Sequence Break (2016)

Seen as part of the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival and the Phoenix Film Festival 2017.

Plot paragraph …

Oz is a video arcade repair technician who lives a quiet, secluded life being with the one thing he cares about, old arcade games. Oz’s sanity and world are thrown into chaos when a strange game, a mysterious stranger, and a beautiful woman all intrude into his reclusive life.

Before we go any further answer the following; do you like David Cronenberg body horror movies, specifically Videodrome? If the answer is yes, welcome home! If the answer is either “No”, “who?” or “Huh?” you are in for an interesting time. MUHAHAHAHAAAAA!

Sequence Break is an unequivocal, unapologetic love letter to Cronenberg’s greatest (in my opinion) body horror movie. While Videodrome is clearly a tough act to follow and a potentially suicidal movie for a young director to try and springboard from, Graham Skipper, director of Sequence Break, does everything right.

To be clear Sequence Break is NOT a rip-off or reboot of Videodrome. Sequence Break is its own story but does borrow elements from Videodrome, not in a way that annoys but in a way that excites.

I’m avoiding any mention of the plot so you can enjoy it all spoiler-free but I would like to say that I loved where the story went and how everything is resolved. Suitably smart without being ambiguous.

There is much to love here, starting with the superb acting on display. Chase Williamson and Fabianne Therese, as Oz and Tess respectively, have great chemistry. Horror fans may recall both Chase and Fabianne from John Dies at the End and the connection is quite fitting. Sequence Break is equally as surreal in parts as their previous movie together.

Oz and Tess’s budding relationship is at the core of Sequence Break and as Oz’s reality starts to fragment it is their love for each other that plays a greater and greater role in proceedings.

Considering the budget, or lack thereoff, major kudos to all concerned for making this movie look legit in all the right places. To begin there was no Rick Baker on hand to deliver any expensive show-stopper effects but the talented effects crew of Chris Baer, Alexi Bustamante, Masayoshi Kimura, Josh Russell, Sierra Russell, and Jason Richard Miller do stellar work when called upon.

Similarly the music of Van Hughes is very often so evocative of Howard Shore that I felt I was slipping in and out of Videodrome just as Oz slips in and out of reality.

Yes, there are moments when it is clear that what we are seeing is what the filmmakers could afford rather than what they may have wished they could have shown us, but those moments do not derail the movie at all. Like all good indie movies, it plays to its strengths and gives us a thoughtful, character-rich, fast paced ride.

Graham Skipper wisely keeps the story tightly focused on Oz and Tess and only goes “out there” visually when he is confident that he can deliver. Like much of Cronenberg’s oeuvre Sequence Break goes into the strange bizarrely sexual realms where flesh and electronics meet and then, thrillingly, dares to take a tentative step beyond where we have been before.

In some ways I’d been waiting 33 years for someone to dare to step past the explicit mystery of Videodrome’s “new flesh” and show us a potential landscape beyond. Kudos to Graham Skipper for taking a leap into the unknown.

Ultimately Sequence Break is an intelligent, exciting, and surreal movie. Is it for everyone? No, maybe not. If you are not partial to surreal hard sci-fi body horror you amy want to look elsewhere. however I loved it, most of the audience at the festival loved it, and I cannot wait to see what the filmmakers do next.

Two word review: Thrilling. Surreal.

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