Interviews · Movies

Graham Skipper Interview: We Chat With the Director About His Pulsating Love Triangle of 80s Horror Homage

The indie horror director’s biomechanical, Cronenbergian sexterpiece is really a love story.
Sequence Break Graham Skipper Arcade
By  · Published on May 24th, 2018

The Shallow Pocket Project is our way of getting to know the filmmakers behind the independent flicks that we dig. Check our last chat with the Nelms Brothers (writers/directs of ‘Small Town Crime’). Special thanks to my fellow Dorks at In The Mouth of Dorkness, especially Brad Gullickson and Darren Smith.

For all you boppers out there in the big city, I’ve got something special for you. Graham Skipper’s feature debut, Sequence Break, is full of love for 80s genre films. But, look, when I say love, I mean a gnarly, pulsating, gloopy, deliciously visual sort of love ripped straight from the neocortex of David Cronenberg. And, it’s out there right now, on Shudder, for those of you with the steel to try it out.

“I wanted to explore the darker side of nostalgia, of holding on to what we look backwards at, rather than forward. Not necessarily making a statement about it, but just kind of wondering what does that do to us? And as it turns out, it biomechanically mutates us.”

Sequence Break Graham Skipper Poster

We sat down for a chat with Skipper to talk about the movie, and he shared that one of the things he looks for in his own movie-watching is something that’s either a 0 or 10. He’s not down for middling efforts or milquetoast narratives where nothing original happens. For better or worse, as film-watcher, he wants to be surprised.

They say write what you know. Well. Sequence Break is a testament that he is living his truth. Milquetoast is the last word you’d use to describe the film. While the story may not be for everyone, it’s sure to resonate with fans of body-horror and practical effects.

The movie is a visual orgy of practical effects. Skipper wanted to dive into something uniquely cinematic, impossible to provide in any other medium. I’m not even going to attempt to describe it here. Do you remember how you felt when you watched the characters of Cronenberg’s eXistenZ explore the bio-mechanical ports in their bodies during their, um, love-making?

Turn that shit up to eleven. But, add in a love for swirling, infinite fractals, and a nightmare of a third act which might as well be a journey through hell.

“I just really wanted people to go along for the ride, and to have a dreamlike quality, where by the end, they’re kind of sitting there stunned, and feeling that they just woke up.”

The movie follows the love stories of Oz, played by Chase Williamson (John Dies At the End, Beyond the Gates). And, I say stories quite deliberately. While the film is set in the present, Oz is trapped in the past. His day-job, and sole pursuit, is restoring old arcade games. While he has aspirations of designing his own games, he never quite gets around to it.

Oz finds a mysterious package containing the circuit board for an unlabeled game and does what any arcade restorer would do: plugs it in and gives it a whirl. It’s like Asteroids, but filled with swirling fractals of destruction and pleasure-inducing power-ups.

Oh yes, these are the movie’s sex scenes.

Parallel to Oz’s titillating mix of fear and lust as he pursues the game, he meets Tess, played by Fabianne Therese (John Dies At the End, Teenage Cocktail). The two forge an awkward, but personally fulfilling bond. They care for each other. While Tess is a video game lover herself, Oz is careful not to introduce Tess to The Game.

Did I menton Oz orgasms from the tentacularly pornographic embrace of the wires and buttons of an arcade machine?

There will be no middling opinions on Sequence Break.

“’Sequence Break’, at its heart is a love story. And I think that with Cronenberg’s ‘Videodrome’ – it’s more about the flashy bizzarity that’s happening, and less about the emotional life of Max Renn. I think that’s different than like in ‘The Fly’, where, personally, I think that’s one of the greatest on screen romances in cinema history.”

Skipper is careful to point out that there’s more focus on the emotion between the two main characters than a simple fetishistic pursuit of body-horror. There is a story worth exploring.

As we delved into that side, Star Wars: The Last Jedi came up. Hold on to your butts. Nostalgia is a fine line. It isn’t naturally toxic. However, there’s a sort of canonical rigidity at play that seems to define an ardent bastion of criticism of the most recent Star Wars film. This effectively perverts nostalgia to inflexible gate-keeping.

That’s a double-barrelled shots-fired.

“There are people that I’ll talk to that are like, ‘There hasn’t been a good movie made after 1986.’ That’s bullshit. You’re limiting yourself from what I think could be a much more fulfilling cinematic experience.”

In all it’s goopy, visual madness, Sequence Break explores what happens when we hold on too tightly to the past. Oz finds himself in an arcade shop forever polishing the gems of an era that’s already passed him by. Their business is failing. There isn’t enough demand. Yet, he polishes away.

In the film, it’s quite literally masturbatory navel-gazing, hypnotized by The Dream. But, for all its insanity we can all relate. At some point, we have to move forward and do something new. Something original.

The American culture of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and dreaming is overwhelming. We live and breathe the advice that we should dream. Dream bigger, my darlings. The pressure is immense. But, then, so is the appeal of a dream. There’s value, sure, but also narcissism mixed in dreams. Too much is paralyzing. The desire to get something just right, so that we might realize our biggest dreams often gets in the way of the first step of an impossibly long journey.

Sequence Break Graham Skipper Couple

We’re consumed by dreams. I dreamt a dream tonight, that dreamers often lie. Dreams. To die, to sleep. Perchance to dream. What dreams may come. Dream. Dream dream dream. When I want you and all your charms, I’m just California dreamin’. When I feel blue, you hold me tight. Dreams.

Dream, yes. But, live, too! Take chances. Make mistakes. Put yourself out there. An imperfect but earnest realization of a dream is leagues better than sitting in a garage endlessly considering what could be. Don’t let the idea of a perfect life or dream ruin the good that’s right in front of you.

You are more than your dreams. You fucking better be. Or else life is one long solipsistic nightmare. Or, in the case of Sequence Break, an arcade tentacle monster that wants to suck your soul.

The movie is available exclusively on Shudder right now. Every genre fan should have a membership to that streaming service. As Skipper literally, delightfully exclaimed in our conversation: “I’m saying this not just because they’re putting up my movie. I’ve been a customer of Shudder’s for three years. They do such a great job. They treat it seriously.”

Listen to the full, spoiler-free, hour-long conversation at In The Mouth of Dorkness. We chat with the director as he navigates the traffic of Los Angeles and waxes profoundly about genre film-making and the pure joy of getting Herbert West acting notes from Jeffrey Combs himself.

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Writer for Film School Rejects. He currently lives in Virginia, where he is very proud of his three kids, wife, and projector. Co-Dork on the In The Mouth of Dorkness podcast.