Breaking Nikki (2009): Out now on DVD
(18) Running time: 88 minutes
Director: Hernan Findling
Writers: Nicanor Loreti, German Val, Hernan Findling
Starring: Maria Ines Alonso, Oliver Kolker, Veronica Mari
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Breaking Nikki is a dark, brutal and often disturbing horror from Argentina. Directed and co-written by Hernan Findling, the film is cult horror label Redemption’s re-launch title, and it is a bizarre choice. Redemption are well known for supporting independent horror and obscure titles, and while Breaking Nikki fits into their genre of horror perfectly, it is a million miles away from some of the classics Redemption have released in the past. Now, that’s not to say Breaking Nikki is a bad film, but it certainly is not a great one.
Firstly the presentation of the film is gorgeous, it looks and feels like it has come right out of the seventies and early eighties horror, almost like a pure Giallo. The actors play their parts perfectly, taking time between lines, the costumes, the setting, Hell even the colouring is as if the film was made thirty years ago. I am not sure if this was intentional, but if it was then a massive well done to all those involved. However, there is a dead giveaway as one of the characters searches for their mobile phone, so if the film was intended to look dated, then that was a huge mistake. The music, when used, is fearsome, brooding and unsettling and you can tell the makers really wanted to make a nightmarish film to do Redemption proud. They succeed, almost.
Nikki (Alonso) is a prostitute, hired by a strange man named Devon (Kolker) who’s wife Susan (Mari) has recently left him. Nikki is under the impression she has been hired by Devon for sex, but when she arrives things get a little strange. Devon is shy, and doesn’t want any sort of interaction with Nikki until she gets undressed and changes into his wives clothes. Looking slightly concerned, Nikki agrees and is later told to lie out on Devon’s bed and he may come in and visit later, kinky! Or so it seems. Things turn bizarre after a sexual encounter goes wrong because Nikki is not behaving like Devon’s ex-wife, and she wakes up the next day drugged and chained up. Devon, it would seem, is a few sandwiches short of a picnic, and intends to “recreate” his ex wife Susan by “breaking Nikki” into becoming her. The resemblance between Nikki and Susan is uncanny, and at times you will find it hard to tell who is who, largely due to the way the film is shot, however Nikki has a beauty spot on her face which you will find yourself looking for in order to know what the feck is going on.
Oh, did I say this film gets confusing? Apologies, yes Breaking Nikki becomes very confusing as it reaches its climax. It would seem that the director and writers got caught up in their own ideas and struggled to present them on screen. We learn that maybe Susan hasn’t left, and she too is chained up in the basement, Nikki becomes Susan, and goes a bit mental herself, Devon has a brother who may or may not be real. It all spirals hideously out of control, and I wouldn’t blame you for scratching your head, winding back and scratching your head again. Now, I like to be confused as much as the next person, and try and find answers, but here there doesn’t seem to be any. A shame, because for the most part this is a solid, nasty little film that will satisfy the gorehounds and arthouse horror fans alike, and those who like some eroticism in their horror will also be very pleased. Nikki spends much of the first half naked, and she is very easy on the eye.
Whatever you make of this film, the journey to get to the climax is a tough one, and you will need to be of a strong stomach and mind to deal with it. Nikki is mentally and physically tortured into becoming a different person, and the close up camera and numerous POV shots means that the viewer is right in the thick of the mental breakdown. Chinese water torture is used, starvation and also a bizarre dinner table scene where the other brother acts as Nikki’s arms and force feeds her. Apart from the torture, the films hard to follow twisty end is, I suppose, even harder to watch and even though it doesn’t quite work, it does give a real sense of confusion. Maybe this is what the director had intended, lots of close ups, POV shots and plenty of angles which confuse the viewer as to who the Hell is who. Maybe that was his plan overall, have us on the same level as Nikki, have us confused along with her, as if we were experiencing it for ourselves. If that really was the intention, then the director is cleverer than I thought!