The Bends Can Be EVILLY Depressurizing. “Breaking Surface” reviewed! (Music Box Films / Digital Screener)

Two half-sisters, Ida, and Tuva, return home to spend time with their mother, preparing for a family dive in the frigid Norwegian waters near an isolated rock cliff.  When the mother withdraws because of her health, the sisters embark without her.  When a sudden rockslide traps Tuva, also the more experienced diver, between a rock and a hard place Ida must race against the clock to free her from being pinned to the bottom floor before viable air runs out, but with most of their gear under the rockslide rubble on the topside and only a few usable spare air tanks available, Ida, paying no heed to decompression sickness with her hasty reoccurring ascents to the surface, will do whatever it takes save her sister, even if that means being detrimental to her own life.

Scandinavian filmmaking has always been in this personally dissatisfying commercial stasis of public recognition oversight for years even though there are a number of projects, birthed from Sweden or Norway, that have the budget for success, compelling storytelling, and still fly shamefully under the radar and most audiences, speaking more for the U.S. based general admission moviegoers, don’t ever get the chance to experience without the bombardment of marketing or, perhaps more so, they intentionally skip over to titles with, who in large popcorn and soda glazed eyes, are well-known, recognizable thespian faces, or maybe a trailer they’ve seen during their morning daily talk shows and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” or for the worst reason of all, the subtitles are a big deterrent since Scandinavian films are in Scandinavian languages, but one of those films that depicts the immense Baltic beauty landscape but can also be edgy with touch of sensationalism is Joachim Hedén’s “Breaking Surface.” The director’s fourth feature length film in 2020 is woman versus nature, time versus the elements, when scuba diving hits direly rock bottom. Hedén wrote the film that’s presented by a Swedish and Norway co-production of companies, including Water Feature Films in association with Film i Väst, Film i Skåne, Umedia, Filmfond Nord, Sveriges Television, and Weggefilms. Julia Gebauer and Jonas Sörensson serve as producers.

At the core of the diving mishap are two sisters, Ida and Tuva. Half-sisters to be exact that are written with tremendous interfamily complexities because of their mother remarries Tuva’s father angle plus incorporating their own personal hang ups in adulthood with the genesis of their problem is stuck in the past. “Breaking Surface” is a woman domineered thriller, challenging the stereotyped patriarch activities of men and, to an extent, whatever role that is inhabited by a man is exhibited in not a good light. It’s reminiscent of the “47 Meters Down” films in more ways than one with scuba diving and an inclination for female principle characters dealing on hand with the cards dealt together to survive the elemental odds. Moa Gammel and Madeleine Martin play the respective leads of older sister Ida in the midst of divorce proceedings that comes complicated with two small children and has mother issues that she projects onto her younger half-sister, Tuva, who lives at the top of the food chain fearlessly and isn’t grounded by anyone, anything, or anywhere. Gammal and Martin instill into their characters a reaffirmations of their talents with Ida being a more recreational diver whereas Tuva lives and breaths underwater professionalism. This dynamic unfolds nicely when Tuva is trapped under a rockslide and her older sister has to be instructed, painfully detail-by-detail, what to do. At times, Ida is a character at a point of collapse because of how overly incompetent she can seem with no-brainer solutions; yet, this is where I believe Hedén to excel at scribing realism because no matter how frustrating can Ida’s actions be, any situation under that much pressure (pun intended) can discombobulate the mind, body, and senses. If my sister was trapped under a rock at the bottom of the sea floor, my id would explode and she would asphyxiate and drown before I could compute the situation. Yet, Ida comes around in her arc, completing more confidently and independently the challenges that face her despite their increase in difficult and severity with only minor eye-rolling cringes loitering in and between the second and third acts.

“Breaking Surface” is a modestly paced film with a slim runtime of 82 minutes that captures the entire trialing day odyssey of conquering nature, time, and death while decompressing fraught mental retentions of estranged sister and motherhood, parroting life circumstances, and a past event parallel that’s nearly paralyzing. As much as underwater thrillers excite as one of my personal favorite subgenres, there are downsides to “Breaking Surface” timing that felt limitless when Ida struggles to regain control from failure-after-failure of hopeless rescue endeavors of the most easiest of solution routes, but when the older sister resurfaces from below for a second time, a quick lap to a neighbors house didn’t quite jive with time and space, especially when the Sweden-residing Ida has to frantically read a map of a near alien Norwegian coastal topography. Miraculous, Ida is able to arrive at her destination, rustle about an absent homeowner’s isolated cabin for internet, phone, or an essential tool, and be back in half hour to scuba back down again toward her sister. I would imagine the series of event would have been on the better part of an hour, but what do I know about Norwegian landscapes? On the topic of knowing stuff, since I’m not a diving expert or aficionado, Hedén, in my eye, was able to sell explaining scuba diving jargon and actions with brief but natural expositions that forms innately with Ida’s recreational side of the activity. While not as tenderly macabre as “Let the Right One In” nor as wonderfully gory as the inane undead Nazi horror, “Dead Snow,” “Breaking Surface” is an oxygenated subaquatic air gasper tussling with submerged phrenic psychological and physical problems of two sisters trying desperately to save their frayed relationship.

 

As breathtaking as the Scandinavian artic north coastlines are, the icy waters of “Breaking Surface” will definitely take your breath away as an exhilarating underwater survive the clock time chaser. Arriving on VOD platforms on December 15 courtesy of Music Box Films under their Doppelganger Releasing banner, the film will be available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, Vudu, and YouTube presented in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and in a Norwegian and Swedish language 5.1 surround sound with optional English subtitles. Anna Patarakina’s nominal two-tone cinematography induces a steely gray and blue cold environment of Scandinavian’s artic snow covered north. Patarakina captures the immense grandiose of Norway’s Lofoten’s mountains of serenity encircling their imminent, uncertain fate. Eric Börjeson joins the crew as the director of photography underwater and Börjeson, whose credits include “Let the Right One In (that unforgettable pool scene), keeps the shots tight from wandering beyond the cobalt blue, almost black, waters, fulfilling a nerve-splintering sense of disorientation. There were no bonus features included with this release nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits, but I did find Juliet Simms’ “100 Little Deaths” to be a great rock-n-roll outro singled to signify the multiple possibilities the two sisters could have met their maker. “Breaking Surface” flurries with a cliffhanging suspense in an extreme counterpart of blending family therapy with acute disaster that brings two incongruous sisters back into restored harmony.

An Ageless Evil Takeover! “Children of the Night” review!

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Alicia, a reporter working tirelessly on reports of missing children, receives a letter from Erda of Limbo, a haven for unwanted children located in an isolated area of Argentina. When Alicia arrives, she can’t shake strange inklings that the children’s faces seem familiar to her. Come to find out, all the children are vampires, created shamelessly by adult vampires, and now some of the vampires, some elder in age who are stuck in the body in which they were turned, live under the care of their human caretaker Erda. However, the children are not safe as vampire hunters have assembled around their serene community, lying and waiting to drive a stake into each of the timeless vampires. Their survival depends on Erda, Alicia’s reporting, and the 90-year-old grandson of Dracula himself. Though the community of vampires seek to reap the world of mortals as they have an apocalyptic plan to put in motion.

“Children of the Night,” also known under the original title “Limbo,” is written and directed by Ivan Noel and under the thumb of numerous Argentinian producers and actors, the mythology of Dracula lives yet again on screen. The film uniquely puts a different spin on the old Prince of Darkness tale, creating a jutting story that surrounds a scenario with Dracula’s bloodline kin. While the idea touches on the rarity of vampire children, contrasting with “Interview with the Vampire” or more recently “Let The Right One In”, there arguably lies missing pieces to Noel’s film to properly complete a story of this size and, perhaps, the microbudget hindered and faltered under financial stress rather than just becoming a medium of storytelling. For instance, much of the background on Erda’s writing to Alicia’s to travel to Limbo isn’t necessarily forthright and that feels neglected not on purpose, but rather feels neglected absentmindedly and financially.
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Secondly, the children characters vary in age and the girth of their long lives should have been explored more to develop more meaningful characters. Noel’s version bypasses many valuable characters and their traits to make the children of the night more likable, or hated, or something, because in Noel’s version, the children could live or die and not an emotion would be concerned. Noel does bring a certain enigma to children’s position in the world as we’re not totally convinced their evil or well-intentioned. Children caregivers are similarly forgotten when regarding their attributes. Alicia’s and Erda’s hemophilia condition is suppose to echo the children somehow, but the idea barely misses the cutting room floor completely and is only mentioned briefly upon Erda’s and Alicia’s initial meeting.
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The specials effects are minor, but effectively garnered. The majority of the effects shine through the second and third acts, especially during the all out bloody vampire hunter and children vampire brawl in an open field where children will be children and play with their food before slicing and sinking their teeth right into the necks in a blood splattering type fashion. I also thought the wooden stake on a rotating drill was a fascinating, if not very phallic. Along with this gruesome play yard greet and eat, comedy is sprinkled in throughout the duration, but some of the material falls flat; the comedy feels dated or obsolete, offering nothing new to that side of the genre. “Children of the Night”, simply put, is a vampire film with a feat of a concept, but the film lies at the fringe of being a horror-comedy that stirs up calamity with my critique about Ivan Noel’s semi-serious take on the Dracula mythology.

The performances are little to be desired for with the inclination that the actors, mostly involving the children, are being spoon fed dialogue or given cue cards, especially in more serious toned scenes. Dracula’s grandson The Count becomes the poor performance scapegoat. Child actor Lauro Vernon portrays The Count and his naturally sculpted ominous almond shaped and gloomy eyes, protruding upper lip, bronze skin, and lanky thin features creates a stereotypical creepy child archetype, but Vauro’s attempt to execute a Dracula-esque character, waning the powers of Dracula, is less expressive and more passive in deliverance. The Count in the script is powerful; one who oversees the children as a protector and a worthy warrior against a vast superior, well armed vampire hunting band of men, but instead the character weakly wanders from scene-to-scene even when his flock is being picked off and staked one-by-one.
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“Artsploitation Films” releases this 2014 Spanish-languaged Argentinian film on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ry is presented in a widescreen 1.87:1 aspect ratio and looks fairly decent during daytime or lighted scenes with slightly noticeable ISO noise. However, with a film titled “Children of the Night,” night scenes more common and also reek more havoc on the quality as many of the night scenes maintain a blocky posterization with the digital film. Digital noise also plagues the digital film produced during low lit scenes, creating undefined shadows and blob-like shapes. Overall, “Children of the Night” has a fair share of budgetary quirks and flaws and the story loosely presents itself with an unclear and oddly edited lineage. Totally ignoring this release would be a mistake as producer, writer, and director Ivan Noel has fain under the limitations and manages to technically achieve a few great medium and long shots, though Noel seems to be attached to the closeup. Check out “Arsploitation Films” Blu-ray or DVD release of “Children of the Night” for another take on the mythology of Dracula!

Coming Attractions: The Quiet Ones!

I gotta tell ya – I’m getting very excited about the upcoming supernatural horror film The Quiet Ones! I’m always down for a good demon/poltergeist film especially with Hammer Film Productions behind it and while I was not a total fan of Daniel Radcliffe’s The Woman in Black I thought the film was solid enough for a Hammer comeback. Plus, Let Me In was a decent remake too of the Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In.

The Quiet Ones has an unorthodox professor conducting an off campus experiment with his students. The experiment is to create a poltergeist by use of the human imagination. But when one of their subjects is pushed to edge of her sanity, the experimenters trigger a supernatural being that won’t let them go so quietly.

The film stars Jared Harris from Resident Evil: Apocalypse and The Ward. Check out the trailer and let me know what you think!

Unfaithfulness and evilness. Loft remake news!

Add this to the Remake Central list!  In 2008, a Belgium thriller entitled Loft has scored a U.S. remake.  Of course, the time between the original and the remake is very Let The Right One In-ish and there was no time really to the let the original film grow.  With that being said, Loft remake has pulled a Ring remake as the original Loft director Erik Van Looy will reprise his directorial role for the remake.  Wait, the reprisal of roles doesn’t stop there as Matthias Schoenaerts joins the cast to reprise his role of Fillip Williams.

This rare occasion when an actor helms the same character in the original and it’s remake is far from heard of, but Matthias will take it on yet again and the question will be will he fine tune his performance or change up the character completely?  Starring beside Matthias will be Wentworth Miller (Resident Evil:  Afterlife), Eric Stonestreet, Patrick Wilson (Hard Candy), James Marsden (X-Men).

Synopsis after break!

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