Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
November 1, 2008

Breathing Room

Breathing Room
Directed by John Suits, Gabriel Cowan
Written by John Suits, Gabriel Cowan
Starring Ailsa Marshall, Michael McLafferty, David Higlen, Brad Culver
Produced by Gabriel Cowan, Bryce Gerlach
90 mins

I'm always somewhat trepidacious--especially THESE days--when a movie asks if I want to play a game. The problem with that premise, you see, is that most movies want to play the SAME game, otherwise known as the "I Want To Make A Huge Pile Of Retail Money" game, or, more colloquially, The Saw Game.

The problem with this game, of course, is that no one's really sure just HOW to play The Saw Game, or how to make its resultant huge piles of cash. Thus, everyone's attempt to play The Saw Game usually comes off looking like they're TRYING to play it, and thus, just another imitator in a long line of imitators.

And this time, the imitators lock a whole bunch of people in a room together to get them to play a game together. The rules are highly unclear and the punishments for their violation lethal. A box marked "pieces" contains tools and hints that might well help find an exit...or at least tell them why they were abducted in the first place.

However, in one very different point, this game will work, and work very well. Why? Because they're not playing The Saw Game...rather, they've managed to revive the concept of the locked-room mystery. And this literally out of nowhere surprise will result in an impressive little work of tightly-packed thrills and good old-fashioned drama.

Watching the characters try to figure out who's telling the truth and who's not telling the truth and who's a rapist and who's a pedophile and who's any of a dozen other things is actually pretty entertaining. And trying to figure out what everyone's hiding is especially fun. There's plenty of good old-fashioned scares in here as people die, often in the dark, and occasionally while arguing with each other.

The ending will feature a spectacular twist that goes off with surprising force and accuracy. There is some letdown here--not much--because they won't actually come out and tell you what the deal is here. You have to make some guesses on your own, and I've never really approved of that sort of thing. You make a movie, you should make a complete story, not make it about ninety-five percent of a story and have the audience fill in the gaps. Even if they're small gaps as they were in this one, that's still one more gap than should be there.

The special features are limited to English subtitles and a set of trailers that can't be accessed from the main menu once again. There is one exception, however--a trailer for Breathing Room itself can be accessed from the main menu.

All in all, Breathing Room is a game played well. Trying to figure out the rules may well be half the fun, and with plenty of chicanery and old-fashioned locked room mystery going on, it's definitely one to watch.

Five Across The Eyes

Five Across The Eyes
zero stars
Directed by Greg Swinson, Ryan Thiessen
Written by Greg Swinson, Marshall Hicks
Starring Jennifer Barnett, Angela Brunda, Danielle Lilley, Mia Yi
Produced by Greg Swinson, Ryan Thiessen
94 mins

Congratulate me, everybody...because I truly care about my readership, I have sat through a truly magnificent wreckage of a film JUST so I can warn you about it in the strongest possible terms.

It's called Five Across the Eyes, and it's ninety minutes of reprehensible, pointless brutality laughingly called a movie. Apparently someone failed to get the torture porn memo once again, and thus launched off on a path of idiocy that makes my flesh crawl. Plot? There is none. Five high school chicks accidentally hit a van and spend the rest of the night running from a crazy woman with a shotgun who will torture and humiliate them over and over and over and over and over and over and...well, you get the idea...for ninety minutes.

Wow, but the video and audio quality on this thing is complete garbage. Seriously, it watches and sounds like it was shot on somebody's camcorder and then, through possibly bribes involving the all-female cast, got a distribution deal. And it doesn't help that literally all the cast has this thick, THICK, Southern accent that makes it painfully difficult to make anything out unless you too speak, or know people who speak, with a Southern accent.

And frankly, I know they're trying for building suspense, but it's not so much suspenseful as it is sad, watching a bunch of sixteen year old girls panic and scream at each other. And that's before it devolves into the sick torture-porn variant--did NOBODY get the memo? Considering how bad these things inevitably flop I can't imagine why they're still being made. And who wrote the dialogue? This is some of the most revolting garbage I've seen in a while, and considering some of the garbage I see on this section of movies, that's a downright amazing pronouncement. I just spent like ten minutes watching, ostensibly, high school girls get tortured by some psycho chick who made them, well, if you actually want to see it be my guest. But the point is, roughly the first third of Five Across the Eyes is going to be both incoherent and revolting.

Dare I even ask what some girl's father's ashes are doing in a van, and why the movie thought it sufficiently important to include that little detail? Now it's not just incoherent and revolting, it's confusing, too. And then...there was the vomit. And then some girl actually took a dump in the van. And that was where the movie lost me.

Seriously...I could scream and rage about this movie for some time just on the strength of the opening third, but what's the point? It's not like the rest of this disaster will be any better. It's GARBAGE, that's what it is. Straight out horrible unimaginably revolting garbage that makes no sense of any kind. Is this someone's idea of a joke? If it is, I'm not laughing. If this is someone's idea of an actual scary movie then I weep for the genre. This is one of the worst horror movies I've ever seen. Suffering from a series of pointless, revolting non sequiturs strung together in what can only laughingly be called a narrative is not my idea of fun.

What amazes me even more is that this is an Anchor Bay title. Normally, Anchor Bay can be relied upon to provide excellence in horror movies--why they decided that this dog was worthy of distribution is quite thoroughly beyond me. It's somewhat comforting to know, in a weird way, that even the greatest make mistakes. It keeps you from taking the company for granted. In that light, one mistake--even a screaming big one like Five Across the Eyes--can be forgiven.

Assuming of course someone learns from them. I'm looking right at you here, Anchor Bay. LEARN from this wreck. Casual brutality is NOT scary. Casual brutality is POINTLESS. And watching half a dozen of the stupidest high school chicks on the planet spend a night making the dumbest decisions ever because they're constantly panicking isn't scary either. It's IDIOTIC.

If I wanted to watch people panic for two hours I'd watch a Mad Money marathon.

The ending is a triumphantly bad pile of more of the same nonsense that we just finished sitting through, but it at least gives us the mild catharsis of getting that psycho with the shotgun killed. If you're going to waste my time with ninety minutes of high school chicks panicking and some crazy woman torturing them, at LEAST kill the psycho. Then it almost feels like there's a point: don't be a lunatic because you will be beaten unmercifully by your own victims. It's similar to Saw in that Jigsaw was in constant agony because of the cancer.

It's a moral we can live with.

The special features are English subtitles, and once again, screeners you can't access from the DVD itself.

All in all, this suppository of a film doesn't deserve to exist. I want it BURNED. I want a giant DVD-pile fire to light up the night for hundreds of miles just to serve as an example to OTHER bad movies. They should not suck this bad, and if they do, they deserve what they get.