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‘Sequence Break’ (Fantasia Film Festival review)

Produced by Lyle Kanouse, Lisa Long,
Graham Skipper, Audrey Wasilewski
Written and Directed by Graham Skipper
Starring Chase Williamson, Lyle Kanouse
Fabianne Therese,
Audrey Wasilewski,
Johnny Dinan

Sequence Break: “Performing actions or obtaining items out of the linear order intended by the game’s designers, either as a challenge or in order to skip certain sections of the game.”

That definition is integral to this film.

Sequence Break is a film that not everyone will get, but then again this is a film not made for everyone. This is a film for fans of 80’s body horror and rubber reality movies.

Sequence Break is very much an 80’s throwback film but not in a kitschy way… this is a more earnest attempt to actually make a film as if it were made in the 80’s but with a current perspective.

Unlike other throwback films, Sequence Break knows what it is setting out to do and does not allow itself to get trapped in nostalgia. The effects all being practical also help considerably. The movie is very much attempting to be an 80’s Cronenberg homage but it goes well out of it’s way to forge it’s own identity as well.

That all said it is really the modern heir to Videodrome. I say that with no snark. Sequence Break is an obvious homage to Videodrome without ever really copying the movie save for a few similar themes and ideas.

Sequence Break is the story of an awkward and shy coin-op video game repairman named Oz who finds a strange circuit-board for an unknown video game. This video game soon begins to strangle and entangle Oz into madness and obsession. At this same time Oz is starting to break out of his shell with a video game girl named Tess who is also getting entrapped by the game. With the “aid” of a vagrant who knows far more than he lets on things take a turn for the weird and I will leave it there. The rest you can see for yourself.

“Don’t look into the void… force the void to look into you!”

Bathed in rich blues, reds and greens, Sequence Break utilizes color not only to create the appropriate atmosphere, but also the colors are important to the story… even if you don’t realize this at the time you first see them. There is hardly a scene in which the stylized lighting is not present to some degree. The use of color gives everything a visual depth which dovetails into aspects of the story.

Directed by Graham Skipper (Gordon from the similarly unique throwback film, Beyond the Gates) in such a manner that a distinct style is evident from a (relative) newcomer is refreshing and welcomed. Starring Chase Williamson (John Dies At The End and Beyond The Gates) and Fabianne Therese (also from John Dies At The End) Sequence Break feels like a strange reunion of John Dies At The End. Hell, the movie could almost be a side story for David Wong from that movie.

Vast swathes of Sequence Break go by without dialog and are effectively told by the visuals even if the cause of the film’s events are left vague at best (the circuit-board that is the center of the movie is never really explained) but even without dialog the acting is fantastic and that makes this movie work. I mean this is a film where a man has sex with a video game cabinet and a bio-mechanical video game has orgasms. The acting and direction never allow the material to seem goofy.

The parallels with Videodrome are inevitable and since Videodrome was an obvious inspiration I would argue they are not only welcomed, but encouraged. I will say this though… Sequence Break is far more hopeful than Videodrome with Oz and Max Renn (from Videodrome) taking very different paths if you allow that they are arguably playing out the same scenario.

In the end Sequence Break asks the question – Who a person is at their source code? What happens if you break the sequence and rearrange the 1’s and 0′?

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