben’s project, although we are never fully sure about his role here. His wife, Mia Lindberg, played by Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, is a horse rider training for the Olympics and is perturbed by Thomas’ aloofness from her. In a flurry of events, Mia becomes a part of the human trial of Reserructa. The movie traces the events that unfold thereafter in the medical facility where Mia is confined.
So little time has been allotted to the build-up of the plot in this 1 hour 47 minutes-long horror film that it becomes difficult for the audience to trace Ruben’s change from being a friendly acquaintance full of suggestions to re-kindle Mia’s sex life to a cold, selfish scientist. Sadly, this inconsistency is reflected in the protagonists, Mia and Thomas’s characters as well, making us feel too little about them even after the film has ringed its curtains down. The story is further peopled with characters who appear to be too shallow, such as the au pair, Nika, or too inhumane, such as the Dog, to organically exist in a real-time plot.
We are let into the conversation that Mia is a rider, especially with the beginning credits of the film where her voiceover is accompanied by clippings of her riding a horse. However, this important detail about her is barely made enough use of in the primary plot of the film. Similarly, Thomas’s character is shrouded in mystery right from the start of the film. The screenplay attempts unpeeling the layers of mystery surrounding him but it instead divulges about his sexual preference, a piece of information that we don’t know what to make of even after the film has ended. In fact, one of the subplots of this film revolves around the lack of a coital relation between Mia and Thomas despite their loving marital relationship. I wish they would have spared a few more minutes to develop this subplot since it was pregnant with the possibility of positively impacting the film’s storyline.
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The idea of a scientific invention that can change how human beings perceive old age is a curious little topic that lies at the heart of this thriller. It feels particularly relevant in the current day and age where technology is bringing out myriad myth-busting innovations to revolutionize our lives. Wedded with it is the idea of illegal migrants who are being used by Dr Ruben for her illegal human trial of the drug, Reserructa. Dahl convinces us about the horror of this wedlock in a chilling scene where a trash bin is opened only to spot a heap of dead, human baby bodies, leftover from the trial. It is among the only few gory scenes in the film, apart from the one where Mia is peed upon, that made me stir in my seat. For the rest of them, a trigger warning of physical violence is recommended. However, the torture techniques that Mia and the rest of the subjects in this trial undergo aren’t new or spine-chilling even though they are scary enough to make you feel bad for them while you are watching the film.
The film makes use of various coloured lights to contribute to the horror of the tortures in this medical facility. The shots under yellow light were my favourite, bearing with it a quality of pungence that matched the tone of this medical thriller- body horror concoction. Even the red lights contributed to the air of mystery in this facility, bearing an alarming presence to that effect. But like every other aspect of Breeder, this terse atmosphere is relatively smoothened, and therefore hampered, by the constant switching on and off of the bright, white incandescent lights.
Undoubtedly, the scariest aspect of Breeder is the truth of human trials of illegal drugs and the stinking reality of these testers because of how closely it resembles a practice that might be prevalent in the real world. However, the movie draws a curtain too abruptly on this grave issue by its end, all the horror and scare of this nightmarish episode dissolving into the thin bedroom air of love and maternity, making us wonder if the topic is done sufficient justice to. Breeder leaves little impression, but it will make you think hard about the reality of drug trials in real life.