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Review: SEQUENCE BREAK

Sequence Break

Sequence Break Review – 3.5 stars

Graham Skipper‘s Sequence Break is difficult to describe with its strange, bizarre and complex story that blurs the line between reality and fantasy as a technician named Oz (Chase Williamson) is tormented by indecipherable visions. What is clear is that the oddities are linked to a mysterious arcade game and the arrival of two strangers; one, a beautiful young woman called Tess (Fabianne Therese) and the other, an emotionally unstable person known only as The Man (John Dinan). Both are attracted to the game, but only one understands the true extent of its power. What begins to unfold is a race against time as Oz’s involvement with the game threatens to break down his entire sense of being and the world around him.

Tess’ appearance immediately arouses suspicion and her eventual enticement to the game furthers the ease it is to be wary of her. Sequence Break’s lack of definition helps its ability to remain consistently unpredictable, as the events that occur are nightmarish moments, rather than chronological events to be made sense of. It’s easier to sit back and enjoy the film’s refusal to be understood, immersing yourself in the film’s perfectly retro soundtrack that could have been ripped straight out of an arcade, and colourful visuals that nod back to the striking lighting used in ’80s cinema and, most noticeably, TRON.

To describe Sequence Break as surreal would be an understatement. The film’s combination of sci-fi, horror and romantic elements is just the beginning of its complicated identity that remains impossible to define. With nostalgic leanings to the days where arcade shops were all the rage, it’s impossible to ignore Sequence Break‘s appreciation for the old-school. The story’s focus on a technician who restores abandoned and broken arcade games is appropriate for today’s world where young gamers are obsessed with the latest Call of Duty, but may never have touched a coin-operated arcade machine. As much as it is a journey into the absurd and a showcase of impressively icky special effects, Sequence Break is a love letter to those that reminisce about days spent playing Space Invaders and Pac-Man.

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Oz becomes enticed by an ominously painted pitch-black video game that works as a sort of sexual awakening for his character; the game controls literally melts between his fingers, moulding into gooey, sticky openings that allow him to insert himself fully and physically into the cyber-space of the game itself. It is no accident that Oz’s infatuation with the game begins as he starts a relationship with Tess, paving the way for two different, but equally as psychological sexual journeys. He becomes lost in the world of the video game, becoming increasingly eager to discover what it’s all about and, at the same time, is visited by a troubled man who tells Oz he has a specific purpose. The film’s oddly sexual imagery and vague narrative direction crafts a film that is beautifully bizarre on the inside and outside.

The film borrows from David Cronenbergian horror to push the boundaries of the expected, opening the doors to a world that dominated by the indescribable. Skipper’s vision of the game becoming an almost physical entity has been snatched from Videodrome and its innovative vision of the media itself becoming a place to fear. Sequence Break works an impressive and loving respect to an era that is long gone, but inserts its homage with necessary modern twists to prevent it from being just another film that loves the ’80s.

The end becomes a complicated and, admittedly, convoluted and confusing climax, that further bends the film’s nonsensical narrative. It’s difficult to explain and almost impossible to define, but Sequence Break‘s confident foray into a dark video game world is enticing for all its differences, but also for its clear inspirations.

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Cinema

Review: RAW

raw-review

When a movie professes to “make people faint,” you have to take it with a pinch of salt. After all, PR and marketing leap on these words like a feverish young woman leaps on a succulent young man. They are buzzwords. “SHOCKING” it’ll read on the poster. “INFAMOUSLY DISGUSTING. YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT.” All the while, knowing that horror fans will line up in their hundreds to get a taste.

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CinemaDVDReviews

REVIEW: Peelers

Peelers 1

From its synopsis, ‘A small town strip club owner must defend her bar, her strippers and her life when violent infected patrons show up on the final closing night and all hell breaks loose’, Peelers can only go one of two ways. It’s either the enjoyable exploitative horror flick with enough comedy and knowingness to subvert, entertain and delight horror fans; or, it will conform to all the pitfalls, tropes and tribulations that are inadvertently offensive, lame and what tear down the genre, creating wastes of time. This is, sadly, the latter.

Blue Jean (Wren Walker) is running the club for one last time. The lowbrow patrons are typically sleazy, but so are some of the staff, as illustrated by the barman. With Blue Jean’s son in trouble with the police, a looming levelling of the club, a new girl’s first night with a jealous ex and, of course, the violent virus that turns people into zombies from the 28 Days Later universe. With all of that, you can see it being completely typical with no fresh beats and stagnant, overdone tropes. To make the same things engaging again, you need good dialogue delivered by better actors. Neither of these are on display in Peelers.

What is the biggest disappointment of this entire 95-minute ordeal is that its writing is so trite, grotesque and insulting is that it makes you hate all the characters. Although, there is an argument to be made that the film is simulating real people in that off-putting way, but the goal of a film is empathy at any level. If the audience can’t empathise with them then they can’t connect, spectating instead of engaging. It creates resentment in Peelers. None of the characters are interesting nor are ones you support. People are painted with a cynical brush, perhaps for comedy, but if it is then it cannot be found outside of the creators.

Peelers Still

Then again, perhaps they don’t care about the characters either. People are killed off and the body count for a small club ‘going out of business’ is ridiculously high. Rural rent in a small town cannot be too hard to recover from when you have a club packed with patrons, described as regulars. Perhaps it’s the excessive number of staff. Maybe, if cynicism is what’s welcomed to this world, then they are all there as fodder for the virus to try to excite an unexciting story. Again, sadly, it feels like the latter.

The amateur filmmaking in every production sense, on-screen and off, dampens already sodden material. Cinematography reeks of first time users with a Canon DSLR, made worse by full-on lighting and overexposed scenes that point out all budgetary restrictions. Worse than that is the acting, unfortunately. One-tone is an understatement. It points even further to an amateur at filmmaking rather than a professional production. Characters are indistinguishable, pointed out further by performances that have been mocked for years to come. Peelers is a missed opportunity for fun. What it maybe attempts is fun, but with unengaging, unmotivating characters and low-level production, all you have is violence masquerading as excitement. You won’t remember any scenes from Peelers, but you will remember the feeling of nothingness you had when watching it.

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