(By Mark Gonzales) Have you ever been in a secluded but safe location--say, your own home--and suddenly felt uneasy? Or, has an innocuous noise scared you far more than it should have? The UK film Fractured seeks to capture that feeling of discomfort while offering an explanation that will leave you surprised and fulfilled…
…Fractured is directed by Jamie Patterson and written by Patterson and Christian Hearn. Their story is a simple one; the likeable enough couple of Rebecca and Michael takes a trip into England's deep country late one night and discover that they are not alone in their secluded getaway. The turns that develop throughout the film's runtime show us not what our couple should be afraid of, but why they are afraid. It is this inspired turn on the Home Invasion Genre that gives this film its life. While watching this movie to its conclusion, a viewer is reminded of the virtues of patience and the power of story telling.
It is difficult to say much about this film without exposing some of its most effective twists, turns, and reveals but I do feel safe in saying that the most rewarding moments come after the second half of the film. I wish I had seen it in theatres, where the compulsions to pause the film and use the restroom are easy to ignore and where the viewing experience could have been more linear and pure. But, watching it as I did, in my living room, I still felt the draw of the first half of the film and the pleasant surprises of the second.
While the first half of the film gives viewers the impression that they are on the road to terror, this section of the film is not without its faults. Watching the film, I could not help but ask aloud, "Is this movie fucking with me?" The crimes of this first half of Fractured lie not with the director or the direction. The first half of the film suffers from an overall lack of action within the story. People drive. People talk. People… uh… enjoy each other's bodies, which is cool.
Despite this lack of activity and an over abundance of attempted jump scares, I found myself drawn into the film. Fractured is truly more than the sum of its parts. While watching the film, a viewer knows that there is more to this film than what was lying on the surface. The audience's impression that there is something to this story is owed in no small part to the cinematography by Paul O'Gallaghan (Tides) and the performances by April Pearson (Kiss Me First) and Karl Davies (Game of Thrones). With every word, look, and caress we get the impression that things are not what they seem. Our lead actors play the duality of wanting to say more while being unable to speak to their feelings perfectly.
Unfortunately, we do not get this level of tension from the script. The actors imbue their words with meaning but the words themselves fall flat throughout the story, even when we understand fully that which they are really saying. It's a tight rope that the writers are walking but there could have been more to the depth of the characters before we learn their back-story.
The most important thing to remember about this film is the inherent joy of solving a mystery. In the case of Fractured the mysteries in question are, "Why is this film happening? Why these people? Why are they being pursued rather than anybody else?" And what succeeds about this story more than any other works in the genre is that it slowly (maybe too slowly at times) lets the viewer ask these questions. The film does not condescend or ask the questions for them. You do not find a character asking "Why me?" as they are relentlessly pursued and the film is stronger for this omission.
The question that is being asked in this film is, why are we watching? We know something is wrong but we don't know what. We know we are enthralled but we can't say what is pulling us in ever closer. There is an inherent enigma to the act of watching that this film seeks to answer. And, while its conclusion is somewhat blunt, it is also enjoyable and digestible.
The largest flaw in this story and the very thing that prevents me from giving it a five-eye ball review is the runtime. This film is 75 minutes in length and much of that could have been cut. Watching it, I could not help but think of all the scenes that could have, and in many cases, should have been cut. The amount of story that is present here would be in better service of a short film or an episode of Black Mirror (the writers would only need to add something about a phone app that everybody uses or… I don't know… Fitbit?) There's really nothing wrong with making a spectacular short film and I think that this would have been overall a much more enjoyable experience with those expectations.
Conversely, the film could have added more plot twists, though I can't say what they would be, for fear of spoiling the entire story.
Ultimately, there is something very special in this film in the way that it tells its story while allowing the story itself to be only mostly interesting. I applaud the intentions of this film and the risks that it takes in challenging its audience to stick with it for the entire ride. A group of less confident filmmakers may have given in to the temptation to include some number of meaningless kills or needless character conflicts only to heighten the suspense. As it is, we are forced to analyze the decisions that are made and to converse with the film in ways that I have not been invited to engage with a horror film in years.
Fractured is a challenging and stunning film that demands and commands your attention and focus. If you have the opportunity to watch this film in theatres then you MUST enjoy it but if you are like all us poor Yanks and have to watch it in your living room, I encourage you to seek it out and watch without stopping.
Fractured is now available on Amazon Prime.
By Mark Gonzales