Sequence Break (2017): Winning by Breaking
“It Will Pull You In”
Have you ever played a video game where reality seems to slow down and disappear while you just get sucked into the world of the game? I’m not talking first person shooters or anything similar but rather about the more geometrically stylized “kill the aliens” games of the 80s and 90s. And I’m also not talking just concentrating on the game but rather letting it become your whole plane of existence. Once you’re zoned into these fast moving and brightly colored mesmeric games, it almost feels like you become one with – become part of – the game itself. And once you’ve become part of the game, and especially in the world of SEQUENCE BREAK, anything is possible…
According to that font of all knowledge, Wikipedia, in gaming “sequence breaking is the act of performing actions or obtaining items out of the intended linear order, or of skipping “required” actions or items entirely”. It is generally used to do things like win/finish a game super quickly, obtain helpful articles or prizes early in a game or, sometimes, to make a game harder and more challenging. It can, of course, be considered cheating, but when do things go entirely our way in life without a little cheating?
Oz is a brilliant, if lethargic, arcade game tech-head who secretly longs to father the world’s next top hit game. His peaceful existence is shattered one day when he is told that the arcade he works for is going to close. He gets drunk, meets a girl – Tina – finds a menacingly strange arcade game lurking in the workshop, hits play and is catapulted into a dark and terrible world where reality is inverted and anything is possible. When the game lures (and kills!) Tina, Oz must find out for himself whether the game’s sequence can indeed be broken to win the biggest prize of all: a return to normality!
The story works on many levels – both real and allegorical – and is enhanced by almost perfect casting. Chase Williamson (“John Dies At The End”) plays Oz and is entirely convincing as the socially dense but intellectually brilliant techie. It is, however, Fabianne Therese (“Southbound”) who steals the show, as she manages to play what could have been a one-layer, stock role in such a way that you are continually wondering if she’s on the level or part of a reality-subverting conspiracy that has targeted Oz.
The story also touches on several universal themes that seem to terrify today’s twenty-somethings: social anxiety, the lack of money or tangible resources, the underlying fear that one’s creations will not be perfect coupled with the nagging realization that delaying creation will not allow one to achieve one’s potential to name a few… Nothing could, however, be more terrifying than the loss of both mental and physical integrity, and this is what Oz and, to a lesser extent, Tina, are faced with.
Although the film is intimate – read “smaller budget” – it overcomes this barrier by being visually extremely interesting, for which DP Brian Sowell must take the credit. Flooded with eerie splashes of alien green, electric blue or lurid red, the screen scintillates with color and life and gives the starkly mechanical world of the game a nightmarish, garish quality.
Visually, SEQUENCE BREAK echoes the likes of “Tetsuo, The Iron Man” where the melding of man and machine was shown in graphic black and white detail. As reality literally melts in Oz’s hands, homage is also paid to the bio-electronic body horror masterpiece that is Cronenberg’s “Videodrome”. Here, though, the question is which of Oz’s realities is actually changing…and can he change it back when the game is rebooted and started from one again.
SEQUENCE BREAK was written and directed by the talented Graham Skipper, from whom we can expect even greater things in the future. The film is a Shudder exclusive and will be available on the service starting May 25th.
You can enjoy the trailer right here:
For those of you who’d like to explore the world of creepy video games – and there have been MANY urban legends about them! – here are some handy links:
Article about haunted, cursed and mysterious video games on Mysterious Universe:
Youtube video: Top 10 Cursed Video Games: