Our Next Savior: Neil Breen
“Hopelessness is a really toxic and dangerous state.”
~ Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.
As a journalist, I have to follow the news thoroughly and it gets heavy sometimes. Right now is an especially weighing time. The Democratic Primaries are in full swing with a bizarre Super Tuesday having just passed, meanwhile men, women and children are being slaughtered in Idlib while the city is under siege. Roger Stone got a pretty soft conviction despite being a nastier virus on society than the one that’s currently halting production in China and cruise ships in South Korea … but I digress.
It’s times like these where we need a guiding figure; a beacon of hope to lead us each down the dark and winding road that ends in freedom and prosperity. We all have our own list of icons to cherish and appreciate when times get disheartening. Playful cynicism is what sparks joy within me, so to satiate that hunger I watch a lot of laughably-bad movies … and boy, is Neil Breen’s film reel finger lickin’.
I find the inventive and profound mind of the Las Vegas-based architect and part-time director, Neil Breen, to be God’s most fascinating creation to date. No amount of big words that I find from thesaurus.com can capture the sheer energy of his films … I truly do not believe a collection of more entertaining and cinematic experiences exists in this plane of reality. Nor does Mr. Breen apparently, who seems to have a bigger ego than a budget for IBM laptops from 2004. Because there is not one film in his collection that does not feature the aforementioned being abused by a character with a resume that would put Captain America’s to shame.
He is, without a doubt, the most iconic, endearing and inspiring figure in the genre of “so bad that it’s good” filmmaking working today; truly a figure to be cherished and set apart from those who preceded his genius.
Mr. Breen’s career began in 2005 with his first and least-coherent film “Double Down”; a completely nonsensical hodgepodge of stock footage, self-aggrandizing voiceover and twelve different takes of the same seven scenes, all of which is chopped-up into a total runtime of 104 painfully awesome minutes. It is … transcendent … Aaron Brand’s naivish fever dream set in Death Valley proves that a great film need not a plot or sense of narrative thread so long as you can see the main character subtly hang dong. I can’t even begin to describe what this movie is about because doing so is a fruitless endeavor … all I know is that it has something to do with hacking the government, poisoning Vegas with cyanide and curing cancer patients with a magical pebble. The film is almost like an inside joke that in order to understand you have to just watch it all from start to finish.
A few years passed while Mr. Breen reveled in the smash-hit that “Double Down” was, then shocked a small corner of the world with his next film in 2009 titled “I Am Here … Now”. This spiritual successor was even more narcissistic for Mr. Breen, who by this point in his career went full blown Man-Bear-Pig and wrote himself into the script as an omnipotent alien-cyborg-Jesus. This time around, his toolbelt includes time manipulation, teleportation, the ability to cure paralysis and reversing the effects of aging. But, once again our hero lacks any sort of relatable story. Admittedly, it is a more competently-made film, but that’s only comparing it to the standards he set with “Double Down”.
But, “I Am Here … Now” did two things for Mr. Breen’s career that were critical to his uniqueness. First, he cleared a hurdle that so many notoriously-inept filmmakers fail to by releasing a second feature film. Secondly, the film solidified his aesthetic in the most gloriously-hamfisted way by reusing a lot of objects and themes from “Double Down”, all of which attempted to offer what could only be generously called “symbolism”. And these so-called metaphors didn’t stop with “I Am Here … Now”, they became a discernible hallmark in every single one of his subsequent films.
There’s the obvious ones, like hacking, skeletons and old laptops, but as you look deeper so many more show themselves; post-production fade effects, ripped clothes, bra-less women, corrupt business executives and tons of footage of Mr. Breen talking to himself. It was from here that Mr. Breen more-or-less iconized himself while simultaneously trade marking his signature style through the most unique of fashions. But, above all, “I Am Here … Now” officially kicked off Mr. Breen’s magnificent career.
Sadly, Mr. Breen has since 86’d “Double Down” and “I Am Here … Now” from the market. But don’t let that deter you from scouring the internet for a “free” copy of it … I’ll be the one to tell you that I know for a fact they exist.
But Mr. Breen is not to be seen as cowardly, because he persisted steadfast against the thousands of laughing faces. As the old saying goes, “the third time’s the charm” and Mr. Breen’s magnum-opus proved that idiom true. Easily my favorite film of them all, 2012’s “Fateful Findings” is the biggest sign that God still walks among us every day. If you want to get into Mr. Breen’s collection of films, this is where you start … you wouldn’t dare invest your attention into three seasons of “Twin Peaks” without first watching “Eraserhead”, and Mr. Breen deserves no exception.
“Fateful Findings” features Mr. Breen in his first performance as a character that is just your average-Joe, although, it is his second performance as a character who is bestowed with a magical pebble. The plot is tangential and confusing, but at the very least the film can brag that it has one. It’s a twisted tale of love, murder, and lies, but another proof of Mr. Breen’s signature form. It’s got all the goods: abysmal editing, porno-quality dialogue and best of all, Neil Breen repeatedly explaining to the audience that he is currently “hacking government systems.” I’m not sure if Mr. Breen simply captured lighting in a bottle with “Fateful Findings”, but for whatever it’s worth, I like to think this was his love letter to not only cinema as a whole, but his growing fanbase as well.
But, in order for a filmmaker to mind the gap from icon to legend, he or she must prove themself by displaying continuous improvement, and Mr. Breen showed no shortcomings in the four years between “Fateful Findings” and his next film in 2016 titled “Pass-Thru”. Although it was a step back from his 2012 masterpiece in terms of narrative structure, it was also a great leap forward that more or less served as a taste of what was to come. There isn’t much to say about “Pass-Thru” that hasn’t been said about “I Am Here … Now”, because I think Mr. Breen’s saw the light and was forced to agree that his second film was by far his weakest. Unfortunately, his idea of redemption was not to move on, but rather attempt to create a carbon press of his second feature film with the added bonus of marginally-improved Adobe After Effects prowess.
“Pass-Thru” features many of the same themes and ideas presented in “I Am Here … Now”; the choice between good and evil, drug abuse and of course, an omnipotent and ethereal main character from outer space played by Mr. Breen. The protagonist’s moveset in “Pass-Thru” is more beyond comprehension than his motivation; it never is quite clear why or how Mr. Breen’s character is able to make the world’s villains disappear with a borderline Thanos-copyright infringing snap, but he can do it and the audience just has to accept that.
But the arrogance of consistently expecting the audience to not question anything and just roll with the script’s punches is exactly what makes Mr. Breen such a legend to me. Tommy Wiseau was a one-hit-wonder, James Nguyen jumped the shark with “Birdemic 2” and “Gigli” is just awful … but Neil Breen is unstoppable.
“Pass-Thru” isn’t even his latest film; he released “Twisted Pair” in 2018, which was his first film to get a limited release! I haven’t seen it yet, but judging from all the buzz, it won’t fail to deliver on being mind-numbingly hilarious. Mr. Breen plays a set of twin brothers in this one, and his performance must have put Jake Gyllenhal’s in “Enemy” to shame because he’s already announced a sequel. I can’t wait to see what’s in store here and with the current state of this world, right now seems like the perfect time to dive back into the Breen Wormhole.
It frustrates me to the bitter core that I cannot fully describe in words just how untouchable I think this box set is. But that’s the beauty of figures like Neil Breen; they can’t be described in any sort of flattering way even though you love them. It’s been said that nobody ever truly wants to meet their heroes, but I don’t think that applies to Mr. Breen because he has already revealed himself under the most brave and unprecedented of spotlights.
I could take cheap shots at Mr. Breen all day if I wanted … like how we probably would never even have these films if Mr. Breen spent half as much time on his eHarmony bio as he did fleshing out grandiose protagonists for himself to portray. But the fact of the matter is this: Mr. Breen has stayed consistent for his entire career and that shows awareness. What makes him such a character is not that he hasn’t improved in his filmmaking capabilities, it’s because he rejects the very notion of needing to improve. Mr. Breen is the best example we have that hope will always prevail in the American Dream; one man has managed to amass a sizeable and clandestine fanbase for his work as a director, actor, writer, producer, editor and craft services caterer despite only ever having made films purely for his own enjoyment.
So, if ever you’re feeling down from either the woes of the world or your own scope of it, maybe think about swinging over to Mr. Breen’s website. See if generosity and foolhardiness doesn’t lift that glum mood, provided you have enough activation energy to get over the stunning pricetag of $27.95 plus shipping. Frankly, even though I personally believe these movies should be a free public service, I also think these movies are worth every penny. And Mr. Breen knows this too, because much like he writes himself into his movies, he truly is a gift to this world and the genre of “so bad that it’s good” movies … and we need to protect that at all costs.
The Democratic Primaries may be in shambles and Coronavirus may become a real problem, but Neil Breen is here to stay through it all. If you don’t believe me, take it from the man himself: “Everyone has the right to love and peace … I’ll be right here.”