Written by Shannon McGrew
I’ll be honest, going into “Sequence Break”, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Having been familiar with Graham Skipper’s work as an actor, I was pretty confident that his debut feature length film would be solid, but I was not prepared for the range of emotions and mind-bending brain breakage that I ended up enduring. I know, that sounds intense, but trust me when I say I mean that in the best way possible. At it’s core, “Sequence Break” is a terrifically done homage to the 80’s style horror films that showcases a passion for classic video games, practical creature effects, and electronic synth music.
The film, directed by Graham Skipper, centers around Oz, a guy who generally keeps to himself by not subscribing to societal norms, who works as a video game repair-man at a dying arcade. One day, a beautiful woman visits the shop coinciding almost perfectly with the delivery of a strange package. As their romance blossoms, the mystery surrounding the new arcade game begins to manifest with devastating and deadly consequences.
The film is primarily driven by three characters played by Chase Williamson (Oz), Fabianne Therese (Tess), and John Dinan (The Man). The three of them were able to bring this story to life through the brilliant directing of Graham Skipper. Oz and Tess are extremely relatable and through the unfolding of each of their stories I found myself becoming more emotionally invested with their storylines. Having been a fan of Williamson’s since first seeing him in “John Dies at the End”, I felt he was the perfect choice for Oz, especially since I had just seen him in another 80s inspired horror film, “Beyond the Gates”. Fabianne Therese really shined through as Tess and I’m glad she got a much larger role to play as I enjoyed her work in the horror anthology “Southbound”. However, for me, the most intriguing player in this film was definitely The Man, played by John Dinan. Though he may not have had a lot of screen time, he was mesmerizing each time he appeared, leaving me grasping at straws for questions that I knew would never be answered.
One of the most impressive aspects of “Sequence Break” was the practical effects used. I would definitely categorize this movie as body horror, and though that usually makes me uneasy, as I’m not the biggest fan of that subgenre, the overall use of the practical effects were incredibly impressive. There is one scene in particular that sticks out to me involving Oz and the arcade game exchanging a, uh, intimate moment, so to speak. My initial reaction was of total disgust followed by amazement as I had never seen anything like that before.
In terms of cinematography and music, both were done exceptionally well. As a designer, I was immediately sucked into the bright, fluorescent colors and chaotic editing throughout the film. As for the music itself, it definitely had an 80s feel to it and it paired perfectly to the hallucinogenic atmosphere of the film. The film as a whole was presented in such a way that it resembled a piece of art in that it combined expertly shot scenes, thematic music, and compelling color variations. Most horror/sci-fi films are seen through a bleak color palette so I appreciated how vibrant the colors and sounds were throughout the film.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about video games and I’m not a die-hard 80s horror movie connoisseur so I was little apprehensive on how I was going to feel about the film overall when I started watching it. There’s been a trend of 80s infused horror film as of late, and though I understand the inspiration behind making them, I’m beginning to feel like they are saturating the market. In the case of “Sequence Break”, that did not happen, as it is unique enough to stand on it’s own and be set apart from a lot of the other horror films in that category. Though I may not understand everything that was happening, especially in regards to coding, that didn’t deter me from absolutely loving this film. Graham Skipper has undeniably created a movie that is thought provoking and mind-bending but also beautiful and somewhat horrifying; a rare combination to pull off. If you are attending the Chattanooga Film Festival this week, and are able to catch an encore performance (as the film just had it’s World Premiere yesterday), make sure you do, as I don’t think you’ll find anything remotely similar to this film out there.