Eye For Film >> Movies >> Sequence Break (2017) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
If there's one thing that guarantees a genre audience, it's nostalgia for cheesy video games of any and all kinds. From Man Vs Snake: The Long And Twisted Tale Of Nibbler to Game Of Death, they pack in the crowds, and even when they're bad they're usually fun, making this a natural choice for this year's Fantasia film festival. Sequence Break is set in a game store where old arcade machines are repaired as a sideline. One day, when he's alone in charge of the shop, young assistant Oz notices a machine he's never seen before. Trouble ensues.
Oz (Chase Williamson) is a likeable protagonist, quiet and geeky enough to be believable in context, but not lacking in social skills. Except, that is, when it comes to women. The presence of a woman in the shop is whispered about as if it were the biggest event of the month. She (Tess, played by Fabianne Theresa) seems alert to the awkwardness of the situation, initially claiming that she's looking for something for her brother, but she goes on to admit that she's actually interested in the games. She's also interested in Oz, and when he doesn't know what to do, she takes the lead, plunging him into an unfamiliar universe.
Given the familiar nature of stories like this, it's not giving too much away to say that he's also plunged into an unfamiliar universe when he starts to play the mysterious game. The parallel between these two story elements gives the film emotional depth and curiously serves to make Oz's gameworld experiences more believable. The film doesn't go full Tron and there's a refreshing lack of Existenz-style "You're still in the game!" moments; rather the incursion of something otherworldly into our hero's life takes place slowly, making it all the more unsettling.
Director Graham Skipper delivers a tighter, better paced film that the similarly themed Beyond The Gates, in which he starred, but never quite captures the mood that made that film work so well. There's some good dialogue in early scenes and special effects fun in later ones, when sensuously undulating keyboards recall Videodrome and a black latex-clad figure provides fetishistic appeal, but the transition between worlds is less successful at a structural level than at a narrative one. The presence of a battered-looking stranger uttering dire warnings and insisting that Oz is "the one," though it's a cute dig at the egotism of some gamers, distracts from the action at key point, breaking its rhythm.
Despite these problems, there's a lot here that arcade-loving cinemagoers will love, not least a soundtrack that evokes John Carpenter and is riddled with game motifs. Overall, Sequence Break is a charmer that goes to darker places than you might expect but is most successful when keeping things simple.Reviewed on: 18 Jul 2017