Graham Skipper has been steadily working his way through US genre cinema over the past decade. Starting with a leading turn in Joe Begos' Almost Human, and moving on to a series of smaller appearances in some of the biggest projects of the past few years, including Tales of Halloween and Downrange, he's fast become a cult star. With Sequence Break, his sophomore directing gig, he's getting the limelight he deserves.
Oz (Chase Williamson) is a reclusive arcade worker who spends his days patching up abandoned arcade machines. When a mysterious piece of tech arrives, Oz and Tess (Fabianne Therese) are dragged into a bewildering world of trippy biomechanical nightmares.
We're living in a hyper-nostalgic era, with ‘80s influences creeping through everything: the remake of Ghostbusters and IT, Stranger Things, and, of course, the vogue of ‘80s stars like Barbara Crampton and Dee Wallace. What's smart about Skipper's film is its refusal to do what's been done before.
Van Hughes' synth score is honestly one of the best genre sounds of the past few years. He doesn’t simply borrow Carpenter's gloomy beats or try to emulate a classic horror sound, the score is wholly original and unexpected, jarring and soothing, a really unique sound for a surprisingly unique film. The setting of an arcade evokes Tron, just as the squidgy tech-effects scream Cronenberg, but Sequence Break never rests on those references. It's a savvy twist of its own concoction achieving its own kind of despondent sensuality which never tries to be actually sexy. It’s a horror experience through and through.
A lot of that is down to the garage quality of the film which helps it keep a grungy dirty feeling without stopping itself from being genuinely beautiful. Kudos to Skipper for saturating his sci-fi in lurid primary colours; what could have been another cold, gritty Indy project, is instantly gifted a vibrant pulp quality. In short: it’s a really cool looking film, and cinematographer Brian Sowell deserves a heap of credit for framing the story in style.
It was a smart move to cast Williamson and Fabianne Therese since they've already had an onscreen romance against the backdrop of sci-fi weirdness in Don Coscarelli's bonkers John Dies at the End. The two are effortlessly cool and will no doubt continue to monkey-bar through ace projects over the next few years, as will Skipper, Hughes, and Sowell. This is such a great underdog sci-fi film, taking oddball romances like Spring and throwing them into cyberspace via a heap of self-aware supporting elements and a sweetly nostalgic script.
SEQUENCE BREAK / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: GRAHAM SKIPPER / STARRING: JOHN DINAN, LYLE KANOUSE, FABIANNE THERESE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW