Getting stuck in the past is easy and it can be a scary thing. Sometimes people get stuck and cannot find a way to break free, almost like the pause button was pushed and nothing can happen until someone finally presses “Play.” But what if the one thing that has caused everything to pause is what will ultimately change everything? From Writer and Director Graham Skipper, Sequence Break explores this phenomenon, and is being released exclusively on Shudder on Thursday, May 24, 2018.
Oz (Chase Williamson: John Dies at the End 2012, Bad Match 2014) is a quiet and reclusive man, who works at Jerry’s (Lyle Kanouse: Big Love series, Whatever Works 2009) repair shop. Here, their specialty is repairing old school 1980s video arcade games. Oz has a true passion for rebuilding the arcade games and one day hopes to create his own, although he does not seem to have any other motivation other than exactly where he is in life.
Meanwhile, Tess (Fabianne Therese: Southbound 2015, Teenage Cocktail 2016) claims that she wants to buy an arcade game for her brother, and upon her arrival in the shop, Jerry encourages Oz to climb out of his shell and talk to the pretty girl. As fate would have it, on the evening that Jerry delivers some shattering news, while at a local watering hole, Oz is approached by Tess and the pair quickly hit it off and begin an awkward romance.
Ultimately, Oz’s health appears to be declining and Tess is worried. What is this mysterious game, and why does it affect Oz in such a horrific manner? Who is The Man and what is his connection to the game? Can Oz and Tess’s new relationship survive though the changes this game is creating?
Sequence Break is a strange, yet beautiful film. Oz is clearly stuck in his life, living almost as if he is trying to pause a moment in time and never venture outside that moment. In fact, he initially ignores Tess because she is something that would move him forward; she is new and that is terrifying. Clearly, working on arcade games and creating new ones is his way of continuing to live in the past and not look toward the future. Therefore, there is poetic justice in the fact that is an arcade game might ultimately be what saves or destroys him.
The chemistry between all of the actors is evident. Though Kanouse’s Jerry does not have much screen-time, he feels like the only father-figure that Williamson’s Oz has ever known; he is both the father and the best friend, and the concern he shows is genuine and heart-wrenching. Oz’s self-doubt is clear, and Williamson plays him so brilliantly that the viewer can almost hear the rust growing on his life. The coupling with Tess makes sense, as Therese’s Tess is beautiful and awkward. Yet she is also brave for making the first move on a man, and the chemistry between the two allows the viewer to easily cheer on their relationship.
The visual effects in Sequence Break could fit coherently in a Cronenberg film, particularly the quick flashes between different, jarring images that leave the viewer wondering what the hell they just saw; creating something bizarre yet fascinating. In fact, the way the white buttons and joystick melt into bubbly goo is both exciting yet creepy, and every image expertly straddles the line and produces uneasy feelings in the viewer.
Clearly, Sequence Break is not made for a viewer who is merely looking for a cheap scare; the fear here is much more cerebral and organic, and simultaneously forces the viewer to think but also manages to shut off the brain and just live scene by scene. Thus, Sequence Break creates and sustains a feeling of eerie unease, much in thanks to its flawless casting and well-executed visual images. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Sequence Break a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars.