Machines that open gateways to parallel dimensions seldom work out well – as demonstrated this year by Pussycake and The Breach. Nick Cutter is the horror-writing pseudonym of the Canadian author Craig Davidson, source author for Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone: The Breach is based on his 2020 novel, though the credits cite an Audible serial version as the basis for the screenplay by Cutter and Ian Weir. Directed by Rodrigo Gudiño, of the odd and ambitious The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, it’s surprisingly undercooked in the personal drama department – boat-proficient heroine Meg (Emily Alatalo) has to go upriver with two of her exes, police chief John Hawkins (Allan Hawco) and coroner Jacob Redgrave (Wesley French), but the tangle of relationships just lies there while other things take over the plot – but has an atmospheric, intriguing first act and a gruesome, monster-filled finale. Attention wanders a bit during the mid-section, however, which involves mooching around a house where creepy scientist Cole Parsons (Adam Kenneth Wilson) has created a dimensional gateway (with a nifty keyhole-shaped door).
The hook, staged effectively, is that a canoe drifts near a family picnic downriver in the small communtity of Lone Crow, containing a mess of boneless human remains tentatively identified as the missing Parsons – named for Jack Parsons, who also figures in Something in the Dirt? – but, if that pile of skin and gloop is Parsons, who’s the character being quietly unhelpful at the isolated house? The scientist’s wife (Natalie Brown) also shows up, searching for a missing little girl (Ava Weiss) and intent on rehashing arguments with Dr Parsons. The effect of the dimensional breach on people is teased by squirmy bits with extra wriggling fingers and writhing under the skin, but the finale brings on a horde of skinless mutant doppelganger types who could evoke The Incredible Melting Man – they’re unusually-designed monsters, but shamble just like regular zombies and shooting them in one of their brains seems to see them off. It has a score by Slash, the Guns ‘n’ Roses guy, which gives the film an unusual feel, and it benefits from beautiful, interestingly-shot backwoods/riverside locations.