Uncork'd Entertainment's Breeder Plumbs Depths of Dark Science

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According to World Health Organization statistics, by 2030, one in six people will be aged 60 years or over, and by the century’s mid-point, the figure will exceed 2.1 billion. As the population of many western industrialized nations grays at an unprecedented rate, the urge to avoid the effects of older age has evolved into an ever-present multi-billion-dollar industry. There’s an endless array of pills and potions, creams and cleanses, ointments and therapies that promise to fend off Father Time, and to some there’s no price too high to prolong their youth.

The Danish filmmakers behind the latest release from Level K and Uncork’d Entertainment push just such a scenario to its most intense extreme in Breeder. The movie centers on the troubled marriage of equestrian Mia (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) and Thomas (Anders Heinrichsen), an investment advisor and amateur athlete who turns to Dr. Isabel Ruben (Signe Egholm Olsen), founder and chief scientific researcher of Ruben Rejuvenation, in the hopes that she can extend his Olympic career. Dr. Ruben touts a revolutionary, experimental medical procedure called Resurrecta that’s already shown results with revitalizing several wealthy clients, but when neighborhood babysitter Nika (Eeva Putro) is kidnapped and subsequently turns up bloodied on their doorstep, Mia learns that Thomas has been lying about the depth of his involvement regarding the company. Following the GPS on his phone, Mia is herself abducted and held in an underground facility with dozens of other women that Dr. Ruben ruthlessly experiments upon in order to obtain the DNA she needs to satisfy her growing client list.

Far from a hip, self-referential teen slash-‘em-up meant to please the popcorn crowd, Breeder instead invokes the grim nihilism reminiscent of the torture porn subgenre that scandalized horror in the mid-to-late 2000’s. The long, dark, claustrophobic tunnels of the subterranean facility, the palpable suspense and frequent overtures of ever-escalating violence mimic the annihilative aesthetic of Eli Roth’s Hostel and its cinematic ilk with surprising regularity, and the bloodshed is as unflinchingly barbarous as it is realistic. Breeder wallows in the most punishing kinds of silver screen cruelty in its quest to examine where the ethical lines concerning societal and medical progress exist. Brandings, beatings, floggings, urinary degradation, tooth-pulling, near-beheadings, gynecological violation, infanticide--it’s all for the offering, and at times the ugly viciousness threatens to unglue any narrative cohesion as the climax approaches.

Potent messages still lurk despite the savagery. Writer Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen and director Jens Dahl load parallels in Breeder to the mistreatment of women in modern society, and through the pitiless portrayal of Dr. Ruben, probe not only the misuse of science but the theme of humankind’s inhumanity towards itself. More subtle sexual subtexts also exist in the association binding Thomas and Mia’s relationship and the sadistic inflictions enacted by Ruben’s psychopathic subordinates upon their female captives, and the bad doctor’s ultimate fate represents the breakdown of order as a consequence for overreaching one’s bounds.

Compared to the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Italy and France, Denmark hasn’t traditionally been viewed as a hotbed of celluloid terror. Breeder, however, now comfortably joins the company of other Danish offerings Shelley, What We Become, Room 205 and The Substitute as a film rife with raw energy and a willingness to shatter the basest of taboos. And while snobbish viewers may be put off by the English subtitles and a plot that lacks true originality, the visceral effectiveness of the end result nonetheless earns Breeder a respectable 4 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. For everyone else: prepare yourself. This one may be a bumpy ride, but it’s worth the journey.  

4.0 / 5.0