Fractured appears, on the surface and the for first 40 minutes, as a predictable cabin-in-the-woods scenario – the American cabin being replaced with a charming house in the English countryside. A young couple, Michael (Karl Davies) and Rebecca (April Pearson), are driving along an unlit country road, on their way to the house. On the way, they stop at a petrol station where the guy behind the counter (Calvin Dean) looks very shifty indeed. The couple arrive at the house, and (of course) get the sense that they’re not alone.
The first half is enough for anyone to twitch in their seats, out of boredom rather than fear. Hearn’s script suffers the occasional, apathetic cliché, as well as pockets of ludicrous writing. One scene has Michael knock himself unconscious after trying to pull up his trousers, after he ties up his girlfriend for some basic kinky sex. There was an great opportunity for comedy here, but it’s apparently meant to be dramatic. You wonder if it’s really worth your time to continue.
And yet, there’s an uncomfortable sense of intrigue lingering through the first-half. I was constantly swayed with constant visual promises that, yes, there is something more to this story. Paul O’Callaghan’s ominous cinematography, for one, is remarkable considering the budget (the opening titles echo those of Mulholland Drive, tracking a car in its ride through darkness). There are also drops of weird occurences, things floating in and out of frame without appearing entirely relevant to the story.
If you succeed past 40 minutes, the little clues start to become enjoyably clear and you’ll realise the story is worth sticking till the end. Hearn decides to shift the narrative entirely, reaching into a flashback that changes everything. This is more than a cheap device to make things easier, in fact it’s innovatively placed – performing with a motivation similar to Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight or Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River. Considering the seemingly predictable environment that Fractured felt trapped inside, this is a jarringly welcome direction for the story to take. It doesn’t entirely work, and certainly doesn’t make us forget the faults in the first-half (there are many occasions when, through the flashback, we are reminded of the film’s various weaknesses). But the narrative-shift is enough to win us back after a sluggish 40 minutes.
Trying and failing is overrated. Every time you attempt something, and fail, the inevitable back-pat creeps onto your shoulder, as if saying: “Well, at least you tried”. I often feel like patronising mediocre filmmakers with the same line. With Fractured, a no-budget Brit-horror from director Jamie Patterson and writer Christian Hearn, I don’t feel nearly as pessimistic. When I imagine patting their backs, I think: “You’re nearly there. Don’t give up.”
Fractured isn’t great, but there’s a clear and admirable attempt to create something different. The story is all too familiar, but the way it’s told isn’t seen enough. The visuals work together perfectly with the narrative – an obvious trait that many no-budget movies lack – providing indicators to keep you in a constant state of uncertainty. It’s like someone dangling puzzle-piece in front of your eyes and daring you to complete the whole picture. And although the puzzle is not enough to compel a second viewing, I’m still curious to see what Patterson and Hearn attempt next. I hope it’ll go better the next time around.
Fractured is released in the UK on 20th September 2018