Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Dahl wants to make a certain type of film but Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen's script just isn't right for it." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

Coincidences pile up in Jens Dahl's breeder, which pits corporate greed against human bodies in bluntly material manner. Mia (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) is a savvy young woman who's suspicious about her husband Thomas' (Anders Heinrichsen) behaviour. He happens to be high up in Denmark's biggest genetics company. Nika (Eeva Putro) is a runaway from one of that company's facilities who happens to turn up on their doorstep one day, incoherent but desperate for help. Although she doesn't manage to discern Nika's story before Thomas spirits her away, Mia inevitably stats investigating the company, and Thomas finds himself in a difficult position.

Or does he? Mia and Thomas have been arguing lately. She wants to have a baby; he doesn't. In the facility, obsessive scientist Dr Ruben (Signe Egholm Olsen) is holding young women prisoner and inducing pregnancies in order to harvest the foetuses for use in her work. When Mia is caught spying, it seems that this will be her fate. Will Thomas find out and rescue her? Will she figure out a way to escape? After more than two hours of this, will you still care?

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Dahl has described this film as influenced by Bluebeard, which seems to mean that there's a woman in it and she's curious, or that trust within marriage is a complicated thing. It's styled as Scandi-noir and that will doubtless be enough in itself to pull in some viewers, along with it getting the Frightfest seal of approval. There's some nice cinematography and some elegant direction early on, but after Mia is captured things go quickly downhill.

Sometimes there's a fine line between railing against the exploitation of women in certain sorts of horror film and participating in it. Scenes of torture, including branding (which has always been a sensitive subject for UK censors) don't add much to the discussion but will please a certain sort of fan. The medical scenes are more successful, capturing a disturbing type of experience that many women watching will be all too familiar with. As for the straight out brutality and the threats of sexual violence (from a guard whose boss calls him into line quickly when she realises what he's doing), the problem is not egregiousness but overfamiliarity. Beyond contributing to an atmosphere of misery, it doesn't make much of an impression.

There's also the silliness of all this. Stress decreases conception rates. No credible scientist wanting to impregnate women would keep them in cages in a dirty basement when she could just as easily keep them strapped down and sedated in a sterile ward. No investor would want to see company assets endangered in this way. The film is far too keen to be taken seriously to get away with things like this.

Ultimately, the problem here is that story and style don't fit together. Dahl wants to make a certain type of film but Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen's script just isn't right for it. There's obvious talent on board and there are some strong moments but it's poorly thought out and has nothing to say that hasn't been said better elsewhere.

Reviewed on: 24 Oct 2020
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A renowned health supplement company, run by a ruthless businesswoman, is selecting and abducting young women as part of an experiment bio-hacking babies’ DNA to enable her clients to reverse the ageing process
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Director: Jens Dahl

Writer: Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen

Starring: Sara Hjort Ditlevsen, Anders Heinrichsen|, Signe Egholm, Olsen, Morten Holst

Year: 2019

Runtime: 107 minutes

Country: Denmark


Frightfest 2020

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