[REVIEW] Get Ready Because SEQUENCE BREAK Is Going To Pull You In

It’s not every day I get the opportunity to see a genre film about one of my very favorite things: video games. So, when I heard about Graham Skipper’s new film Sequence Break, needless to say I was ALL IN. I knew very little about the film, aside from the fact that there would probably be some very spooky video game action; so the psychedelic, Lovecraftian thrill ride that awaited me was a delightful and disturbing surprise.

Sequence Break opens with a super synthy, 80s-tastic score by Van Hughes that perfectly sets the tone for the film’s action, which mostly takes place in a video arcade and repair shop. The shop, which we learn early on has an expiration date, is managed by the owner, Jerry (Lyle Kanouse), and his only employee, Oz (Chase Williamson). Hughes’ eerie synth tones are so subtly spooky and provide a rather ominous undertone to the madness that unfolds. We quickly discover that Oz has quite the knack for repairing and rebuilding vintage arcade style video games and there’s one project in particular that seems to be consuming him. Oz’s game still lacks a title and panel art, but we do get to see footage of the game itself. The game has a very Lovecraftian nature to it in the way that it seems to offer never ending, mind consuming gameplay, seeming to pull its players in. It reminded me very much of 2016’s rhythm violence game Thumper by game developers Drool - one of my favorite video games of that year. The onscreen game animation, created by Neal Jonas, was truly mesmerizing and I’ll admit, if given the chance, I would probably be guilty of spending hours playing it too.

When Tess (Fabianne Therese) stops by the shop one day to look around, she takes a liking to Oz and the two begin spending lots of time together hanging around the shop. Oz explains to Tess that they find most of the arcade machines at yard sales, junkyards, and the side of the road and that he really enjoys fixing up the old ones and sometimes he builds something new altogether, using existing circuit boards and body parts from other machines. Oz likens this hobby to “bringing the dead back to life,” and with those six foreboding words, it’s clear that Oz is messing with something he shouldn’t be. On one of their dates, Oz and Tess end up hanging out on a rooftop and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the film, not because it’s spooky or exciting or bat shit crazy like other parts of the film, but because it’s the most real. They have a conversation about their anxieties and the very real and different ways those anxieties manifest.

As a person who suffers from anxiety myself, it was really refreshing to see two characters discussing it in such a “normal” sense. The topic wasn’t overly-highlighted, nor was it dwelled upon in the melodramatic way it sometimes is. It was a very casual part of the conversation in the two getting to know each other and it was a nice little reminder that we’re not alone and most of the time, other people are going through similar struggles, whether it’s apparent from the outside or not.

From this point on, things get (like I said) BAT SHIT BONKERS. I don’t want to give too much away, nor do I think I’m even capable of describing some of the madness that takes place, but what I will say is the ending of Sequence Break felt like a love letter to Eraserhead and I fucking dug it. The film utilizes some dope ass practical effects by an incredible team of artists including Chris Baer, Alexi Bustamante, Masayoshi Kimura, and Josh and Sierra Russell. These practical effects were insanely disturbing and made me uncomfortable enough to squirm, but not uncomfortable enough to look away. My eyes were consistently glued to the screen, my mind struggling to wrap itself around what it was seeing. With the current digital technology available, mind blowing effects are commonplace in most big budget blockbusters who overuse CGI like they’re a middle school boy who just discovered Axe body spray. However, every once in a while, the little guy comes out of the woodworks with some bonkers handmade effects that boggle your brain, and THAT is fucking incredible.

Sequence Break runs at a brisk 80 minutes, which is just enough time for you to lose your mind. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it for anyone looking for a little dose of that arcade game nostalgia or some good ol’ fashioned Lovecraftian mind-melting fun. Sequence Break will be coming exclusively to Shudder on Thursday, May 24th, but beware: IT WILL PULL YOU IN.