Sunday, January 03, 2010

Movie Review: Breaking Her Will

A few weeks ago I came home from work and saw a large envelope in the mailbox. Getting those envelopes is almost like Christmas morning for me, because it usually means that some obscure bit of cinema history has arrived.

This time was even better, because inside were two unexpected screeners sent to me by The Grimoire. These deliveries are made possible by you folks, who read these reviews and then leave comments, thus proving to the distributors that Rocket Jones is worth sending screeners to. It's a self-perpetuating cycle, and I love it.

There were two movies in the package. The first was a comedy called Dirtbags, along with a horror flick called Breaking Her Will. Dirtbags was hilariously offensive to just about everyone, but overall I liked Breaking Her Will better.

In fact, I absolutely loved Breaking Her Will. Read on for the sordid details.

Both films were from independent moviemaker Bill Zebub (which is on my list of all-time favorite names). From these two samples, I'd say he takes a concept and doesn't just run with it, he runs with scissors with it. His movies are blind to the boundaries of “normal” decency, and that's where they excel. Whether you're (guiltily) laughing your ass off at Dirtbags, or squirming while watching events unfold in Breaking Her Will, there's no doubt that this guy knows which buttons to push, and he gleefully has his thumb mashed down on those buttons. You know, the ones labeled “uncomfortable”. For more information about Bill Zebub and his movies, check out or

The first part of the movie feels like bondage porn, or at least this is what I imagine bondage porn would be like*. One thing is for certain though, this isn't porn, not by a long shot. A young lady hitchhiker is picked up, subdued and taken into the antagonist's basement. There, over the course of days and weeks he keeps her restrained while he psychologically tortures her (and the viewer too, truth be told). It's only when you see him writing in his journal, making notes about what her reactions are to various torments, that you realize he's more than just a sicko toying with her for kicks. He's experimenting. He's practicing.

And that's where the real creep factor comes from. You have to wonder, how many times has he done this? He's pretty good at it. He's not winging it, for he has a plan, and you watch as his methods work to gradually break her defenses down.

When she's finally and completely subservient to him, the story really gets moving. As I jokingly told my wife, "halfway through the bondage porn, plot broke out!" That glib remark doesn't give due credit to the movie though, because suddenly you recognize all the subtle foreshadowing that was presented early on. She wasn't a test subject, she was a dress rehearsal.

The ending hits you like a punch in the gut, and after the ending credits rolled, I just sat there for a few minutes, mulling over what I'd just watched.

The acting is outstanding. Jackie Stevens gives an incredible performance as the kidnapped victim. You'd think that when your role is to be tied up and blindfolded for much of the movie, that there's not much to do, and you'd be wrong. She plays it to the hilt, and the authenticity of her reactions really stand out.

Brian Gleitz is superb as the kidnapper. He's scary in a likable way, reminding me of the guy the neighbors always describe as “polite and friendly” on the evening news.

Details, details... the movie runs about 1:35, which is surprisingly lengthy compared to a typical indie horror flick. From the end credits we learn that the movie was written, directed, produced, edited, and shot by Bill Zebub. Mostly brilliantly too, I'd add. This movie looks great and the story flows right along.

Bill Zebub is a death metal fan, and his soundtracks reflect that. Good stuff by groups I'd never have experienced otherwise - on the Dirtbags disk he gives complete score information and song snippets as a main menu selection. A slight nitpick is that the sound goes from mute to fairly loud in one click of the remote. No doubt it's because his mixer board goes to 11.

Disk-wise, the main menu offers a sneak peak at another Bill Z flick, and “play movie”. Chapters would have been nice, but since this is a low-budget indie movie that's a small gripe.

To sum up, I'm torn about Breaking Her Will. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who loves horror (or bondage porn I suppose) because this is an excellent movie, but I really can't think of anyone I know who would like it. Obviously, I need more unconventional friends.

According to the websites, Bill Zebub movies are available at Blockbuster and Netflix. What the hell, rent one and make up your own mind. It's not like your opinion of my taste in movies can get any lower, eh?

* Ok, I admit it, I've seen actual bondage porn and I found that if you're not into really into bondage it's boring as hell. The exciting part to a bondage fan isn't sex or even nudity, it's the ropes. So tie someone up in an interesting way – bonus points for gag and blindfold – and watch them lay on the floor and struggle against their bonds for twenty minutes, and you've got a happy bondage porn audience. Please wake the rest of us up when it's over.**

** Notice how many times I used the phrase "bondage porn?" Like chum to a (Google) shark.***

*** And since you've read this far, how about leaving a comment?


LeeAnn said...

I'm now wondering if "Breaking Her Will" is on Netflix... If it's on the Play Now option, I might give it a peek. I don't think I can face the teasing H would give me if I flat-out ordered it up and watched it under his jaded-yet-giggling eye.
Now, "Dirtbags"... the title alone reminds me too much of going to work. Might have to give that a miss.

Mad William Flint said...

Nice review. Unfortunately it's clearly articulated why I should stay away. Psych stuff when done with any facility torques me bad. (I had to walk out of District 9 when they were testing the guns with the protagonist.)

But it sounds from this like he nailed it.

Anonymous said...

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Victor said...

No review of "Dirtbags"?

Psychological thrillers creep me out, which is the whole idea, I suppose. I'm wondering how it comparest to "Gaslight" (yes, Ingrid Bergman in 1944) which rates very highly on my squirm-o-meter.

As for PLAY being the only option on the menu, I saw that in my "Eraserhead" DVD--My guess is David Lynch (and Bill Z., now) don't want you skipping past any of it. That is, you can't just watch parts of it, you have to watch the whole thing.

Stephen said...

Somehow I think Dirtbags is going to be more to my liking. If it's as good at what is does as Breaking Her Will I will certainly enjoy it.

Gone, long gone. said...

I think Breaking Her Will is going into my queue when I get home.