Title: Sequence Break (Fantasia 2017)

Also known as:

Year: 2017

Genre: Science-Fiction / Horror / Romance

Language: English

Runtime: 82 min

Director: Graham Skipper

Writer: Graham Skipper

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5798432/

Oz is a reclusive young man who hides away in a world of pixels but one of his few safe havens — his job of repairing old arcade machines — is being taken away as his boss is closing down the business. It is at that time that a weird arcade game arrives in their shop. Oz tests it out like any other game and isn’t before long that the door to another dimension is opened. Now Oz’s only hope of escaping the clutches of the mysterious and nightmarish void lies with a young woman named Tess.

Our thoughts:
“Sequence Break” is heavily promoted as a nostalgic nod to the arcade game with a Cronenberg twist. And while I know it’s best to take press sheet descriptions with a grain of salt, I couldn’t help but to be enticed by that breakdown. With the film being directed by Graham Skipper (a man active both in front of and behind the camera) and features Chase Williams and Fabianne Theresa as the leads, “Sequence Break” was quickly bumped up to the top of my watchlist during the Fantasia International Film Festival.

Even though the marketing pushes the film as having an retro ‘80s nostalgia glaze on top Cronenbergian horror, Graham has made a story that has more to do with the latter rather than the former. Being a throwback to the ‘80s has grown into tiresome shtick but thankfully it’s not something that “Sequence Break” relies heavily on. It’s there in more subtly ways, such as music. As far as the plot revolving around arcade games, it goes a tiny bit deeper than that as the subject matter is more about the main character and his relationship with technology. Specifically, how he’s created a tiny bubble of an existence around an outdate technology.

As far as the Cronenberg comparison goes…personally, I’ve come to greatly disliking comparing new films with old films or directors in particular. I understand it can help explain the content of a movie in simple terms but it can sometimes come across as demeaning to new films and filmmakers. The reason I feel the need to mention this (even though it is highly irrelevant) is because, in the case of “Sequence Break”, the Cronenberg feeling is inescapable. Is that who Graham was channeling when he wrote and directed his film? I cannot say with certainty, but the final product seems like it was taken directly out of a page of Cronenberg’s.

Yes, that certainly sounds like a demeaning remark because that statement indirectly implies that “Sequence Break” is a work of imitation when it’s not. The film tackles similar themes and metaphors as it explores the character Oz (Chase Williams) and his love for video games — particularly older ones he grew up on. This love that he has makes video games go beyond being a mere hobby; they are Oz’s life. So when a new bizarre game shows up in his shop, he begins on a dark descent where his passion gives the game life in a literal sense. Every play through turns sexual as the arcade becomes an organic being, and with every orgasmic push of a button, the game drags Oz further into a realm of neon nightmares.

Even though the nostalgia aspect is more subtle than one would think, the themes in “Sequence Break” are a little more on the nose. Which isn’t bad because as the film progresses, and Oz loses more of himself to the life-consuming void of the game, it becomes more of a visual journey. Graham focuses on finding ways to visually illustrate the game’s control and growth from a box of glowing pixels into a transcendental organic monster.

The focus on the visuals might be where the film loses some viewers as there isn’t much that’s pushing the actual story forward. It does take on a bit of a suspense atmosphere when a young woman named Tess (Fabianne Therese) becomes involved in Oz’s life. Out of that, there is an added dynamic of his desire for her conflicting with his obsession with this new game — will he succumb to game’s control or can Tess save him? Outside of that, what drives the movie and what keeps the viewer hooked are the continuous engagements between Oz and the arcade game. How each interaction causes a mental and physical transformation of Oz, allowing the machine to grow and unleash the horrors that it hides behind its screen.

Overall, it works well enough for “Sequence Break” but after the movie was over it felt like there was something lacking. That there wasn’t more to the story or more depth in its thematic elements. In the case of “Videodrome”, the progressing change in technology was giving birth to the new flesh. Whereas “Sequence Break” is more of a loose visual interpretation of a metaphysical exploration where a person has to make a choice about what they want versus what they need. Granted it’s told through a series of increasingly nightmarish sequences of intense lighting schemes and body-horror, so it’s one hell of a journey a viewer is taken on.

As I said, I did find myself wanting a little more out of the story and themes but, in general, “Sequence Break” is a solid blend of science-fiction and horror. Actually, it’s a solid movie in general. Production wise, everything from the sound design and cinematography to the locations and props made this an impressive piece of work. The casting was also perfect as Chase Williams and Fabianne Theresa made for two of the best lead characters — while we don’t really know these characters, Williams and Theresa brought life to them and did a lot to keep the viewer invested. “Sequence Break” is a movie that I expect is going to do well when it is able to reach its audience because it does succeed at visually creating a world of transdimensional fleshy horror.

Positive things:
- A great cast with Chase Williams and Fabianne Theresa.
- Doesn't rely on '80s nostalgia as much as it would have you think.
- Impressive production value. Everything from props and practical-effects to cinematography and sound design.
Negative things:
- I wish there would have been a bit more drive behind the movie. A little more to the story or themes.

Gore: 2/5
Nudity: 0/5
Story: 2.5/5
Effects: 3.5/5
Comedy: 0/5

We watched this movie thanks to:
Fantasia International Film Festival 2017

Reviewed by:




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