Review of Hold Your Breath

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A group of friends on a weekend camping trip find themselves being picked off one by one when one member of the group refuses to abide by the urban myth that you can breathe in evil spirits when passing cemeteries.
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Movie Review: "Hold Your Breath"

-- Rating: R
Length: 91 minutes
Release date: October 5, 2012
Directed by: Jared Cohn
Genre: Horror

Horror movies often take advantage of some of the most deep-seated fears in society, as does "Hold Your Breath". This is why urban legends make the best horror movies. These fears would seem ludicrous if they weren't ingrained in our culture. However, the legend's absurdity provides flexibility in the telling of this story because the legend itself forms the basis for a tale that everyone in the audience can identify with. "Hold Your Breath" runs wild with this urban cemetery legend providing audience with 90 minutes of terror.

The movie does not reveal the urban legend in the beginning. Instead, it introduces the audience to the killer, who terrorizes a group of campers later in the film. Dietrich Van Klaus is set to be executed in a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane in 1956. His list of crimes is long and heinous, ranging from pencil and fence post stabbings to sexual assaults with mechanic's tools. The kicker is that Van Klaus is not done with his killing spree. In the moments before he is executed, the serial killer murders the warden/director of the hospital, then removes his own eye. After his successful execution, he is buried in a nearby cemetery.

To open a movie about an urban legend from the killer's point of view foreshadows a "Saw"-like experience later in the movie. Such well-plotted setup demonstrates ingenuity and imagination in the use of the urban legend trope. It is obvious from the start that this sadistic killer enjoys his victims' terror. No matter how the story plays out, the murders will be bloody and full of horror for both the victim onscreen and the audience.

The legend itself begins "Hold Your Breath" moves to modern times. A group of friends are on their way to a camping trip. Their cell phones are confiscated, creating major communications issues, but the group pledges to enjoy the weekend anyway. As they pass a cemetery, the most superstitious camper, played by Katrina Bowden of "30 Rock," warns everyone to hold their breath as they drive past a cemetery. She then explains the superstition; if someone breathes in while passing the cemetery, the evil spirit of Dietrich Van Klas will possess them. Few of her friends take her seriously, but one of the group does breathe in and the urban legend proves true.

As Van Klaus in control of his new body, the killing spree begins. The campers are forced to flee for their lives and their eyes. It seems that the serial killer has a strong fascination with enucleation. . He gouges out the eyes of the campers one by one, and then victimizes a stray cop and many others.

"Hold Your Breath" is the first theatric film release for the film company Asylum. Director Jared Cohn brings his imagination to life in a way that stays true to Asylum's previous direct-to-video work, but also raises the bar for future horror releases. The vivid backstory about Van Klaus rounds out the story, adding substance to what is essentially just another Halloween slasher film. The script does take a couple of side journeys that it could have avoided. However, the modern-day trip to the asylum, for example, adds depth to the scares that keep audiences on the edge of their seats until Van Klaus's handiwork is revealed. Despite the detours, the story does flow well throughout the movie..

The title of the film "Hold Your Breath" is actually preceded by a hashtag. "#Hold Your Breath" in order to market the movie. . The social media linkage in the form of a hashtag has nothing to do with the film (remember, the confiscated cell phones creates issues at the beginning). But it does provide an easy marketing tool directly into the title of the film. So, in addition to being the theatrical debut for Asylum, "Hold Your Breath" is also the first film to incorporate social media marketing in the film title.

During the Halloween season, people seek the perfect horror film for a scary date night. "Hold Your Breath" has the gory, shocking, and horrific moments to make couples jump into each other's arms. There is also plenty of backstory to hold the audience's interest when terror is not the primary focus of the scene. All-in-all, "Hold Your Breath" melds the typical urban legend story trope with a very creative and heinous killer that breathes life into a horror tale worth watching.

Rating 1 out of 5