Friday, April 6, 2018

Sequence Break

Sequence Break
Graham Skipper

Oz (Chase Williamson) works in a dying arcade game repair shop. While facing the end of his employment there, he meets Tess (Fabianne Therese) a fellow video game enthusiast. The two quickly strike up a romance. A mysterious package arrives for Oz. It contains an arcade motherboard. He places the board in a cabinet and is greeted with a strange game that seems to play with him just as much as he plays with it. Oz becomes obsessed with the game even though it begins to twist his mind and his flesh. Only a strange man who keeps breaking into the shop seems to know the truth.

Sequence Break’s parallels to Videodrome (1983) are obvious, but it also draws upon tales of the legendary Polybius arcade game which may or may not have been some kind of psy-ops experiment by the CIA to create a video game that could affect people minds. In both films, we have a main character who is repeatedly drawn to a form of electronic media that not only alters minds but bodies as well. Sequence Break indulges in some gooey body horror just like its predecessor. It takes a particular delight in presenting a machine made of wood, plastic, and metal then turning it into something pliable, soft, and sticky.

A bad case of vector acne.
Whereas Videodrome lived a world teetering on the brink of some kind of televised apocalypse, Sequence Break features a doom that is much more personal. Oz’s life is on the verge of collapsing, the safe space of his job is ending, he meets a woman who is pushing him out of his isolation, and now this strange arcade machine appears. It hangs in the background as a constant reminder that Oz feels trapped in his life, but at the same time, he doesn’t want to leave what he’s made.

I feel that story falls down in the third act as it begins explaining origins the mystery game. These explanations are delivered by a character referred to in the credits as The Man (John Dian). He is the typical wild-haired seemingly insane person who spouts things about the void looking into you and other such clich├ęs. It really drags on a film that was moving along with its dueling storylines of romance and infection. The game is intriguing enough on its own, it doesn’t need a rote mad creator.

The Final Boss.
Oz and Tess make a good on-screen couple, their interest in one another and their shared classic video game hobby feels authentic. There is a trend to try and overwrite or underwrite women characters who are into typically ‘nerdy’ pursuits and make them obsessive best-of-the-best superfans or girly girls who just like a thing in hopes of landing a man. Tess is neither of those, she likes old video games but it is not the entirety of her being.

Sequence Break has more thought put behind its human characters than you would expect, but it fails its central mystery ever so slightly. The film doesn’t cover new territory but it touches on the 1980s pop-culture revival in a way that reminds us that looking back and living in the past can be a nightmare just a much as it can be a wistful fantasy.

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