A group of friends on a weekend camping trip find themselves being picked off one by one when one member of the group refuses to abide by the urban myth that you can breathe in evil spirits when passing cemeteries.
The Global Asylum has been releasing straight to DVD horror films for some time but with #Hold Your Breath (I don’t know if there should be gaps or not but we’ll come to that in a moment) they have their first theatrical release. After some less than acclaimed productions they have entered the slasher genre with Jared Cohn in the director’s chair and Katrina Bowden (30 Rock, Piranha 3DD) taking top billing. As an aside I will, for the remainder of this review, be ignoring the # in the title as the story does also. I can only presume this is there as part of the marketing campaign as it has no relevance in the film at all, with all the characters even giving up their mobile phones in the first few scenes. With that initial complaint out of the way I shall continue.
The film opens in 1956 with a sanitorium for the criminally insane which also does a sideline in executions. Tonight’s client is the psychopathic killer Dietrich Von Klaus who is to be put to death for a series of wholly unpleasant attacks and murders, some involving fence posts and car irons. In fact, Von Klaus is so evil and abhorrent that he even manages to murder the warden and gouge out his own eye before being overpowered and strapped into the chair. Throughout he is preaching his favourite biblical quotation regarding an eye for an eye and cursing the watching “guests”. As lightning flashes the guards throw the switch and Von Klaus is consigned to his fate.
Cut to present day and a somewhat generic group of old high school friends are reuniting for a camping trip. We have the stoner, the horny couple, the slut, the moody one and what appears to be the nerd, although I base this suspicion purely on the fact that the character is wearing glasses and doesn’t seem to fit into any other category. As they near the campsite they come across an old graveyard. When Jerry (Katrina Bowden) relates an old myth about holding your breath while passing graveyards to prevent restless evil spirits possessing you the rest of the car mock her. As she becomes hysterical they all reluctantly comply, presumably just to shut her up. All that is, except one. The stoner Kyle (Seth Cassell) is too busy with his pot pipe to hold his breath and predictably becomes possessed by the spirit of Von Klaus.
Now, as with most slasher films, you would now expect the killings in Hold Your Breath to begin. Not this time. For some reason the story takes a sidestep as our group of potential victims discover the above mentioned sanitorium and decide to investigate the now abandoned building. During the exploration, which curiously does not include the killer possessed Kyle who stays with the car and just happens to torture a passing park ranger, the horny couple Johnny (Randy Wayne) and Natasha (Erin Marie Hogan) sneak off from the rest of the group. They appear to head straight into a completely different film altogether for some morgue based slow motion sex set to a rock ballad soundtrack. After a few random supernatural occurrences and inexplicable events that would be more appropriate to the “kids trapped in a haunted house” premise they all reconvene safely back at the car. After arriving at the campsite, and now around two thirds of the way into the film the plot finally picks up with some evil spirit body hopping and some brutal deaths.
I was happy to cut Hold Your Breath some slack as somewhere here there is a good story trying to get out. There are many nods to generic convention such as the standard group of pretty victims and the idea of a killer from the past returning but the film just doesn’t quite work. The cast performances are fine on the whole and a level above much of the low budget fare that we see but the plot has too many holes for a cohesive narrative. There are some events that happen for no reason and others plot threads that begin but are then just ignored. It feels like the writers and director have started with one idea in mind and then thought up other set pieces as they have gone along and tried to include them. As I alluded to earlier, it comes across like more than one film spliced together.
The film does seem to crank up a notch when retired guard McBride (Steve Hanks) makes an appearance and attempts to explain the story to the remaining group but, and trust me on this, the plan he comes up with to destroy Von Klaus is so random and ridiculous I promise you will not see it coming.
There are other issues too. The special effects are poor and that is being kind. The bloodwork and gore are fine but the there are some moments that will just make you groan with disappointment when you see them. When the characters are possessed the only sign seems to be a strangely sinister smile just before they do anything bad, and the film never explains the apparent age of McBride who looks remarkably healthy for someone who must be in his eighties.
All in all I wanted to like Hold Your Breath. I have no problem with cliché ridden slasher films that simply deliver what they set out to do but here the story is too confused and the action too laboured to really satisfy. A reasonable Saturday night filler but unfortunately nothing more.
Hold your Breath (2012)