Graham Skipper is no novice when it comes to horror. In fact, when it comes to modern genre affair, he’s quickly climbing the ranks as one of the most notable and distinguished actors on the scene. From his recent role in Jackson Stewart’s nineties throwback Beyond the Gates (2016) to his excellent turn in Almost Human (2013), Skipper has proven his worth as an actor, and with Sequence Break, he has solidified himself as an up and coming director.
Sequence Break tells the story of Osgood, Oz for short, a reclusive arcade technician who meets a woman named Tess and falls in love. Coinciding with this love story, a mysterious cabinet has landed in the repair shop and slowly starts to psychologically break down Oz and Tess. As their relationship deepens, so does his involvement with the machine and it comes to a fever pitch once Tess gives in to the calling of the game.
At its core, the movie is a love story drenched in Cronenberg body horror and binary. It never attempts to throw jump scares at the viewer but instead does it’s best to unsettle them in a number of ways. The more Oz plays the machine, the more he starts to break down at random intervals of the day. He has jolting visions that play themselves over reality, flashing in the familiar green and red glare of games like Centipede and Tempest. The longer he plays the game, the more it attaches itself to him, literally. The joystick becomes a pulsing, oozing mess that slowly grows and absorbs his hands and the buttons become malleable and Oz starts to push and rub on them in strangely erotic ways as echoes of women in ecstasy play over a frantic, glitching figure that loses itself in the game. Even though he realizes that the game is breaking his body and mind down, causing him to lash up and throw up black sludge with hardware in it, he can’t stop himself from playing it.
The film has a lot going for it on an obviously shoestring budget that never hinders its progress. Chase Williamson is instantly likable as the reclusive Oz and sells himself well as the introverted uber geek and the unconsciously obsessed. Nearly outshining him is Fabianne Therese as the fast talking neurotic love interest Tess. She not only manages to pull off geek girl chic but because of her delivery and chemistry with Williamson, the breakneck romance they pursue never seems forced and instead comes off as natural. Though a (very) small amount of other characters come into play, Williamson and Therese carry the movie on their acting chops almost completely.
A lot of credit is owed to the music from Van Hughes and the production design DeAnne Millais. Hughes plays a pitch perfect score that encapsulates the 8 bit feel the movie is striving for, creating nerve-wracking and tension building moments with chiptunes. Millais proves you don’t need a big budget or fancy set to make a world feel unique and lived in, working with little but being able to deliver a full experience in an encapsulated setting.
Graham Skipper has delivered two fold with Sequence Break as well. Pulling of both writing and directing duties, he has showcased his talents in a charming way. The movie is able to do a lot with very little at it’s disposal. He has a full handle of his characters and clear direction for them as well. He is able to show off numerous passions, to both hardcore retro gaming and Cronenberg, and uses this to craft that love letter to both that never comes off as self indulgent or too reliant on either convention. Using genuine dialogue, Skipper even has moments that seem to give the viewer a brief glimpse into his feelings at taking a stab at directing.
Ultimately, Sequence Break is a delight. It’s transparent how much love went into the film and it plays with tropes of numerous genres while remaining unique and most importantly a lot of fun. Skipper has created a glitchcore horror love story that will not only thrill genre fans but titillate lovers of cinema in general.