Review by Ed Nguyen
Samantha Jane Polay, Paul Gordon, Amber Crawford, Derek Evans
Director: Alex Ferrari
Audio: English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 or stereo 2.0
Video: Color, 1.85:1 widescreen
Studio: Fortuity Films
Features: See Below
Length: 20 minutes
Release Date: August 2, 2005
sorry, babe, it was never your life to begin with."
any avid movie fan knows who follows the horror genre, the best cult horror
flicks are generally low-budget affairs which have by-passed the usual
production quagmire that is Hollywood. Carnival
of Souls, Night of the Living Dead, The
Evil Dead - the list goes on and on. A
more contemporary example is the film Saw. Originally
produced as an eight-minute short, it was expanded into feature length, and the
resulting $1 million film ripped up the box office for over $100 million alone,
never mind home video sales.
is an obvious message here for alert young film auteurs, and that is "Go
indie!" Perhaps the next
breakout will come from Broken (2005),
a promising short subject with horrific action and visual flair aplenty, too.
premise is a simple one. A young
woman, Bonnie, is awakened from the dead of sleep one evening by a bad
nightmare. Bad goes to worse,
though, as Bonnie soon discovers she is not alone in her own home.
Mysterious abductors suddenly appear from out of the shadows to seize the
frightened young woman. Bonnie is
knocked unconscious, and when she revives, she finds herself gagged and bound to
a wheelchair in a strange and decrepit basement. She is still not alone, either.
So begins a frightening night of depravity and torment for the young
woman until the film's explosive and unexpected conclusion.
a blend of visceral creepiness with Matrix-like
mind warp, Broken is a rip-roaring
popcorn film, albeit a short one. While
the acting is nothing special, Broken's
visual style is impressive, much more so than one might expect from its modest
budget, reportedly only eight thousand dollars. This film would appear perfectly at home among a collection
of The Twilight Zone or Tales
from the Crypt episodes. In
fact, its polished cinematic sheen and aural bombast are comparable with the
likes of decidedly more expensive Hollywood productions.
Broken poses more questions than it
answers, which may be the film's biggest flaw - it simply feels incomplete.
The main villain's motivations are unclear at best.
Who are these characters, anyway? What
are their relations to one another? What
do the kidnappers want from Bonnie, and why do they want to kill her?
What is real? What is fantasy or dementia?
Broken is a film of many loose
ends and unfulfilled potential; perhaps an expanded version would help to
elucidate many of the film's unanswered mysteries.
being an indie film, Broken is by no
means an amateurish effort. Its
production required a dozen weeks of rehearsals with a cast of stage actors and
extensive post-production work by a group of skilled professionals.
Director Alex Ferrari himself is well-established in the post-production
field, which certainly contributes to Broken's
polished look. Who knows, with a
bit more story development, a feature-length expansion of Broken
could become the next sleeper hit on the indie circuit.
was shot using a Panasonic AG-DVX100A camera on 24p mode.
It is presented on this disc in a 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen
format. There is a definite
softness to the image quality, but otherwise the picture quality is pristine.
is presented in either English stereo 2.0 or surround 5.1.
No subtitles are available. The
aggressive sound design occasionally drowns out dialogue.
However, this is rather a good thing at times, as the dialogue is
unmemorable, frequently campy, or marginally acted.
The villain's main "harmonica" speech, for instance, is rather
the other hand, the unsettling score by Mark Roumelis is quite superb, a
top-notch effort. It really adds
significantly to the film's suspenseful atmosphere.
the actual film lacks in length, it makes up for with a plethora of bonus
features. These are divided into
individual categories of pre-production, production, and post-production.
There are also the usual commentary tracks with a small sampling of
marketing featurettes, including a gag reel.
All in all, around three hours of special features are available,
designed as a quick series of mini-lessons to help young filmmakers focus their
efforts. As Broken's
creators point out several times, one of the reasons this disc (and the film
itself) exists is to demonstrate to aspiring and determined indie filmmakers
that making a highly polished product need not require millions of dollars.
many of the extras on this disc are short in length, a "play all"
option would have been a nice addition. Also,
final edits from Broken are shown
frequently enough that viewers may tire of seeing the same sequences over and
over again ad nauseam.
are four commentary tracks covering the direction (with Alex Ferrari), the
production (with producer Jorge Rodriquez), visual effects, and sound design.
The film's cast also contributes to a fun group commentary, as do
director and producer for their own tag-team commentary.
Ferrari even expresses a keen interest in directing a film adaptation of
the comics Grendel or Sandman! I'm all for
in the "Pre-Production" section are four rehearsal scenes with
occasional commentary, behind-the-scene footage, and comparisons with the final
scenes in the film. Next are nine
storyboard sequences, including the film's opening sequence.
These storyboards reveal some story concepts which were eventually
dropped due to budgetary or time constraints.
brief concept art and location comparison (1 min.) follows, and then the
"Pre-Production" section concludes with a costume design gallery with
commentary (4 min.). One senses
that a comic book costume design mentality à la Elektra
was in the works during this phase.
"Production" section contains numerous short featurettes. They cover a
range of topics from stunt work to various special effects, such as a rather
gory exploding head effect and the special effects make-up by Megan Graham (such
as scars, burnt eyes, and tattoos). Words
of wisdom about safety and preparation (especially with guns) are delivered by
technical advisor Tony Gomez, and another featurette addresses how to recreate
realistic weapons on a shoestring budget. The filmmakers even describe how to reproduce a realistic
brain-splattering effect; do so at your own risk!
on Producing an Indie Film
(7 min.) is an interview with Jorge F. Rodriguez about the process of indie
filmmaking. He briefly touches upon
issues of reverse budgeting, insurance, location shooting, feeding the crew, and
stunt work. Rodriquez closes with
tips and tricks about props and production design. He also mentions how actual hurricane damage to the set was
later incorporated into the film's final storyline.
"Production" section concludes with a dozen behind-the-scene
production clips (17 min. total). These
are comprised of alternate takes, rehearsals and tests, and different angle
"Post Production" section opens with a 12-minute featurette on color
correction, or "color grading." In
general, the "Post Production" section offers the most detailed and
technical discussion about filmmaking on this disc.
For the first featurette, director Ferrari focuses upon composition of
shots, the importance of lighting on the set, and filter programs used to give Broken
a softer, film-like quality. Several
pre- and post-production scenes from Broken
are used to illustrate his point, followed by three further minutes of
side-by-side color correction comparisons of rehearsal and actual footage.
to Make DV look like Film
(6 min.) is a quick recap of the various merits or shortcomings of shooting with
mini-DV and digital video cameras. Ferrari
again skims over filter packages, production design, costume design, and
(5 min.) offers comments from visual effect supervisor Sean Falcon about nine
scenes from the film. In the
effects breakdown, individual elements are first shown separately, followed by
the full composite of the scene and then the final color-corrected scene as it
appears in Broken. Many of the
visual effects are not flashy and tend to complement the storyline rather than
call attention to themselves. In
short, the more "invisible" the effect, the better!
VFX Breakdown: The Title Sequence (3
min.), Alex Ferrari and visual effect supervisor Dan Cregan explain how
Ferrari's ordinary raw footage was transformed into the film's eerie and
nightmarish title sequence. The
metamorphosis is rather impressive.
Effects in Indie Film
(18 min.) is an extended interview with Sean Falcon.
The VFX supervisor offers plenty of tips on how pre-production
preparation, choice of camera, good lighting, and the use of practical effects
all help to ultimately "sell" the visual effects.
Falcon's comments veer towards the technical side at times but are
generally easy to follow.
Cinematography in Indie Film (6 min.),
director of photography Angel Barroeta discusses the various equipment used for
photographing and lighting Broken.
Barroeta's brief comments also are somewhat technical and will probably
be more relevant to filmmakers than to the casual viewer.
"Post-Production" section closes with Sound Design/Composing in Indie Film (7 min.).
Sound designer and composer Mark Roumelis describes the usage of samples
and original composition for Broken's
score, also mentioning various tools used for recording and designing the audio
final section is the "After the Short" section which deals with
promotional aspects of the filmmaking experience. The making of Broken
is addressed through a series of short interview clips (10 min. total) regarding
the film's original concept, first impressions from cast and crew about the
premise and the rehearsal process, vignettes from the set, and plans to develop Broken
into a true feature film.
featurette Marketing: Promoting a Short
Film (5 min.) covers the importance of grass-roots promotion, touring at
film festivals, usage of the internet, and finally the all-important trailer.
Surprisingly, Broken's trailer itself is conspicuously absent from this disc (but
can be viewed on the film's website www.whatisbroken.com).
There is a short poster gallery slideshow (1 min.), eerie photography by
Nick Monaco in another slideshow (6 min.), and also a three-minute gag reel.
Lastly, there is an intriguing alternate ending (2 min.); this is really
an epilogue that provides clues into further plot development (and hints at Broken's Matrix-like
disc closes out with biographical blurbs about the Florida-based director and
editor Alex Ferrari, producer Jorge F. Rodriguez, and VFX specialists Sean
Falcon and Dan Cregan.