Pass Thru (2016)

Neil Breen is back! Well, he’s been back for a while, but for some reason I kept putting off reviewing his fourth movie, following on from “Double Down”, “I Am Here….Now” and “Fateful Findings”. I actually thought, when looking it up online, that IMDB had got it wrong and had just used an old description. Here’s the summary of “I Am Here….Now”:

Disappointed by its creation, the almighty being that created Man arrives on Earth in a human form and interacts with various troubled, wicked and sinful people on his journey to Vegas.

And here’s the summary for “Pass Thru”:

A.I. , Artificial Intelligence from the distant future visits Earth to eliminate all humans who have been harmful to all humans worldwide.

He’s got a bee in his bonnet about something, that’s for sure. I hope you, dear reader, are already a fan of this completely unique filmmaker; but if not, please feel free to read my previous reviews of his work, or check out the YourMovieSucks and RedLetterMedia videos about him. And then let’s journey through the Breeniverse together.

Actually, before we start, this is the first Breen movie to use crowdfunding. Here’s a video from the campaign (which I missed, as it had expired before I discovered his work, I think).

Check out how many times he calls it a “legitimate feature film” and emphasises it isn’t a “midnight movie”. So when you watch it and discover he’s actually devolved as a filmmaker, it’s a little more surprising.

Okay, the plot. There are several strands to it, which…well, to say they come together is a bit of an overstatement, but they all interact with Breen towards the end. Sort of. I mean, they definitely don’t interact with each other. Anyway, we have a group of refugees, fleeing a mysterious unnamed country towards freedom and a better life; they’re split into genders by the people helping them across the border and imprisoned in dingy rooms. You might wonder why I didn’t say Mexicans, going to the USA, and that’s because the refugees are a multi-ethnic bunch, with most of them being caucasian, and the country they’re fleeing to is never named. Oh, Breen!

We also have three teenagers who are super interested in astronomy, and inspired by their crazy professor, who spends almost the entire movie in bed hooked up to a breathing apparatus, are looking for some mysterious event in the sky. This appears to be a red dot which makes several largely random appearances, or perhaps it’s a mysterious shadow which occasionally drifts over proceedings, or perhaps it’s both. Who knows?

There’s also the two women, a Mediterranean-looking lady (Amanda, played by Kathy Corpus) and her black niece (whose character was unnamed and uncredited, but she’s played by Chaize Macklin). They’re escaping the older woman’s abusive husband, and run into the same patch of desert scrubland as the refugees, but never meet them, although they do meet a mysterious filthy stranger, played by your friend and mine, Neil Breen.

He’s a junkie, living in a beyond-dilapidated teardrop-shaped trailer in the desert, and performs some service for the refugee handlers, for which he’s paid in heroin (although the service is, obviously as this is a Breen movie, never specified). One day, he…passes out? Dies? In the dirt next to his trailer after injecting, and the red light moves over him and makes a duplicate version of him stand up!

The duplicate is the AI we mentioned at the beginning, a presence that’s beamed itself back from the far future and has, for some reason, picked a filthy junkie as the human it wants to take the appearance of. One would think, if you’re into saving the world from itself, you’d get on with it right away, but he spends most of the first two-thirds of the movie sat in his trailer with the two women, or wandering round the desert, or sat on a rock next to a tiger. The tiger, which definitely isn’t a pasted-in effect, oh no, even the scenes where you can see snow in the background of the tiger shot when it’s supposed to be in the desert, is second-billed in the credits! Thanks, actors (most of whom he didn’t even bother to give names to)!

I’m getting ahead of myself, a little. The refugees are also used as drug mules, and there’s a scene where you know you’re definitely in Breen country, where two important things happen. First up, they get an oxy-acetylene torch to cut through the border fence, but rather than just lighting it and filming that for a few seconds, I have to assume no-one on set could figure out how to work it, or it had run out of fuel, so Breen put in a CGI flame effect on the end of the torch in post. What? But that’s not the best bit. The bad guys get the drugs, and begin to divide up the bags. “This one’s for the politicians, this one’s for the CEOs, this is for the stockbrokers, this bag’s for the bankers”…he’s got a point to make, and by god he’s going to make it as loudly and simply as possible.

Oh, and when he’s with the two women, he calls himself “Til”, which is spelled “Thgil”, a name he saw on a yogurt pot when Amanda asked him and he wasn’t prepared.

At about the 55 minute mark, Thgil suddenly gets bored of all this milling about in the desert with the pretty lady and her niece and decides to wipe out 300 million people. It’s a brave movie-maker who’ll use the slaughter of 4% of the world’s population as a thing he just casually drops in with half an hour left to go, but Breen is nothing if not brave. Of course, you know the people he wipes out – politicians, bankers, CEOs, evil men and women, reality show contestants, all that lot. The villains who have locked up the refugees are just beamed out of existence, with my favourite being the extremely shouty lady who runs operations. Her interaction with Thgil is perhaps the greatest scene in the entire history of motion pictures. It goes a little something like this:

“YOU ARE DONE!”

“NO, YOU ARE DONE!”

“DONE?”

“DONE!”

It takes a unique mind to write dialogue like that, and to perform it. The extremely shouty lady is, like everyone else, doing a passable impression of someone who’s never read out human words in their lives before now – special credit to the three teens, who are so bad…I keep using the word “worst” to describe people and things in this movie, but the word will cease to make sense if I just keep bombarding you with it. They really have to be seen to be believed, though; as do the TV news crew we keep cutting to as the world’s evil population keeps disappearing – they’re merely bottom 10 all time in the acting stakes. The only person who looks like they could appear in normal movies is Kathy Corpus, but…well, perhaps she’s wildly overacting to keep everyone else on the set company.

I understand what Breen is trying to do – you’d have to be a moose-headed moron to not get it. The entire last third of the movie is him hammering the point home, over and over again – he beams himself into the homes of several different big business / banker types, listens to their “haha we hate poor people” speeches, and then says “isn’t that wrong?” or variations thereof, for like ten minutes. Then, he appears in the TV news studio, kills all the newsreaders, and tells us what awful people we all are and how he’s perfect and we should all hate bankers or whatever. I mean, I agree, but unfortunately we aren’t all super-powerful beings from the future who can kill anyone we want without feeling the slightest twinge of remorse! It’s at this point he also criticises “political correctness”, which I’d be annoyed about if I thought he understood what it meant.

Like all my Breen reviews, I just want to recap every bonkers thing that happens, but I also want to leave stuff for you, dear reader, to discover and enjoy for yourselves. It’s so weird! You’ll have doens of questions of your own, like: Is there two of him? Did junkie real Breen survive?

If I had to guess, I’d say there are some scenes where he got all the actors to repeat the same lines, with the theory being he was going to pick the best use of that line to leave in the finished movie; but then he realised he was ten minutes short and just left all the different people saying the same thing in the finished product. In the time since “Fateful Findings”, he’s bought himself a drone with an HD camera on it, and there’s at least one other person in the crew with him to fly it round while he sits and looks pensive on a rock. So, he has a friend! That’s nice.

The editing is genuinely insane, though, and I wonder if he watched it after producing a rough cut. Take, for instance, the kids. They walk out into the desert, pass by a sluggish Breen on the ground (the real person?), then go back into their homes, then go and drag their professor off his deathbed, then go back to the desert, then just the three kids meet Breen (who they recognise instantly as an alien, not the bum they walked past half an hour before), then the kids and the professor go back home. Oh, and their phones are sometimes working and sometimes not. Why do it that way? Arrgh!

“It’s All The Dream Of A Dying Man”

This will be the title of my Neil Breen book. Three of Breen’s four movies could be argued to the revenge fantasies of a dying brain, as the Breen character is seen to “die” early in “Double Down”, “Fateful Findings” and “Pass Thru”. Is this what he’s intending? Or is he so thoroughly incompetent that I’m clutching at straws? It’s probably the second one.

Like I said before, this manages to be even worse than his last movie – although “Fateful Findings” is probably his masterpiece, so it’s to be expected. The plotlines that never come together, and have no real resolution; the acting that manages to be terrible, even compared to other bargain-basement Z-movies; the incredibly crude political message; the pitiful special effects; the ending which is the main character walking through an ocean of the corpses he caused, that we’re supposed to cheer on…it’s magnificent. And we fans get to appreciate the vest from “Double Down” making its third appearance in the Breeniverse.

I’ve had more fun watching Breen’s movies than almost any other “bad” filmmaker I can think of. He just keeps on trucking, and long may he continue, without ever trying to be in on his own joke.

Rating: thumbs up

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Fateful Findings (2014)

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With even the worst and weirdest movies we’ve covered here, there’s usually a plot of a sort. “After Last Season”, for all its lunacy, has a beginning and an end, and sort of moves from one to the other. “Things” progresses, even though it’s wretched and utterly technically incompetent (and the director is a miserable bastard for sending me insulting emails). “The Pit” has a relatively standard plot. “Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage” would’ve been a good story, if anyone involved had any aptitude for filmmaking. But with “Fateful Findings”, the third Neil Breen movie, I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve genuinely got no idea. I mean, things happen, but it feels most like the daydream of a teenager who’s led a very sheltered life. Or perhaps, a film made by aliens who aren’t quite sure what motivates human beings, or how they behave.

The first image is a book covered in gold cloth, sat on a stool, in the middle of some storage lockers. The book is a comfortable 5000 pages, almost comically enormous, and as gold is sprinkled on it, we begin our story (just not here, or anywhere near here. Perhaps Neil Breen had a mate who asked to get his storage business on the big screen).

It’s safe to say Neil Breen has a number of directorial fetishes. There are things, images and scenarios, which are clearly very important to him somewhere deep down in his psyche, and he’ll put them in his movies, whether it makes sense or not. First up is the love affair starting in childhood. We’re shown two kids, Dylan and Leah, aged around 7, laughing and playing together, then they go into the forest, walk past the same goat skull we’ve seen in both previous Breen movies (directorial fetish no. 2) and find a large mushroom.  As they sit looking at it, it vanishes, being replaced with a small golden box, which has a black cube inside. Dylan takes it, and Leah takes a few of the small jewels sat by the side of it, filling the box with the rest of them as if they were trying to trick a Raiders Of The Lost Ark-style trap. Leah then writes “it’s a magical day” in confident adult handwriting in a little notepad, and repeats “it’s a magical day!” several times, as if trying to convince someone off-screen. Sadly, Leah’s dad is transferred to a new town, so the last we see of them is an extremely awkward hug, and her waving, the camera being sure to focus on the bracelet she’d made from the jewels. These children are bad, even by the extremely low standards of child actors.

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Dylan’s an adult now – well, however old Neil Breen is physically (50, maybe? 55?). In a suit, eschewing his love of tanktops for a minute, he’s crossing the street while talking to his wife on the phone, drops it, and gets run down by a Rolls Royce (in the sole passable special effect in Breen’s entire oeuvre). Despite the front of the car being drenched in blood and Dylan being unconscious, his right arm is able to scrabble around til it finds the black cube, which he’s had in his hand for every moment of the last 45 years. This evidently has some supernatural power, and he heals remarkably quickly, to the point within days he’s back in his shower at home, an Elephant-Man-style amount of padding wrapped round his head, having sex with his wife (blood continues to gush down his leg, which indicates the aliens who controlled Breen to make this movie didn’t understand human biology). As he’s just walking out of hospital, we see his ass through the back of his hospital gown, not the first time it’s made an appearance in a Breen movie – directorial fetish no. 3. This is definitely not the last magic power Dylan displays – is novelist / hacker / magic being a better character description than “Double Down” and his robo-zombie-gorilla-space-Jesus?

I think we need to mention the cast, at this point, and give a few biographical points on them all. First up is Dylan (Breen), who has no personality at all. He’s a Computer Science masters graduate turned novelist, whose first novel was very successful – you know this because literally everyone he meets tells him so. After recovering from the crash, he decides to hack all the world’s computers and reveal the greed and lying that’s gone on. His office has four laptops in it! And they’re all turned off! (Directorial fetish no. 4) No interests, no particular reason for wanting to turn the world on its head, just a blank slate with Neil Breen’s face. He’s married to Emily (Klara Landrat), who is a drug addict. Memorably, she fishes Neil’s tablets out of the toilet when he dumps them there after deciding to get by without pain relief. She also has zero personality, other than liking drugs.

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Introduced when he visits the hospital to visit Dylan is his best friend Jim (David Silva), who likes working out (judging from his arms) and, despite apparently being on the verge of destitution, owns a Ferrari. Of course, because it’s Breen’s car – last seen in “Double Down” – Jim doesn’t get to drive it, or sit in it, and just gets to polish the left wing mirror (he does this twice). He’s in an extremely unhappy marriage with Amy (Victoria Viveiros), who’s also an alcoholic, loves pills, and has gone off sex. They have a teenage daughter, Aly (Danielle Andrade) who’s obsessed with Dylan, to the point of going to his house, stripping naked and getting in the pool; she has so few lines that it seems almost unfair to discuss her character – she’s also the only person involved in this to have a proper career, having gone on to a bunch of teen-based TV shows.

Wandering into proceedings a little later are  the psychiatrist, Dr. Lee, who’s just desperate to get Dylan to take more pills; and Leah (Jennifer Autry), the childhood love who ended up being Dylan’s doctor in the hospital. Well, she sees him laid in bed with his face covered once, but doesn’t bother checking his chart or finding out his name…this gets really confusing in a minute.

Before I discuss the confusion, a word about the dinner party scene. Because that’s what humans do, Dylan and Emily organise a dinner party, and invite round Jim, Amy and Aly. The conversation is so odd, so unlike normal patterns of speech and behaviour, that I seriously started to doubt my own sanity. Nothing could be this weird by accident, right? You could have told me literally any story about Neil Breen’s upbringing at that point and I’d have believed you. Raised by penguins? Sure, why not. Grown on a tree like fruit? I suppose. No one line in the conversation leads on from any other line, and in a filmography as nuts as Breen’s is, it stands out as a really really weird scene. When Jim spills beer on the floor and just laughs it off like he’s a naughty puppy is maybe my favourite part.

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The couples argue. All the damn time. Now, again, I’m not sure Breen has ever met another person, because married couples just don’t talk that way. Rather than showing the slightest sympathy or understanding of their partner’s problems, the women scream, and the guys either scream or make demands of their wife’s behaviour.

I’m not sure I’m getting across just how crazy “Fateful Findings” is. Let’s move on to the barbeque, set round the same pool we saw in Breen’s last two movies (directorial fetish or just clever re-use of what you have?). For some reason, he chose to dub in the background noise of a very large party, despite there just being 7 people in attendance. It’s everyone who was at the last dinner party, plus Leah and her fiancée. Now, would you invite the doctor who apparently met you once to a barbeque? Thanks to Leah still carrying round the notepad from when they were kids, Dylan and Leah recognise each other immediately, and boy oh boy is the sexual tension immediately un-apparent.

Dylan says he’s thought about her every day since he was seven years old, and rather than thinking that’s absolutely crazy, Leah reciprocates. She doesn’t even say “you know it’s 2014, right? Facebook is a thing, and you’re apparently a famous novelist. I’m not sure either of us thought about the other at all”. Just drink in the image of the two of them together: Jennifer Autry, a normal-looking woman in her late 20s / early 30s, and Neil Breen, a guy in his mid 50s who looks like he’d just been taken from living in a ditch, given a scrub down and a shave and shoved in front of the camera.

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I need to move on, because I could seriously write a full book just about this movie. Amy shoots Jim because he’s suggested she ought to maybe drink a bit less, and despite Aly witnessing the whole thing, makes out it was suicide. This inspires some of the finest dialogue ever from Dylan, as he’s cradling his friend’s dead body:

“I can’t believe you committed suicide. I cannot believe you committed suicide. How could you have done this? How could you have committed suicide?”

Said with less feeling than he has when he’s a bit annoyed with his publisher on the phone. Anyway, Dylan and Leah meet up in the park, admit their love for each other and go for some alfresco lovemaking; while they’re doing this, Emily overdoses on tablets and booze and dies, removing the need for Dylan to have a serious conversation with her about how they’re not right for each other, should get a divorce, or anything like that. Leah moves in and Emily is forgotten about completely; poor woman, having to be married to Neil Breen (even in a fictitious world).

This is already close to being my longest ever review and there’s so much I’ve not mentioned! There’s the dreams, where he appears maybe inside the black cube (represented by just hanging a load of black plastic over the walls), naked; or how he decides to go and see a different psychiatrist, whose office is a couple of plastic chairs in an entirely unadorned room; or the way Aly looks at camera as if she’s saying “I can’t believe this garbage”. What about Leah’s kidnapping? The mysterious shadowy figures? The poltergeist in Dylan’s house? The sideboob? There are a million amazing, hilarious things in this movie, and I hope you discover them all for yourself.

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I will mention the end, though. Suddenly, the one-time novelist is able to call a press conference with hundreds of attendees outside a courthouse; as soon as he says “I’ve hacked all this stuff, and I know the corruption” everyone starts applauding. Then…and I can’t believe this happened, even though I saw it myself…the bankers, politicians and lawyers all say how disappointed they are in themselves, and then commit suicide! Some of them even do it at the press conference, which carries on after the first suicide apparently! (Death of corrupt authority figures: directorial fetish).

The more I think about it, the more I love it. It’s among the most entertaining bad movies of all time, mostly because of Neil Breen, who’s passionate, dedicated, and after ten years of making movies, still beyond wretched. Let’s take the way everyone repeats lines – see example above – presumably because the actors didn’t know what to do when the camera kept rolling after they’d finished their line, and Breen was unable to edit. There’s the way he abuses his laptops (he throws books and coffee at them, and when that doesn’t work just throws them to the ground). Talking of laptops, they’re always turned off, and there’s one point where he’s doing big hacking things by typing words from his own novel. Ah dammit, I’m just telling you stuff that happened again rather than trying to analyse it. Sorry!

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You could make the case, much like “Double Down”, that this entire movie exists inside the main character’s head – after being hit by the car, his life ebbs away in the hospital bed and his dying brain constructs a fantasy where the black cube he’s carried with him is a magic talisman, and his childhood girlfriend is back. This would explain him having magic powers and being part of a group of shadow-creatures – it doesn’t explain who the other guy with the black shoes who teleports everywhere is, or indeed quite a lot of the movie, but it is a theory. I just think that Neil Breen is a passionate guy who is singularly unable to perform any part of the filmmaking process, and isn’t really sure how relationships, or computers, or the world’s political and financial systems, work.

An absolute cast-iron bad movie classic, as are all Neil Breen’s movies. I think this is the most fun of the three, although they make one of the all-time great trilogies. If you’ve ever agreed with a word I’ve written, please check this out.

Rating: a million thumbs up

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PS! I’d almost forgotten about this! As the credits roll, you think Breen’s finally got some funding, as all sorts of companies are listed for the sort of thing Breen does for his own movies – special effects, catering, and so on. But then, like the most boring practical joke ever, he reveals the truth a few seconds later:

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Just when you think he can’t get any more amazing, he does.

I Am Here….Now (2009)

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When you’ve made one of the greatest bad movies ever at your first attempt, what else is there to do? Well, the simple answer is to write, produce, direct, co-edit, do makeup and craft services for a movie where you play God, visiting Earth to check on your creation. I didn’t think it was possible to beat “Double Down”, one of the most unvarnished glimpses into a single person’s psyche that film has ever given us, but I reckon Neil Breen has managed it here. With less focus on himself as an actor (there are even a few scenes he’s not in at all) he’s freer to…well, I’ve still not got any idea what he did.

The ISCFC, as you may have noticed, covers a pretty random selection of movies – although mainly horror franchises, kung fu, and sci-fi – but our first love is so-bad-it’s-good (the reason we don’t do more is, chances are one of the professionally smug Youtube guys will have got to it first, and forever tainted it). I read “The Golden Turkey Awards” when I was a teenager and at the same time as watching whatever arthouse cinema I could get my hands on, I’d spend a (relative) fortune on VHS tapes of “Plan Nine From Outer Space”, “Rat Pfink A-Boo-Boo” and so on. I’ve seen a good amount of those “worst movie ever” movies (I still ponder “Demon Cop” from time to time), so hopefully you’ll trust me when I say Neil Breen is deserving of his place at the very highest / lowest levels of…well, something. He’s a complete one-off, and I want to celebrate his career with you.

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It starts off with what might be a second moon, exploding and creating life on Earth, or maybe it’s just an image of the glass ball found in the middle of the salt flats (clearly supposed to look like it arrived from space, but from no further away than a cheesy Vegas gift shop). It’s never stated, but the best guess is, it’s supposed to be the craft that THE BEING arrived on. Wearing a billowy white shirt and nothing else, The Being gets down off a cross (wounds in the hands and feet, a genuine jaw-dropping moment) and into the desert and…it’s confusing right from the beginning. The camera focuses in nice and tight on Neil Breen’s face as he scans the environment, and in the intervening years since “Double Down”, he appears to have gotten worse as an actor. His lack of presence, a complete blankness, no emotion at all, still manages to be surprising.

There are a heck of a lot of confusing things about this scene. Firstly, as he scans the horizon, his face changes between his normal face and a sort of weird gorilla-corpse face with long dark hair. This happens about five or six times during the course of 90 minutes, and no explanation is ever given as to why. Secondly, briefly here at the beginning and again at the end, he’s seen with bits of an old computer motherboard glued to his body. So he’s a robo-gorilla-zombie-space-Jesus? Cool. As he walks through the desert, he encounters a lot of plastic doll heads stuck into the dirt, which he must have put there deliberately, but I’ve got absolutely no idea why, and I’ve thought about this film a lot.

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After meeting a couple of junkies out in the desert, stealing their clothes, then freezing them and turning them invisible (it didn’t make any sense to me either), The Being is off to see what’s become of the world he created. An early line is “I’m disappointed in your species”, closely followed with “the human species”, because the shot he used had a plastic spider in it, and he wanted to make sure we knew he was cool with spiders.

To call this movie heavy-handed is almost an insult to heavy-handed things. He shows a loop of stock footage dozens of times – a wind farm, a solar panel farm, a pile of bribe money being counted, then some pollution. The Being really likes renewable energy, as does this movie, and they’re going to tell you a tale so horrible that you’ll be crying out for it too. But first, you’ll need to sit through a lot of driving, as Breen once again shows us Las Vegas from the driving seat of the junkie’s stolen truck – he also sleeps in the back, much the same as in “Double Down”. In terms of directorial fetishes, it’s up there with the great Coleman Francis and his love of skydiving, coffee and abject human misery.

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This all happens in the first 20 minutes, and I’ve barely scraped the plot yet. It’s wonderful! But I must be careful. There’s a lot to get through and I need to make it clear for you, but not spoil so much that you don’t want to watch it yourselves. And you really ought to watch this yourselves! Right, first up is a group of women who work for an environmental research company. These women appear able to act, which indicates Breen was sick that day and a competent director was briefly hired – anyway, due to Government cuts, they’re all being laid off. With some of the worst dialogue ever written for humans to speak, they all discuss how it’s the fault of big business and the Government, with kickbacks and bribes to ensure fossil fuels keep making profit for the multinationals.

(Aside: I agree with this, by and large. We need to get off fossil fuel as quickly as possible, and it upsets me that movies like this and “Birdemic” are on my side)

One of the young lady scientists is then seen, a little later, walking her baby (which is, lest we forget, a plastic doll with little attempt made to disguise that fact) alongside her twin sister. Non-identical, although they wear exactly the same style of top, just different colours. I need to name them, I guess, so we’ll go for hair colour – Blonde and Brunette (although they’re pretty similar). Blonde complains that she’s not got a job and needs to support her baby, and Brunette says “why not become a stripper, and then an escort? Plenty of money in it”. I get the feeling that Neil Breen doesn’t really understand women all that well, or perhaps just humans, if he thinks a reasonable thing to do would be to go from environmental science to prostitution in how long? A day? The weird thing isn’t that it’s suggested – okay, it is pretty weird – but that Blonde agrees to it so quickly.

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Back to them in a minute. The other main side of the plot is the men, and we see the fossil fuel people bribing a Congressman. He ensures the law is changed to cut funding for science, then when they need another favour from him later, they bribe him with a couple of prostitutes. Because they’re so difficult to come by and expensive to hire in Las Vegas! Of course, the two hookers are our sisters, and Blonde seems very happy with taking her clothes off for money now. This is perhaps the least erotic scene designed to be erotic ever – the ladies take their top off (shot from behind), then are pictured giggling and covering their boobs, then lying face down on lilos, and never at any point seen engaging in any sexual activity or even touching their “john”. They’re also filmed walking backwards into the pool, which looked super-awkward, when a more sensible director might have just filmed them from behind, walking forwards. Whatever.

The location of the hooker centre is pretty unusual. Next to a couple of extremely derelict buildings in a desolate area, a couple of guys with guns stand guard over…nothing, while a group of potential customers just mill about in the middle of the street, as if they’re waiting for someone to turn up and decide to give a career in prostitution a try. One of the men is the Congressman from earlier, so seeing a famous local politician stand next to a bombed-out store, cheering on a knife fight between two criminals in the middle of the day, is at best a troubling image.

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Here’s where things get really weird (I feel like I’ve said this loads of times already). After a brief break to show both sisters are now hard drug addicts, to forget the details of the profession they joined willingly, the movie sort of forgets about Blonde (not entirely, though). Brunette is then shown…getting fired from her environmental activist job, and deciding on becoming a prostitute? What the hell? Why didn’t she at least offer to get Blonde a job in her environmental place, if both sisters were in the same line of work? Did Neil Breen just forget which sister he’d filmed earlier? Anyway, Brunette’s boyfriend is murdered by the pimps, and she’s then visited by The Being, who decides to help her out.

I can’t even really talk about how he kills a bunch of people for pretty minor stuff; how everyone uses the fakest cheapest looking plastic guns; the sex scene; or how he heals a guy in a wheelchair, de-ages him by about 50 years, then fixes him up, Cupid-style, with Blonde; because this review will become as long to read as it was to watch. But he does crucify the bad politicians, lawyers and businessmen before heading back to the salt flats, unfreezing and converting the junkies to the side of the angels then heading back to wherever he came from. This, of course, makes no sense. I’ll leave you with a couple of points to ponder.

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One would think, if he created the world, then he deserves some of the blame for how it turned out. Perhaps, next time you build a planet, check back a little more often than once every 2 million years? If I build a car that blows up on its second journey, it’s probably not the car’s fault. But robo-gorilla-zombie-space-Jesus is perfect in every way, so it can’t be his.

We see him, at several points, giving magic pep talks to people. This is a good thing, obviously, but the way a movie not made by a madman would do it is to show them at the end, changed by the pep talk and making the world a better place. All Breen does is crucify a bunch of people then say, to no-one, “I’ll be back soon, and if you’ve not shaped up, I’ll kill you all and start again”. I can’t help but think if God was actually like that, there’d be significantly fewer Christians.

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I’m not sure if this is crazier than “Double Down” or not. Whereas DD had no story, and was just a man in the desert eating tuna and typing into broken laptops, this at least attempts a narrative. Of course, it fails utterly, but I think it’s safe to call this one a tie. Both movies are absolutely bonkers, in slightly different ways, and are among the most wretched things ever released. And 100% worth watching. And one last thing – check out that four-dot ellipsis! It’s such a tiny thing but it’s so irritating, and is a good argument for not letting people just make and release their own movies. Quality control is a sadly lost art.

Rating: thumbs up

Double Down (2005)

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YES!! After weeks of nothing good, the ISCFC hits paydirt with one of the most amazing so-bad-it’s-good movies perhaps ever, a glorious debut from a filmmaker who’s got a strong idea of what he wants and knows exactly how to get it. The only question that anyone should have is “where can I find this movie?” because it’s an absolute guaranteed good time.

A word about actor / writer / producer / director / musical director / editor / production designer / production manager / casting guy / locations guy / catering guy Neil Breen (not a joke, he has all these jobs in the credits). He’s an architect in Las Vegas and uses the money he makes in that job to fund his own movies – in case you were wondering, he’s never had any formal training in any aspect of the movie business. He’s made three, with a fourth one ready for release soon, and they all sound absolutely fantastic. You may have heard of him already, as Red Letter Media have covered “Double Down”, and Paste Magazine made his 2009 effort “I Am Here….Now” their 21st rated b-movie of all time, but if you’ve not, please read on.

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The first ten minutes are packed with so much insanity that I could do an entire article on them. We’re introduced to Aaron Brand, who’s had almost as many jobs as Breen had on this movie. He’s a former soldier who learned how to use computers and then became the greatest programmer ever, building the majority of the satellite systems and military applications used by the world’s governments. He’s basically the best at everything ever, and decided to become a mercenary, selling his services to the highest bidder, whoever they might be. He’s a patriot, but he’s protected himself by planting biological bombs in seven of the world’s biggest cities, that if he doesn’t send an encrypted message to them every three days, they’ll go off and kill millions. He’s got bio-electronic implants which help him be the most awesome person ever, and a ton of medals too. His fiancée, who he’s been in love with since he was seven years old, is shot and killed because he’s too awesome, and his latest job is to shut down the Las Vegas strip for a month.

Deep breath. This information is given to us via voiceover, perhaps the flattest and most boring monotone you’ll ever hear, as we see Brand go about his daily business. This involves sleeping in a car out in the desert, eating cans of tuna fish (he has hundreds of them in a box in the boot), and using one of four or five laptops and seven mobile phones, along with a satellite dish he mounts to the car, to control all the world’s computers, or whatever. For a former soldier / ultimate badass, he’s not all that tough-looking, balding with a sort of skinny-guy-gone-to-seed thing going on; and when we see him run across the rocks of the Nevada desert, he looks like he’s never done it before, coming close to falling on multiple occasions.

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So he’s a patriot, and the movie I guess wants us to sympathise with this guy who decided to forge his own path, but…he’s prepared to kill millions of people if the Government messes with him? What about if he gets ill and needs an operation? What about if he dies out in the desert? He’s a goddamned monster! Who the hell wants to close down the Las Vegas strip for three months anyway?

I think his relationship with his fiancée is very interesting, too. There’s plenty of footage of two seven year olds running and playing, but when we see them as adults, he’s…well, Neil Breen, and she’s very obviously at least a decade younger than him. What? She’s shot and killed while the two of them are in a pool – he naked, she in a thong – and the contortions the poor actress has to go through to avoid showing her boobs to the camera is pretty wonderful (although you can’t help feeling bad for her, as presumably she was cajoled into doing it). Brand then shows his first emotion, and when she’s floating face-down in the pool, he decides to join her, although because he’s entirely naked, we get a bit more of “Little Neil” than we perhaps needed, through his legs.

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After a quick bit of information about how some wars can’t be stopped, only for the movie to forget this part and have Brand tell us a few minutes later that he can stop or start any war with his computer skills, the plot…nope, I’m definitely not going to finish that sentence with “gets going”. The plot never gets close to getting going. He’s doing the same stuff at minute 80 that he is at minute 8, and the scenes appear spliced together basically randomly, with the exception (maybe) of the last one. Here’s a recap of what you can expect to see, should you pop on “Double Down” at a random moment:

  • Brand typing on one laptop, putting it down and typing on another laptop
  • Brand using a wrench on his satellite dish
  • Brand eating tuna
  • Brand waking up on the ground next to his car, where someone’s written “HELP ME” in blood on it
  • Brand running across the rocks

There are other actors in this movie, but they don’t appear all that often. There’s a couple of FBI agents who Brand helps bust an anthrax deal out in the desert at a ruin used for paintball – after he helps them out, the young one asks why they don’t track him, to which the veteran replies “He’s on a quest. Don’t ask, he’s protected. From the very top. Extremely top secret!” Then there’s the heads of the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security, who are gathered in Las Vegas for some reason; there’s his wife; and then there’s the couple. His “plan” involves picking up a couple from the wedding chapel where they just tied the knot, then taking them out to the desert, killing the husband, drugging the wife and then pretending she married him. I think? Only problem is, it’s the wrong couple so he just leaves them both in the desert to die! There’s a related scene where he phones up his prostitute friend and gets her to walk in front of his car so a guy is slightly distracted, and Brand can inject him with something. Even though her involvement in Brand’s plot is basically zero, she’s then murdered off screen by government agents! In case you were wondering, the couple he was supposed to pick up are also found dead in the desert, and Brand’s voiceover says they committed suicide, despite them having bullet holes in their foreheads and no guns anywhere nearby.

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The old man in the desert and the dinner party! I just can’t believe this really happened. Brand meets an old man in the desert, who keels over dead a few minutes later, pressing a small stone into Brand’s hand (it looks like fool’s gold). Brand becomes convinced of the mystical power of this stone, and when he’s at a dinner party with a family we’ve never met before and whose identity or relationship with Brand is never mentioned, tries to use it. The father tells Brand that the little girl has just been diagnosed with a brain tumour, so Brand holds the stone in one hand and presses the other hand on the girl’s head. Later that day, he delivers the immortal line “Tonight, I believe I cured Megan of cancer”. WHAT?

The dialogue is occasionally confusing because the voiceover is delivered at the same pitch as it, and there’s no pause between the end of his internal monologue and the start of a conversation; it’s also occasionally confusing because it makes no sense at all. Brand shoots a few people at one point who remain entirely off-screen, so you’ve no idea who they are, what they’re doing or why he wants to shoot them. Despite being filmed on 35mm, it’s achieved the remarkable feat of looking like it was shot on a cheap camcorder, so hats off to Breen for that.

He causes chaos round the world as a distraction for his plan, including bringing what looks like the Japanese train system to a halt – although how much of a distraction that would be to the police in Las Vegas is never elaborated on. Then, instead of carrying out the plan, he gives up the other conspirators to the police, saying this should prove his patriotism (he really wants you to know how patriotic he is). The end!

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Well, pretty much. It’s hard to overstate how absolutely bonkers this movie is, the insane dream of a man with no talent for filmmaking whatsoever. But, there’s a couple of odd little threads running through it. First up is the bodybag which he keeps opening, to find either his dead wife or a skeleton; he seems aware she’s dead, but thinks he can use the stone to bring her back to life (she sensibly refuses, not wanting any more time spent with this lunatic). Then there’s the “HELP ME”, and the tuna. Here’s my theory. Brand had a breakdown from his wife leaving him, and went mad, living out in the desert in his car, giving himself mercury poisoning by eating nothing but tuna; everything we see is his dying hallucination, including the end when he and his wife, returned to him but sitting in the back seat like he’s her chauffeur, drive off into the sunset. It’s the sort of idle daydream of enormous power (what if I was the best secret agent ever?) that we’ve all had at one time or another.

Okay, it’s probably not that, but there’s stuff in this movie which doesn’t make sense in a new way. What it definitely indicates is that Neil Breen is a filmmaker worth watching. The best movies right at the bottom of the pile are almost always singular visions, and this is 100% from the fevered subconscious of one man.

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I could honestly write about this film all day. It’s among the least entertaining movies ever made, with understanding a great deal further away at the end than it is at the beginning. But, the truly wretched are always interesting in ways that cookie-cutter Hollywood products just aren’t, so if you want to see a real genuine un-movie, then this could be for you.

Rating: thumbs up