The Break-In | Review

JK is really bad, we were meant to publish this review for THE BREAK-IN a couple of months back and it got lost in my emails tagged as a “pending book review” request and not a “publish now as a movie review.” Terribly sorry to everyone, especially John (the reviewer) and more importantly, Justin Doescher, the writer, director, main star, editor and cinematographer – I bet he even self catered :). Huge kudos to Justin and all involved on the movie and thank you for approaching Salty Popcorn directly for a review. Massive apologies for our delay in review. Kernel John reviews this one, it only runs for 72mins and from what I have seen I am leaning towards a probably M-type rating in Australia. Enjoy John’s review…….all the best……JK.



THE BREAK-IN features the following tagline: “More than 2 million Americans are victims of home burglary each year.  How safe is your neighbourhood?”  That is a horrifyingly large number.  Put into some perspective, the current population of America is around 320 million.  If you consider that the average household contains two adults and two children, the above figure means that during the lifetime of an American it is a statistical certainty that your home will be broken into.  Twice!

Director and lead star Justin Doescher presents this low budget, indie film.  A found footage thriller in the same style as PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, this movie replaces the eerie spectres with something just as haunting, yet far more tangible: a home invader.


The Break-In Movie image


Set over four days, the film follows newly engaged couple Jeff (Doescher) and his pregnant fiancé Melissa (Maggie Binkley) during a time when their neighbourhood is plagued by a serial offender.  Determined not to be among the criminal’s victims, Jeff installs a series of four cameras within his home that constantly record, to monitor for any unusual activity.  As the film opens, Jeff has also just bought a brand new phone and cannot stop himself recording every aspect of his life.  It is the footage from these two mediums that combine to present the film’s story.

Jeff begins to see unusual lights outside his home late at night and strange characters lurking by his front door.  The tension further rises when Jeff’s next-door neighbour and close friend has his home broken into and is stabbed in the process.  As the threat and anxiety begin to get the better of him, Jeff’s escalating fear over the safety of his fiancé and unborn child send his emotions into a panic, pushing him over the edge.


This film has a number of flaws.  I appreciate that the shoestring budget these independent movies are made with severely limits the breadth of scope they can encompass, but even still I found myself constantly hoping for more during my viewing.  The success of these found footage style films hinges on their suspenseful nature, a key point which THE BREAK-IN fails at.  Those brief thrilling moments that the movie portrays are consistently drowned out by overlong scenes of mundane daily life.

Events such as double date dinners, baby clothes shopping, and jogging in the park, do progress the plot in a fashion, but do nothing to keep the viewer’s attention or maintain suspense.  It was lovely to be introduced to Jeff’s friend so I could care a little when he gets stabbed later on, or to have Melissa’s pregnant nature reiterated so Jeff’s concern for his unborn child was relatable, but these scenes needed to be done better.  They drag on for so long and contain such exceptionally lengthy moments of dialogue, that I found it a constant struggle to stay immersed in the film.


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The star’s acting is above average for this level of film.  Lines are well delivered, scenes flow in a consistent manner and everyone interacts with the camera appropriately.  That said, the first timer nature of many of the stars is apparent.  Aside from Doescher, the emotional aspect of the film’s plot was not adequately embraced by the other actors.  I never really believed that they thought they were in danger.  Many of their concerns were expressed through more of a whiney nature than out of genuine fear.


The general style of the film was also an issue for me.  A popular favourite among the low budget caste, found footage movies are something I struggle with.  The fixed point of security style cameras rob the film of any depth, as the stars are forced to act out the scene in a static environment, while the POV style moments are equally as troublesome as the audience tries to engage with an off camera disembodied voice.  Both of these aspects meant that the film’s few thrilling scenes were limited in scope, and were suspenseful more due to the soundtrack than by any real camera work.  Indeed, because the filming technique is so limited, other aspects had to carry this movie’s suspense over the line, making it quite obvious when a thrilling moment was about to occur, as the ominous music was cranked up to eleven.


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Not only billed as THE BREAK-IN’s director and star, Doescher is also credited as the film’s writer, producer, editor and cinematographer, as well as handling the movie’s sound and visual effects.  With so many hats to wear, Doescher has managed to create a reasonably well rounded film in this, his first attempt at direction.

Given a larger budget and tweaked plot, THE BREAK-IN could have been a truly successful B-grade flick.  Sadly, it fails to hit too many marks and breaks the cardinal rule of cinema: to suspend audience disbelief.  Too many times I found myself falling out of the film’s embrace.  An interesting premise and a few jump moments help the movie along, but a final moment twist that seemed so at odds with the film’s narrative prevent me from giving THE BREAK-IN a more favourable review.  Catch it online (HERE) on a cold rainy night.


2 Pops




A lifelong lover of the silver screen, Kernel John strives to engage and entertain his audience through the shameless use of humour in his reviews, even when it probably isn’t warranted. When not musing for Salty, you can often find John bouncing between his extreme states of either puppy watching down by the beach, or reflecting on the deepest mysteries of the Universe.

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.