Michael (Ty Jones) and Tina (Mandy Bannon) are a married couple with a young son. On the outside, they may seem happy. Michael co-owns a successful construction company with his father, and he and his family live in a lovely Victorian home.
Everything's not lovely, however. Michael and Tina's marriage is crumbling as much as the outer facade of their Victorian home, symbolic representation of the disarray and crumbling beauty of a love and life that was once extraordinary.
We learn early on in Last Breath,
which Ty Jones also writes and directs, that the film isn't just about a fading marriage or a crumbling family. The film opens with a harrowing scene involving a breathless and restrained man with a gun. The images that follow could possibly exist in any psychological thriller/horror film, yet they feel all too real in Last Breath,
a film that feels deeply authentic even as Jones brings forth a scenario that initially feels familiar before giving way to a story that unfolds with precision timing, characters who feel natural and frighteningly real and, quite simply, a psychological horror film that is one of the more emotionally resonant, psychologically disturbing and intensely thought-provoking experiences I've had with an indie thriller/horror in quite some time.
After the initial rather shocking and disturbing scene, Jones allows the audience the chance to relax for a bit as we get to know our characters and their choices and dilemmas. Arguably the weakest scenes in the film, these expository scenes still play a vital role in our creating a bond with these characters and the story that's going to unfold for them.
Then, Last Breath
ups the ante.
We start to learn the secrets contained within Michael and Tina, secrets that have contributed to their fractured lives and shards of desperation. It is during this time that they find themselves within an abandoned warehouse that is to be a project of Michael's construction company but, of course, that wouldn't make for great cinema. Instead, it is where Michael and Tina come face-to-face with a shadowy and brutally sadistic figure (Aaron Laue) who will force them to confront their truths even if it kills them.
There are horror films that try to disguise themselves as somehow meaningful, socially or morally. There are horror films that flirt with such a notion but, in reality, only succeed for fleeting moments. There's something about Last Breath,
however, that stays with you long after the closing credits and it's precisely because, almost unimaginably, Last Breath
actually means something and its characters, story and meaning will linger in your psyche' for quite some time.
It helps, of course, that the performances are strong with Aaron Laue leading the way as our mysterious man with a sadistic bent and a psychotic sparkle in his eye. As our psychotic man on a mission, Laue manages to add momentary glimpses of human emotion and even vulnerability to an otherwise sadistic beast. Laue offers a dark, layered performance that is unquestionably one of the more rewarding portrayals of a "bad guy" that you'll find in independent cinema.
As our leading couple, Ty Jones and Mandy Bannon are no slouches either. It often turns out to be a mistake, or an act of financial desperation, when a writer/director also casts themselves in an indie feature. However, the choice works wonders here with Jones capturing all his characters shallowness, bravado and emotional turmoil. While Bannon's character isn't drawn out with quite as much complexity, Bannon is still intensely satisfying throughout and especially as the horror intensifies.
D.P. Jeremy Osbern's camera work is exceptional and far transcendent of what one might expect from an indie horror, while Vincent Gillioz contributes a pulsating, heart-stopping original score.
experienced quite a bit of success on the festival circuit, including official selections at Bare Bones Film Festival, Kansas City Film Festival, Slash and Bash Film Festival, Creepfest and Shockerfest among others. For more information on the film including how to pick up your copy of the film on DVD (which includes exceptionally generous extras!), visit the Last Breath website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic