REVIEW: Breeder (2020)

Film Poster
Theatrical Release Poster – Beo Starling

Directed by Jens Dahl — Screenplay by Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen.

I think the Danish film industry has produced several gems and even some masterpieces. I really like to write about Danish films on my blog since it gives me a chance to highlight and talk about films that people outside of Denmark may not have heard of. But while there are very many excellent Danish dramas and great Danish comedies, I think it’s very odd that the Danish film industry has been struggling to keep up with the rest of the world when it comes to the very popular horror genre.

What is the last great Danish horror film? If you ask the average Dane, they would answer Ole Bornedal’s Nattevagten, which was released in 1994. If you were to ask a film historian, they would probably talk about Benjamin Christensen. Some may come up with genuine Danish horror films such as Martin Barnewitz’s Kollegiet or Carsten Myllerup’s Midsommer. Granted, Lars Von Trier has made some noteworthy horror films (as well as the Danish series Riget) but his horror films are often in English and populated by mostly English-speaking actors. So whenever a Danish horror film is about to be released, I must admit that I am trepidatious because Danish horror films rarely work, and this year’s major Danish horror flick, Jens Dahl’s Breeder, is, unfortunately, yet another disappointment.

Jens Dahl’s Breeder follows Mia, a talented Danish horse rider, who is in a relationship with Thomas (played by Anders Heinrichsen). Mia and Thomas’ relationship is stuck in a rut. He does not fulfill her desires, and she doesn’t know how to spice things up. One day, while tracking Thomas’ phone, Mia finds out that the company her partner is involved with is kidnapping young women, but, before she is able to get to the bottom of things, she is apprehended and knocked out by the company’s brutal lackey. She now finds herself in a very dangerous situation with no way out.

I think what is the most disappointing thing about this film is just how predictable and unoriginal it is. Its horror movie subgenre feels antiquated, and, while there are some elements of this film’s story that have been updated to the trends and tendencies of 2020, this film generally feels like something that should’ve been made years ago. To be more specific, Breeder is a no-holds-barred ‘torture porn’ film in the vein of Eli Roth’s Hostel. The film features violence, torture, and nudity. There is even a scene where a character urinates on a woman who is screaming in pain.

It is very difficult to watch and, frustratingly, the story is not compelling enough to make the film worthwhile. Screenwriter Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen has crafted a story about rejuvenation, dominance, and fighting back against misogyny. There are some moments in the film that feel designed to express this feminist retaliation that, in a sense, is very modern, but it is mostly done in a very predictable way towards the end of the film. Perhaps Dahl wasn’t the right director to execute Thomsen’s vision, but I do also have to say that I think there are some logical inconsistencies in the film’s story.

I do think some of the performances are somewhat commendable, though. Sara Hjort Ditlevsen really threw herself into this seemingly very demanding role, and I think she sells her difficult scenes very well. I think, however, that the very best thing about this movie is Signe Egholm Olsen’s performance as the film’s villain, Dr. Isabel Ruben, since Olsen does a phenomenal job of playing a menacing and dominating ice queen.

I really wanted to be able to write that the Danish film industry had a new horror film to champion, but that would be a lie. Because Breeder is not at all the film that it aspires to be. I wish I could say that Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen and Jens Dahl had succeeded in making a timely feminist horror film that broke new barriers, but, unfortunately, Breeder is really just a predictable and lackluster torture porn film.

5 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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