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Breathing Room

Directed by John Suits, Gabriel Cowan

Written by John Suits, Gabriel Cowan

Starring Ailsa Marshall, Michael McLafferty, David Higlen, Brad Culver

Produced by Gabriel Cowan, Bryce Gerlach

Not Rated

90 mins

****

I’m always somewhat trepidacious—especially these days—when a movie asks if I want to play a game. The problem with that premise, you see, is that most movies want to play the same game, otherwise known as the “I Want To Make A Huge Pile Of Retail Money” game, or, more colloquially, The Saw Game.

The problem with this game, of course, is that no one’s really sure just how to play The Saw Game, or how to make its resultant huge piles of cash. Thus, everyone’s attempt to play The Saw Game usually comes off looking like they’re trying to play it, and thus, just another imitator in a long line of imitators.

And this time, the imitators lock a whole bunch of people in a room together to get them to play a game together. The rules are highly unclear and the punishments for their violation lethal. A box marked “pieces” contains tools and hints that might well help find an exit…or at least tell them why they were abducted in the first place.

However, in one very different point, this game will work, and work very well. Why? Because they’re not playing The Saw Game…rather, they’ve managed to revive the concept of the locked-room mystery. And this literally out of nowhere surprise will result in an impressive little work of tightly-packed thrills and good old-fashioned drama.

Watching the characters try to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s not telling the truth and who’s a rapist and who’s a pedophile and who’s any of a dozen other things is actually pretty entertaining. And trying to figure out what everyone’s hiding is especially fun. There’s plenty of good old-fashioned scares in here as people die, often in the dark, and occasionally while arguing with each other.

The ending will feature a spectacular twist that goes off with surprising force and accuracy. There is some letdown here—not much—because they won’t actually come out and tell you what the deal is here. You have to make some guesses on your own, and I’ve never really approved of that sort of thing. You make a movie, you should make a complete story, not make it about ninety-five percent of a story and have the audience fill in the gaps. Even if they’re small gaps as they were in this one, that’s still one more gap than should be there.

The special features are limited to English subtitles and a set of trailers that can’t be accessed from the main menu once again. There is one exception, however—a trailer for Breathing Room itself can be accessed from the main menu.

All in all, Breathing Room is a game played well. Trying to figure out the rules may well be half the fun, and with plenty of chicanery and old-fashioned locked room mystery going on, it’s definitely one to watch.

Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.


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