Directed by Jens Dahl.

Starring Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, Signe Egholm Olsen, Anders Heinrichsen.

 Horror, Denmark, 107 minutes.


Reviewed as part of Arrow Video FrightFest Digital Edition 2


As a sub-genre torture porn quickly reached its limit in terms of content and storytelling. There may have been one high point with Pascal Laugier’s MARTYRS managing to transcend the limitations and cliches with its own subversive and gruelling spin on the genre. It comes as a surprise then that director Jens Dahl, co-writer of the original PUSHER with Nicholas Winding Refn, and screenwriter Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen, feel the need to revisit the cliches of washed-out cinematography, sadistic tormentors and sequences designed to make you squirm with acts of degradation that instead.


The story of BREEDER starts intriguingly enough with its tale of a high-tech clinic run by scientist Dr Isabel Rubin. A pioneer in age-defying treatments she funds mainly by targeting deep-pocketed business people looking to invest in the treatment and all the benefits it can bring. One such businessman, who has become embroiled in the shadier aspects of Dr Rubins biohacking, is Anders. Becoming suspicious of his behaviour, Anders wife Mia decides to investigate further after a terrified immigrant girl turns up on their doorstep. Mia soon finds herself held captive in a warehouse at the mercy of The Dog and The Swine, a pair of kidnappers/torturers who have been providing Dr Rubin with her unwilling research subjects.


It is from here that BREEDER all but abandons the intriguing aspects laid down in the first act. Instead, we are treated to an over-familiar parade of women being treated horribly in gruelling detail. Lips being stitched together and women being branded only to have their wounds sterilised by a torturer urinating on the wound in unflinching detail are just a few of the unpalatable sights on display here. The directors need to dwell on such visuals takes up so much space that essential elements such as a plot and interesting characters are completely jettisoned. What could have been a fascinating look at the fringe elements of biohacking and the ethics involved is ignored. One other aspect introduced early on involving Mia’s taste for masochism plays no part in the main section of the film, leaving it to feel tacked on and completely forgotten by the film’s creators.


Ignoring such aspects adds up to a string of missed opportunities that frustrate on several levels. What could have been a fresh and edgy look at a much-maligned area in horror cinema only ends up being a retrograde throwback. Indeed, the films look apes the greatest hits of the sub-genre so much that an unsuspecting viewer could be forgiven for thinking that the film was made back in the early 2000s.

If you find yourself exhausted by the grimy events on show here waiting for the promise of a cathartic final act then prepare to be further disappointed. The films closing events are handled in such a quick and unsatisfying manner that it feels like an act of torture perpetrated on the viewer by the director himself. There is sadly little to recommend here unless your idea of a good night in involves being frustrated, annoyed and disgusted in equal measure.


Iain MacLeod.


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