MTI // 2009 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // February 18th, 2011
Hold your breath.
Antique dealer Susan Jordan (Tracy Teague) has terminal cancer and has just been told that she has mere months to live. Searching desperately for a cure, she is approached at her shop by a young man (Matthew J. Wright) with a strange proposal. He'll hand her twenty grand if she will sell him an old box from her collection and attend an auction to purchase a rare but nondescript book. She wins the tome and, out of curiosity, opens it to find a key. That key opens a false bottom in the box and, in that, rests an ancient vial. By mistake, the vial breaks and something from inside enters her. Suddenly, she feels great and is completely cured, but now the man has come back for his merchandise and will not be pleased to find it tampered with.
The premise for Respire is supposedly based on a Roman theory that your soul leaves your body upon your last breath. If that can be captured, it can provide fantastic healing properties, even near-eternal life. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, a German scientist began research into this long dead notion and proves it to be true. His experimental cases were imbued with the souls of others and, while they can be killed, they will never die of sickness or disease. There is an unfortunate side effect, however, which Susan quickly discovers. This process isn't some ethereal miracle tonic; there are two souls inside one being fighting for control. The memories and impulses of the second soul can rise to the surface at any time. Unfortunately, the good doctor's experiments involved violent mental patients. Susan inhaled the soul of the doctor and is inundated with images of the torture he imparted on the poor people. Worse, the three who have survived all these years are fighting with the souls of the actual insane.
Writer/Director David A. Cross (Ghostwatcher), on a very limited budget, manages to inject a little style into his story. Mostly, this comes in flashbacks that are brief, but violent, weird, and pretty effective. The story doesn't hold much water and any historical basis is of course hogwash, but that takes very little away from the film. The film stays consistent in its own world, where sucking down vials of air makes one either an erudite gentleman or a bitchin' goth chick; there's a certain air about Respire that I really enjoyed.
The actors are inexperienced and it shows, but the performances are good for what they need to be. Tracy Teague is fine debuting in the lead role, naturally switching between personalities and seeming very comfortable all around. The three survivors of the doctor's experiments are all a lot of fun. Matthew J. Wright acts like he should have a monocle, Vince Eustace is a cane-wearing goth aptly named Alex Poe, and his girlfriend, played by Jessica Keeler, is that character's perfect counterpart. At no point does any one of them appear professional, but they attack there roles, getting the most out of the skills they have.
We received a screener from MTI for review, so the final product may not reflect what is here. Overall, though, the film looks good. It's cheap and looks it, but the image is generally bright and the colors look pretty good. The surround mix is fine but nothing to write home about. There are no extras.
Respire isn't anything that will stick with you for long, but it's a fun little ride with some respectable moments. I wouldn't claim this the genre film of the year, but indie horror fans can do a whole lot worse.
It's better than you might expect. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R