Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Cinema File #116: "Hold Your Breath" Review

If you've read this blog enough, you know I'm a huge fan of The Asylum, the low budget production company known mostly for releasing straight to DVD knock-offs of popular films days or weeks before their release to cash in on the more famous product. I devote an entire series on this blog to the mockbuster phenomenon they've become the masters of, but while movies like Transmorphers and Almighty Thor are their claim to fame, they do make completely original films as well. Today's review focuses on their latest non-mockbusting effort, a teens in peril supernatural horror movie called Hold Your Breath, which despite copious amounts of 30 Rock's Katrina Bowden's ass in short shorts, really shows that they should stick to rip offs.

Now, I said it was called Hold Your Breath, but actually, if you go by the DVD cover and the title in the film itself, its actually called # Hold Your Breath, or possibly even #holdyourbreath. Why it needed to be stylized with a Twitter hashtag, I have no idea. Maybe this is a trend in other movies that I've just never seen before, but the movie has nothing to do with Twitter or social networking of any kind, and I really don't know why its done here. Anyway, the story follows a group of kids reuniting years after highschool for a camping trip who are terrorized by the ghost of a serial killer after they drive by a graveyard and one of them fails to follow the rules of an urban legend. My fingers almost went to sleep while writing that sentence, and I assure you the film as a whole is as rote and predictable as its incredibly cliched premise would imply.

The first half hour or so of Hold Your Breath is actually somewhat entertaining, opening with a bloody flashback to an execution gone wrong, and following up with just enough character set up to not get us bogged down in stuff nobody cares about before getting to the Killer Among Us track. The problem is that once the possession occurs, the filmmakers don't seem to know what they want to do with their villain or his soon to be victims. We start in the old abandoned (and at one point possibly haunted) sanitarium, which would have been an interesting set piece for the entire film, but its abandoned in minutes, with the killer never setting foot inside. Instead, he's possessed the guy who waits behind in the car, and instead of just stealing the car and driving off into a better life and a better movie, he waits around, kills a policeman by attaching jumper cables to his nutsack, and rejoins the group, switching bodies Fallen style whenever it is dramatically required.

We then get to the camp, another good potential set piece, and we get another overly elaborate kill scene, also arbitrarily involving a car battery strangely enough, and then we move to yet a third location, and so on, and so on. With the exception of his habit of gouging out one of his victim's eyes before killing them, something that I guess calls back to his taking out his own eye when he was alive shortly before being executed, the killer is given no real personality or interesting qualities. I never get the sense that this is a unique character traveling from person to person, because the movie never takes the time to really establish any quirks or ticks to foreshadow his mind being in another body. For this kind of story, where the main villain assumes many forms, taking over the bodies of others, you need to have some common thread that ties each incarnation together, an barely covered up accent or a facial twitch, but here, I guess its just supposed to be enough that he likes to kill people.

The actors, all no-names save Katrina Bowden, are maybe one notch or two better than your average Asylum movie, but none of them are really given much to do or provide any reason for me to care about their characters. They each fall into the typical horror movie stereotypes so well I half-expected the office drones from Cabin in the Woods to spring up and be behind the whole thing, and none of them stick out as particularly amazing or terrible. The girls are basically there to wear skimpy clothing and sometimes take it off, and the guys are there to either become the killer, or be killed by him or her. The movie picks up a bit towards the end with the introduction of a crotchety retired prison guard who somehow knows all about the curse and how to stop it, but once he's done verbally bitch slapping the cast for no reason, things pretty much peter out until a twist ending that I would guess everyone will see coming.

Some of the death scenes are somewhat clever, though as I alluded to earlier, many are convoluted to the point of coming across as goofy. If well choreographed gore is all you look for in a horror movie, Hold Your Breath might be just barely passable. If you need anything more to entertain yourself, there probably isn't any reason to bother with it. 

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