Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Breakthrough, The

Canadian/UK movie (1993; vt The Lifeforce Experiment). Lillian Gallo Entertainment/Filmline/Screen Partners/ Astral/World International Network. Pr Nicolas Clermont. Dir Piers Haggard. Spfx Ryal Cosgrove, Brock Jolliffe. Screenplay Mike Hodges, Gerard MacDonald. Based on "The Breakthrough" (1966) by Daphne Du Maurier. Starring Mimi Kuzyk (Jessica Saunders), Corin Nemec (Ken Ryan), Hayley Reynolds (Niki Janus), Michael Rudder (Woody Gifford), Donald Sutherland (Dr Mac Maclean), Vlasta Vrana (Dr Robbie Allman). 88 mins. Colour.

Flagging CIA agent Saunders, racked by the accidental drowning of her young son, is sent to a governmental research station in Newfoundland to check what the team under Maclean are up to. She finds they are tapping and trapping the psychic energy given off by human beings at times of great stress; to this end the team includes a young man, Ryan, dying of leukemia, and a little girl, Niki, who because of the death of her twin sister is autistic yet has Talents. Saunders recommends the experiment be terminated forthwith, but her CIA boss suddenly sees the potential for power if life and death can indeed be controlled. As Ryan dies the team's computer, Charon, records the death experience, continuing well past the stage where physical life has departed. Ryan's Soul, trapped in the project's hardware, is allowed at last its freedom.

This – though hampered by a clumsy screenplay – is a very intelligent Technofantasy. Much of its territory has been well tramped over before – by, e.g., Firestarter [1984] and The Fury [1978] – but it manages to preserve an air of freshness, probably because, unlike those movies, it eschews violence and sensation, concentrating instead on the essential fascination of its Afterlife theme. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.