Anchor Bay // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 14th, 2008
Obey the rules or face the consequences.
In the spirit of movies like Saw and Unknown comes...a movie like those other movies I just said.
A young woman named Tonya (Ailsa Marshall) wakes up naked in a room, surrounded by strangers with no recollection how she got there. She and her comrades are clad in color-coded jumpsuits, issued numbers and shackled with collars that can be activated if anyone tries to escape, which of course leads to a painful death. Someone has forced these people into playing a maniacal game, offering them cryptic clues, daring them to find a way out.
One by one, each participant in the game is dispatched with extreme prejudice and/or forced into impossible choices. Who's dicking them around? Is it possible the perpetrator is among them?
If you like these kinds of horror mystery game movies, I think you'll find something of value in Breathing Room. It's a taut, well-made whodunit, featuring some strong performances and a twisty-turny, serpentine plot that culminates in a frustratingly opaque finale, but will likely be weird enough to repel resentment.
This is a decidedly low-budget production. I'd say 98% of the film takes place in the abandoned warehouse space where our characters are forced to play the game. And the gore effects are more after-the-fact set-ups than actual killing gags that would no doubt sap even more financial resources from the filmmakers. Despite that, Breathing Room comes across as having a top-shelf pedigree, which is a compliment that can pretty much be laid completely at the feet of the actors.
Headliner Ailsa Taylor is good as the terrified newbie, and, gradually, the thread that holds the other performances together. Muchael McLafferty earns big thumbs up for essentially being the hero of the thing. Supporting performances are interesting, if not a smidge one-dimensional (a-hole guy, wacky Christian lady, creepy fat nerd guy).
The game challenges themselves aren't nearly as interesting as the characters' reactions to them. In fact, only one challenge was memorable: one of the player's grand-daughter is held hostage and will be killed unless said player kills somebody. It's a nice piece of tension. There are clues and anagrams and so on and so forth, but nothing terribly clever.
Which brings me to the ending. You know, I couldn't spoil it even if I wanted to. I hate to be That Guy, the one who never gets the big twists, but I've been just striking out trying to deduce what the @#$% happened at the end. It's frustrating and, frankly, hurts the bottom line of the film.
Anchor Bay issued a no-frills DVD, with no extras, a passable 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a 2.0 stereo audio mix.
Aside from a convoluted denouement, Breathing Room fits nicely into the horror whodunit genre.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated