The Breach Review: A Strong Finish Opens The Gates To Hell [Fantasia]

Rodrigo Gudiño welcomes viewers into "The Breach," a mix between Lovecraft and Cronenbergian squishiness (think "The Fly") produced and co-scored by Guns' N Roses shred master, the horror-lovin' Slash. Ian Weir's screenplay adapts Nick Cutter's novel of the same name, and Gudiño — Rue Morgue's founder turned filmmaker — returns to feature-length thrills after 2012's festival darling "The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh." It's a hodgepodge assortment of influences and collaborators that comes together as science fiction with body horror accents, hinged on a third act loaded with gnarly practical effects. Slow-burn sensibilities are in full force as mysteries down winding rivers set the stage, but fear not — "The Breach" delivers upon its film's chaotic climax.

Chief of Police John Hawkins (Allan Hawco) has one foot out the door of Lone Crow, a small town that can't compete with his big city future. Before John leaves, he's dragged into one more case when a pulverized body washes upon campground shores. John teams with local coroner Jacob Redgrave (Wesley French) and Lone Crow's charter-boat captain Meg Fullbright (Emily Alatalo) — John's ex — to follow clues that lead to a mysterious backwoods house. Inside they find dilapidation and high-tech machinery belonging to suspected victim Dr. Cole Parsons (Adam Kenneth Wilson), which is only the beginning of inexplicable occurrences that plague Lone Crow.

A dead physicist? His missing daughter? Strange machinery? John Hawkins has his work cut out before ditching Lone Crow.

Gudiño already proved with "The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh" that he can sustain quieter horror storytelling before fireworks explode. "The Breach" is no different, as John, Jacob, and Meg encounter obscure hurdles while investigating Cole's home slash laboratory. There are soapy elements such as an "exes and repressed feelings" love triangle between Jacob (boyfriend #1), John (boyfriend #2), and Meg, but it's never more than dashed into scenes for some added tension. Otherwise, Gudiño holds tight to his mad scientist's paradox in Cole's attic and treats the mundane as just that to emphasize the narrative's impending doom.

Separate from the undead pack

The inclusion of Cole's wife, Linda Parsons (Natalie Brown), and the subplot of Cole's vanished daughter unlock hidden texts within "The Breach," morphing from a spooky float down the Porcupine River to something out of this world. Patience through John and Jacob's chest-beating or John and Meg's romantic-ish banter is rewarded once Gudiño's monsters emerge, crawling and snarling forward as these nightmares of inside-out flesh and desecrated human remains. Daniel Baker's prosthetics and creature effects shine on a budget despite little relief in the daylight, as mutations and sloppy-slick, grotesque figures bring the hardcore muck (read: bloody, scummy, vile). "The Breach" nails its varied FX when called upon — digital effects even hold their own — and should appease the creature freakazoids out there as long as they can withstand the more procedural beginnings.

Without the film's onslaught of effects during finale attacks, "The Breach" would be lost to its rigid character types and indie restrictions. It's unchallenging outside of Rush's guitarist Alex Lifeson cameoing as crackpot information revealer Alex, who stokes dialogue about particle colliders and scientists playing God with molecular manipulation. The harder sci-fi elements of "The Breach" are always better served in their gnarly horror presentations, which reinvigorate excitement. Performances all cleanly and efficiently deliver what's called upon, even when characters act like countless indie horror protagonists who are only there to push a plot forward — never engaging on levels of genuine curiosity with their surroundings. Storytelling feels like wheels in motion using the same "Horror 101" assembly line, until extra fingers appear on hands or shambling goopy threats descend upon Cole's rundown hideout.

"The Breach" earns lasting appreciation at its most pivotal moments, which is why it gets an enthusiastic-enough recommendation. Rodrigo Gudiño is now two-for-two in my stat sheet, shifting from ghostly fearfulness hinged on grief in "The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh" to an all-out monsterpalooza. Midnighter audiences might not be thrilled about the pacing, but those creature designs and back-half gore beats should amass proper atonement. On an indie budget, with do-it-yourself gumption, "The Breach" separates itself from the undead pack through sheer SFX willpower — it's a messy affair, but usually in the right ways.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10