Review: ‘Breakwater’ (2023), starring Dermot Mulroney, Darren Mann, Alyssa Goss, Sonja Sohn, Celia Rose Gooding and Mena Suvari

January 2, 2024

by Carla Hay

Darren Mann and Alyssa Goss in “Breakwater” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

“Breakwater” (2023)

Directed by James Rowe

Culture Representation: Taking place in North Carolina and in Virginia, the dramatic film “Breakwater” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: An ex-con tracks down the estranged daughter of a fellow prisoner as a favor but finds out that this favor is not what it appears to be. 

Culture Audience: “Breakwater” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching predictable and not-very-believable crime thrillers.

Dermot Mulroney in “Breakwater” (Photo courtesy of Vertical)

“Breakwater” starts off being a mediocre thriller, but then it goes swiftly downhill in the last third of the movie, when it crams in too many far-fetched plot twists. It doesn’t help that the movie’s protagonist is dimwitted and boring. Unfortunately, the trailer for “Breakwater” reveals about 85% of what happens in the last third of the movie, including a few of the plot twists that should be surprises. Therefore, anyone who sees the trailer before watching “Breakwater” will be even more bored, because of the long and often tedious wait to get to the expected climactic showdown.

Written and directed by James Rowe, “Breakwater” had the potential to be a much better film if it hadn’t relied so much on tiresome clichés. The movie is also plagued by mediocre-to-bad performances from many of the principal cast members. The “hero” and the “villain” in the story have one-dimensional personalities. It all adds up to a frequently flat cinematic experience that becomes the most cringeworthy in the last third of the movie.

“Breakwater” centers on a gullible young man named Dovey (played by Darren Mann, giving a very stiff performance), who was sent to a Virginia prison for drug possession. (“Breakwater” was actually filmed in North Carolina.) Viewers find out later that Dovey took the blame for the crime, in order to protect the guilty woman whom he didn’t want to go to prison. It’s an example of how Dovey is overly generous and can be taken advantage of by the wrong people.

In the beginning of the movie, Dovey is spending his last day in prison before he is released. A fellow inmate named Ray Childress (played by Dermot Mulroney) has somehow gotten a slice of cake inside a cell and gives it to Dovey as a “birthday” present, because Ray says that getting out of prison is a rebirth. Ray asks Dovey for a big favor when Dovey is out of prison: Ray wants Dovey to find his estranged adult daughter Marina, who hasn’t seen or spoke to Ray in about seven years.

Ray has an idea where Marina is because he saw a woman who looks just like her in a newspaper photo published with a story about the mast of a 19th century ship being found off the coast of North Carolina. The mast is still standing upright in the ocean before it will be transported somewhere to be examined. Marina was one of the onlookers in the photo.

Ray says that if Dovey finds Marina, then Dovey cannot tell Marina that Ray is looking for her. Ray also says he just wants Dovey to tell him where Marina lives or works and if Marina is doing okay. Dovey agrees to do this favor out of the goodness of his heart and because he respects Ray, who became his friend in prison. Dovey doesn’t expect anything in return.

Even though Mena Suvari is a headliner for this movie, she has a useless cameo that lasts for less than five minutes. She portrays a bartender named Kendra, who has a thing for ex-cons and tries to seduce Dovey soon after he gets out of prison and he becomes a customer in the bar where she works. Their brief encounter ends awkwardly when Dovey doesn’t go for Kendra’s kink of having an ex-con pretend to kill her while having sex.

Before going to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where Marina is believed to be living, Dovey goes home to spend time with his fisherman father Luther (played by J.D. Evermore), whose specialty is crab fishing. Luther is happy to have Dovey working with him again on Luther’s small fishing boat. However, Dovey doesn’t stay for very long before he hops on his motorcycle to go to North Carolina to find Marina.

It should come as no surprise that Dovey finds her, except she is now going by the name Eve (played by Alyssa Goss), and she is the single mother of a daughter named Harper (played by Ezra DuVall), who’s about 5 or 6 years old. Harper and Eve live with Eve’s roommate Jess (played by Celia Rose Gooding), a pop/R&B singer who gets gigs at local restaurants/bars. “Breakwater” barely shows what kind of mother Eve is until the problematic last third of the movie.

Eve, who is friendly but foul-mouthed in her personal life, seems to be financially struggling. She is juggling jobs at a bookstore and as a tour guide for Outer Banks historical locations. Dovey charms Eve when they first meet by telling her that they share a passion for ships and sea history. He also tells her that he grew up spending a lot of time in the water. Dovey and Eve’s attraction to each other goes exactly where you think it will go.

Eve decides to take Dovey to a rocky coast area so he can get a better look at the mast from the 19th century shipwrecked boat. She accidentally drops a bracelet that she says was given to her by her father. The bracelet has sunk into the water, but Dovey decides he’s going to be a gallant gentleman, so he dives in the water to retrieve the bracelet and gives it back to Eve, who is flattered by and grateful for this kind gesture. Dovey later describes the bracelet to Ray in a phone conversation, which is how Ray knows that Dovey found the right person.

Of course, since it was already revealed in the movie’s trailer, Ray has sinister reasons to find Eve. Dovey’s no-nonsense parole officer Bonnie Bell (played by Sonja Sohn) becomes involved in this mess when she finds out that Dovey has violated his parole by crossing state lines without permission. It all leads to a very hokey conclusion with ridiculous-looking action scenes and plot “reveals” that sink the movie faster than you can say “forgettable, low-quality movie.”

Vertical released “Breakwater” in U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on December 22, 2023.

Review: ‘The Accursed’ (2022), starring Sarah Grey, Meg Foster, Sarah Dumont, Alexis Knapp and Mena Suvari

May 7, 2023

by Carla Hay

Meg Foster in “The Accursed” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“The Accursed” (2022)

Directed by Kevin Lewis

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2019, in an unnamed U.S. city, the horror film “The Accursed” features a cast of predominantly white characters (with a few African Americans and Asians) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A young woman goes to a house in a remote wooded area, after she’s hired to be a nurse caretaker for an elderly woman, who has a secret: She’s possessed by a demon. 

Culture Audience: “The Accursed” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching cliché-ridden horror movies that offer very little suspense or terror.

Sarah Dumont, Mena Suvari and Sarah Grey in “The Accursed” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“The Accursed” is full of half-baked ideas that are terribly mishandled. The acting is subpar. There’s hardly anything scary about this low-quality horror flick, which has a fixation on showing disgusting things coming out of elderly women’s mouths.

Directed by Kevin Lewis and written by Rob Kennedy, “The Accursed” is nothing but a lazy checklist of the most over-used low-budget horror stereotypes: Are there women (usually young, usually pretty) in peril? Check. Are they stuck in a remote place (usually a house in the woods) and can’t figure out a way to leave? Will the victims be the targets of an evil ghost, demon or serial killer? Check.

“The Accursed” takes place in 2019, in an unnamed U.S. city but was actually filmed n Savannah, Georgia. The movie begins by showing a young widow named Mary Lynn Crandon (played by Alexis Knapp) traveling on a rainy night to a house with her daughter Sadie Crandon (played by Kailani Knapp), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. The house is in an isolated wooded area. Mary Lynn tells Sadie to wait outside, but adds, “Don’t come inside until the screaming starts.”

Mary Lynn knocks on the house door and goes inside after there’s no response. But there’s actually someone inside the house: the house owner. She is an eldery woman named Ms. Ambrose (played by Meg Foster), who asks Mary Lynn: “Commune or curse?” Mary Lynn replies, “Curse.” Ms. Ambrose asks for payment. Mary Lynn pays her with blood.

Ms. Ambrose asks, “What fate for the owner of this blood?” Mary Lynn says, “I want the devil himself to take possession of her, for both to be locked in hell forever.” Ms. Amrose says, “The devil himself never takes possession. He sends one of his legions … and it will be whenever he so chooses.”

Ms. Ambrose gives Mary Lynn a knife and says, “You must take this knife and wait for the point of no return, when the demon has gone too far. Ms. Ambrose then adds ominously, “Are you ready to gaze into hell?” Mary Lynn answers, “Yes.”

Ms. Ambrose drinks the blood, but she doesn’t find out until it’s too late that Mary Lynn gave Ms. Ambrose the blood of Ms. Ambrose. Mary Lynn then says as she stabs Ms. Ambrose: “My name is Mary Lynn Crandon. And this is for my husband Thomas!” Sadie is now in the house. Ms. Ambrose howls at Sadie, who breaks off Ms. Ambrose’s fingers.

That’s about as intriguing as it gets in “The Accursed.” The movie than fast forwards to three months later and goes through the dull motions of the aforementioned checklist. Ally will some become acquainted with Ms. Ambrose in a way that’s already revealed from the movie’s opening scene, which shows that Ms. Ambrose unwittingly put a curse on herself to be possessed by a demon.

Elly (played by Sarah Grey) is a pretty blonde in her 20s who has come back to her hometown to oversee the sale of the house that was owned by Elly’s recently deceased mother, Helen Gamble. Elly’s father abandoned the family years ago, when Elly was a child. Before temporarily moving back to her hometown, Elly was living in Haiti, where she was working as a volunteer for an unnamed social cause.

Elly gets a rude and violent welcome home from a neighbor named Mrs. Dudley (played by Antoinette Van Klingeren), who slaps Elly in the face and scolds Elly for not being there when Elly’s mother was dying. It’s implied that Elly’s guilt is the reason why she takes a job on short notice to be the nurse caretaker of a “comatose” elderly woman who lives in a remote house in the woods. That elderly woman, of course, is Ms. Ambrose.

Elly doesn’t know anything about Ms. Ambrose except that Elly’s mother and Ms. Ambrose used to be acquaintances. A woman named Alma Whitemore (played by Mena Suvari), who identifies herself as being in charge of the Ambrose estate, has contacted Elly to hire her. Elly needs the money, so she immediately says yes.

Elly’s hometown best friend Beth (played by Sarah Dumont) is concerned that Elly is going to this stranger’s home, but Elly assures Beth that everything should be fine. Of course, everything isn’t fine. Almost as soon as Elly arrives in this dark and creepy home, she starts having nightmares about her dead mother.

And then “The Accursed” begins a repetition of showing things coming out of Ms. Ambrose’s mouth on separate occasions, including, blood, bile and a gnarly black hand. It’s mentioned at one point in the story that Ms. Ambrose has a daughter named Dorothy. Where Dorothy is should come as no surprise, because at one point in the movie, it becomes very obvious.

And what about Mary Lynn and Sadie, who were seen the beginning of the movie? Mary Lynn and Sadie show up later in the part of the movie where it’s explained why Mary Lynn wants to avenge her dead husband. It’s probably one of the most unimaginative and predictable reasons why a wife would want revenge.

Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with a horror movie using a well-worn concept, as long as there’s enough in the story and in the cast members’ performances to keep viewers engaged in what happens next. “The Accursed” is just a tedious slog of weak jump scares, lackluster acting and a terribly conceived story. The ending of “The Accursed” is so ridiculous, the only people who will feel cursed are viewers who will feel tricked that they wasted their time with this junk.

Screen Media Films released “The Accursed” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on October 14, 2022. The movie was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 6, 2022.

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