Breathing Room (DVD)
Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Ailsa Marshall, David Hilgen, Brad Culver, Kim Estes, Keith Foster
Directed by John Suits & Gabriel Cowan
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Owing much to Saw, Cube, and Battle Royale, Breathing Room is another one of those movies with a random group of people who awaken trapped in a location forced to play a deadly game designed by a host who communicates with them from via remote to mess with their heads and ultimately turn them against one another and if they attempt to break the rules the consequences are instantly fatal. The rules of this game are so abstract they barely exist and when the masterminds behind it all get revealed we’re left without any explanation as to what the purpose of this game was other than it just being an exercise in pointless mind games.
A blonde girl finds herself in a large white room lit up by a near blinding degree of florescent lights along with a small group of people of various ages from different walks of life - some with shady pasts - who don't know each, how they got there, what they're doing there, or how to get out. Then their unnamed host informs them either by video screen or intercom about the game they have no choice but to play in order to gain their freedom. Some of them have lethal shock collars around their necks; the ones who don't are informed that not having a collar means they can break the ever hazy rules of the game. This game is all about random items they’re given (this is one of those games where they have a gun but have to find the bullets) and one-sentence tidbits on folded paper telling certain players something vague about the other players designed to get them to turn against each other, including that someone in the room is their potential killer. Every so often the lights go out and someone ends up dead - usually only a matter of seconds making it hard to believe anyone could have pulled off a murder that quickly in the dark.
Much of Breathing Room is just these cookie cutter characters sitting around looking more bored than scared and engaging in conversations and arguments that more often than not don’t feel like they’re advancing anything. A psychological thriller like this hinges on high tension and I felt none. I respect that the filmmakers set out to make a movie of this nature that focuses more on the cerebral and less on the splatter, but if a movie is built around a game that hinges on the characters’ peril and you couldn't care less about the characters and their peril is rarely perilous then you don’t have much of a game ... or a movie.
When we finally do find out who's behind it all and why, frankly, it leaves even more questions unanswered because they left out the "why" part. But then, like the Saw films, it's not about whether or not anything adds up, it's the twist for the sake of a twist that counts. Problem is with the Saw films you at least understand what the purpose of the game is in the first place.
My 14-year old niece who has recently developed a taste for horror films was over at the time I began watching Breathing Room and by the 15-minute mark she was asking me if anything was ever going to happen. I was beginning to wonder the same thing. By the 45-minute mark she'd become so bored she had resorted to reading a calendar of all things. You could argue a 14-year old girl wasn’t the right audience for a movie of this sort that tries to be more methodical than sensationalistic except I’d counter that even she accurately predicted well ahead of time exactly who the real killer was going to turn out to be. Some twist.
I wasn't as bored as my niece was because there were a few fleeting moments where I could see potential bubbling under the surface. The movie just doesn't work though, in particular because so much of it felt like filler. If anything, this movie has too much breathing room.
2 out of 5
1/2 out of 5
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