From the imaginative mind of Graham Skipper (best known for his performances in Almost Human and Beyond the Gates) comes Sequence Break, a romantic, science fiction, body horror with a saturated retro vibe. Inspired by the new wave of 80’s throwback films that Skipper has previously starred in, Sequence Break is a solid effort and a captivating film with its story and out of this world visuals.
Oz (Chase Williamson); an outmoded, socially anxious would-be game developer is down on his luck when the arcade he works for is faced with imminent closure. His misfortune is all about to change when a plucky young woman with an equal appreciation for retro game culture enters his life. At the same time a mysterious arcade game appears out of nowhere with terrifying reality altering functions. As Oz is pulled deeper into the machine’s clutches, his battle to ‘break the sequence’ acts as an analogy for his own self-realisation.
Sequence Break plays out like a Cronenbergian hallucinatory trip and gradually becomes weirder as it progresses. The elements of body horror and sci-fi that it possesses is a clear-cut homage to Cronenberg’s work namely Videodrome (1983). As Oz is transfixed by the strange machine and its rainbow of bright colours and shapes, the control pad becomes some kind of monstrous, pulsating entity which proceeds to seduce him.
There’s evident sexual overtones that play out in a symbolically suggestive fashion. Sequence Break also works as an allegory for gaming addiction. Once Oz has played the machine he is drawn in further, heightening the fact that if not measured right, gaming can become a very dangerous hobby with participants at risk of losing sight of reality.
On one level, it is highly surreal but also very down to earth in the portrayal of the core relationship between Oz (Chase Williamson) and Tess (Fabianne Therese). Williamson and Therese are both strong leads and develop a believable chemistry in their performances as the socially awkward pair. The romantic side of the film evolves naturally without feeling forced or saccharine.
As characters, Oz and Tess bring out the best in each other. Their relationship is subversive in the sense that Tess is the forthright one who pursues Oz, not the other way around. An interesting dimension is then brought in as Skipper manages to shatter stereotypes of females within nerd culture. It’s refreshing to see a pretty, young woman who isn’t completely self-assured or confident and shares the same insecurities as the male character. These relatable qualities are what endears them both to the audience.
Skipper has offered up a feature that is both clever and creative. He uses deep lighting to bring forth an evocative effect. At certain points, some of the scenes are lit too dark and it is therefore difficult to see the on-screen action that is unfolding. He ensures that the stance of the machine itself, the present threat is conveyed as a twisted, psychological metaphor that Oz must defeat.
Of course, it makes use of some heavily unexplainable, grotesque imagery but never features a defined reason or physical monster. Sequence Break isn’t a film that goes out of its way to say “this is what’s going on”; Skipper instead leaves much to the interpretation of the audience without being overtly vague at the same time.
The soundtrack is incredible. The synth-inspired score supervised by Jonny Coleman wholeheartedly suits the tone of the movie while evoking the spirit of 80’s nostalgia. Sequence Break is a compelling Canadian creep-fest with impressive special effects and an identifiable story.
Sequence Break received its European Premiere at Horror Channel Frightfest’s Cineworld main screen on Friday the 25th August 2017 and is coming to Shudder in Early 2018