Written, Produced and Directed by: Justin Doescher
by Jason Koenigsberg
Actor Justin Doescher’s directorial debut The Break-In is a found footage movie about a young engaged couple, Jeff and Melissa (Doescher and Maggie Binkley), that is expecting their first child and are slowly learning that the neighborhood they just purchased their townhouse in is being plagued by a series of burglaries. Strange occurrences start to happen at night and eventually trouble ensues with our main characters and their best friends who live next door.
Justin Doescher has appeared in several major productions such as Burn After Reading (2008), Law Abiding Citizen (2009) and the Netflix Series House of Cards, but this is the first time he has really put together a feature of his own. The film opens up with static on purpose as we follow a guy we do not know being filmed on a phone walking at night featuring sound effects that are almost David Lynchian to the point of being distracting. The found footage gimmick utilized in The Break-In really wears thin at times taking the viewer out of what could have been some suspenseful moments.
The Break-In has a Paranormal Activity (2008) feel to it. At first the characters and plot unfold somewhat naturally through dialogue and only some of the exposition during the first few scenes felt forced. But then things became more contrived as the expectant couple wanted to “make a video for their baby”. The whole movie is filmed on an iPhone 6 and it is hard to get around feeling that this is a gimmick like last years film Tangerine.
The main couple started walking around the house and filming normal conversations, then there are scenes where our protagonist Jeff is driving at night while filming using his iPhone, and also when he is being interviewed by a detective even though the script tried to get around this with the detective saying that Jeff should”record everything”. Only to justify this movie would a cop say that. The Break-In relied too heavily on a gimmick. If that does not bother the viewer too much then The Break-In is not that bad.
The director has a way with making the actors engaging despite the mundane script. Maggie Binkley as Melissa the female lead and mother-to-be had a genial and appealing presence that makes you care about her situation even though the dialogue is only so-so.
Doescher has potential that with a better writer and a bigger budget he could probably direct a good thriller. I wish that he broke away from the found footage style because for some scenes it was way too distracting, far-fetched and unnecessary. It really would have benefited from both found footage and conventional filmmaking.Some scenes would have been much better with an omniscient point of view especially the build up as these strange crimes are happening nearby and in scenes that most people would logically never film. There is even one scene where Jeff is filming himself taking out the garbage.
The Break-In does have some creepy moments especially one involving a figure on the balcony and the final ten minutes have some dark and unsettling points. It is interesting that the events in this film take place exactly ten years after September 11, 2001. Is this meant to be a 9/11 allegory? Are the events in here meant to serve as a metaphor for what happened to our country on that day? The Break-In is an obvious commentary on American’s need for home security and the fear that we never can quite feel safe in our own house. It has some good ideas and good thrills but the found footage gimmick worked against it and not enough to warrant a recommendation. However, this is still better than most of what is playing in theaters now so if you are curious, it is a better option than going out and paying for a soulless, commercialized product.
The Break-In is currently streaming on Vimeo. Check out the trailer which makes great use of the creepy sound effects from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).