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The Brink (2006)
Director: Benjamin Cooper

review by Alasdair Stuart

The odder elements of scientific history have always provided fertile ground for horror and science fiction and few areas have been more fruitful than 'electronic voice phenomenon' or EVP. Initially discovered by two Catholic monks, EVP involves leaving a recording device running in a seemingly empty room. When the tape is played back, voices can be heard and in some cases, if questions are left playing in the room as well, the voices can be communicated with. The technology involved even went as far as the Spiricom, a device which supposedly allowed instantaneous communication between this life and the next, constructed with the assistance of scientists who had died several years previously. Whether or not this story is true (and it's a fascinating story either way and one well worth researching), the concept of being able to talk to the dead is both incredibly compelling and at the heart of The Brink.

Covering loosely similar ground to Pulse, part of last year's parade of eastern horror remakes, The Brink centres on Megan (Rachel Balzar), a gifted engineer who quit her degree under mysterious circumstances. We first see Megan as she finally gets what she's been looking for; the blueprints to Edison's spirit telephone. She recruits two other students, Todd (Jason Flowers) - an expert in EVP with a photographic memory, and Bianca (Heather Chase) - the only engineer on the course near her level of talent, and together they set off to an abandoned house to rebuild the device and 'make contact'. Along for the ride, whether they actually want him there or not, is Leo (Jeff Ryan), Megan's ex-boyfriend who's now reduced to squatting in the abandoned science block whilst he pays off his student loans.

For a film clearly made on a shoestring, The Brink punches way above its weight. Whilst there are one or two shots which look if not cheap then certainly small in scope, the whole thing looks and moves like the sort of film Dimension churned out by the dozen in the 1990s. There's even the same snarky, back and forth banter between the characters. The performances are also strong, with Balzar's turn as Megan particularly impressive. The centre of the action in more ways than one, she sensibly opts to underplay instead of going over the top and, as a result, has a natural authority that both draws the eye in all her scenes and makes her leadership of this fractious, unlikely group of explorers completely believable. Arguably her best moment comes when, following the first test, she sits, endlessly examining the footage of the test for something. What that ultimately is, and how she plays the reveal is one of the film's more impressive points.

The rest of the cast all turn in good work with Ryan especially doing great work with a surprisingly nuanced character. Similarly, Chase and Flowers provide welcome and understated comic relief and the burgeoning relationship between them is sweet and plays as completely genuine. However, it's not a film without problems. Whilst the reveal on why Megan wants to carry the tests out is impressive, the script never quite exploits it fully. What should have become an incredibly claustrophobic, threatening piece of survival horror quickly becomes little more than a standard 'run, scream, die' parade in which characters happily stand around deserted dark rooms despite the homicidal ghosts pursuing them. In fact, the tonal shift at the centre of the movie is also at the centre of its problems.

What starts off as a well done, considered, smart take on one of the more fascinating pieces of recent history (both Edison and Marconi are said to have experimented with spirit telephones) degenerates into a gore fest and a poorly constructed one at that. Characters die for little or no reason beyond the needs of the script and to make matters worse, this is the one area of the script where the budgetary constraints are painfully on display. The ghost makeup isn't especially impressive and the moment where the spirit telephone plugs itself back in would have looked dated 20 years ago. Whilst the ending goes some way towards redeeming these problems, they still hurt the final third of the film badly.

That being said, The Brink is a largely impressive and consistently pretty entertaining piece of horror. The schlockier elements weigh it down but never quite kill it and it remains a fun way to spend 90 minutes. There's still an intelligent, interesting movie about spirit communication out there somewhere and whilst The Brink isn't it, it'll certainly do for now.
The Brink

The Brink, cast line-up

review material
courtesy of
Zone Horror
- the UK's only
dedicated
horror channel.



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