This is a golden age of unique voices in independent genre cinema. Some of the strongest films in the past 5 years or so have come from folks who have such a unique take and complete understanding of genre. Graham Skipper is no exception. Having cut his teeth acting in films such as Almost Human and The Mind’s Eye, Graham has stepped behind the camera to bring us a wet, psychosexual, Cronenbergian fever dream with the palette of 80’s neon arcade in his directorial debut, Sequence Break.
The film follows Oz (Chase Williamson of John Dies at The End) working a literal dead end job as an arcade cabinet repair tech. In the last days of business he is introduced to two strangers: One the beautiful Tess (Starry Eyes’ Fabianne Therese) and the other a derelict (John Dinan) who brings the shop a mysterious circuit board. Once Oz hooks the board into a cabinet, he is drawn to the bizarre game that causes him to go down a path of unrelenting mystery and madness. There is a lot to dissect with Sequence Break. It has a ton going on and could easily dissolve in its own insanity were it not for Skipper’s direction and the performances of its two leads.
Graham Skipper proves himself a competent and adept director with this first behind the camera outing and this film feels right at home next to flicks like Videodrome and Altered States. He measures out equal parts gore and viscera while balancing it with great character moments. The only thing lacking in this regard is more explanation of the science of the world he’s created. You get little bits and snippets of great world building that unfortunately feel like they don’t get the pay off they deserve. This is a minor complaint, however, as the film’s stars immerse viewers in the world of the film. Williamson and Therese have incredible chemistry that radiates off the screen and carries them through an admittedly accelerated romance. Whereas a lesser director might focus more on Williamson’s Oz, Skipper has done great work in giving them each their own moments to shine, creating a dynamic relationship with a great pay off.
Sequence Break also goes through great lengths to preserve the integrity of practical effects. There is one sequence in particular that has Oz under the game’s spell and the cabinet begins to undergo a, for lack of a better word, fleshy transformation. Looking around the theater you could see many viewers squirming in their seats and everyone of these moments in the film (of which there are many) provided similar reactions.
The film is a strong debut effort and proves that Skipper possess the tools to tackle features. His sophomore effort will no doubt be even stronger and I continue to look forward to what comes next from this incredible talent.
Sequence Break is currently touring the festival circuit. You can keep up with the film here to see if it will be coming to a festival near you and you hear Graham chat about the film and a ton of other stuff from our interview with him!
4 out of 5 barrels.