It is probably my own fault. I may have brought along some unfairly high expectations when I sat down to view Sequence Break, written and directed by the very likable Graham Skipper. I was rooting for Skipper, and I had heard people make shorthand comments comparing it to some murky hybrid of Tron and Cronenbergian horror. How could it fail?
Chase Williamson plays Oz, a young man who works on many arcade machines, getting them back in working order for his boss (Lyle Kanouse). Unfortunately, he is about to lose his job. His place of employment is no longer making money, times are hard. The good news is that he meets a young woman, Tess (Fabianne Therese), and a date looks very likely in his near future. He heads back to his work, finds an envelope with a motherboard stashed inside, and when he places that motherboard inside a game cabinet things start to get weird.
Written and directed by Skipper, Sequence Break is an odd film that deliberately blurs the lines of the onscreen reality until things are almost impenetrable, and then decides to use the very last moments to turn things back to a more traditional film style. It's quite the paradox, being both experimental and daring and yet also surprisingly safe. It's a film full of impressive small details that can never push everything together to make a satisfying big picture. The low budget is obvious in every scene but just a bit more creativity and madness could have distracted viewers from it.
Williamson is a solid lead, Therese is just as good alongside him, Kanouse does fine, and John Dinan pops up occasionally to be the mysterious man who knows about the situation well enough to provide oblique hints regarding how to resolve things. None of the main cast members are bad, which helps the film immensely because they're not given much to work with. The film is more concerned with the idea of the machine, the way it affects the mind and what else it may cause to happen, but it doesn't even explore that central stand as fully or effectively as it could. As the runtime is only 80 minutes, this is something that could have been improved upon throughout most of the second and third acts.
Skipper, perhaps tellingly, does better in the scenes that just have characters talking to one another. He clearly makes an effort to let the acting be the focus of dialogue-heavy scenes. Which makes it a shame that most of the film is taken up with characters gazing at, and being gazed back by, the machine.
But hey, I've seen a lot of people praise this, a lot of people liked it more than I did. I could be wrong in my view. It happens (rarely). So you may want to give it a go for yourself and see what you think. Just don't take any notice of anyone trying to compare it to other, better, films.
You can buy the DVD here.
Americans can stream the movie.