I don't think my housemate really intended for me to actually watch the films of Neil Breen when she introduced us as a household to him.
Via the medium of this video on Your Movie Sucks - a highly entertaining youtube channel that also introduced me to the monstrosity that is Cool Cat Saves The Kids - she brought us into a world of awful films, all created by and starring the same guy.
I endeavoured to watch them all, and let me share with you the insights that were visited on my brain, like the dreams of a man gripped by a horrible fever.
Four movies. Double Down (2005), I Am Here....Now (2009), Fateful Findings (2013) and Pass Thru (2016). All of them have similarities in thematic, all of them carry a similar overarching message that has little to do with the plot.
A thing that is worth mentioning: all four of these films were very much driven by Neil Breen. In the credits to the most recent two, he playfully lists false companies as providing things such as catering, lighting, sound design etc, then at the end of the credits, states that any company with an N or a B in their name was actually him doing it his damn self. He obviously puts in work on these films - we're not talking the Tim Burton "put my name on it and I'll give you ten million" routine. He's involved at all levels, for better or worse.
That is where the credit that is due runs out.
The four films can be roughly divided into two categories, and those categories are based on the character that Breen plays in them. Double Down and Fateful Findings both feature the personality that we will call Hackerman, and - you guessed it - the other two feature his other personality, Cyberjesus.
Hackerman is slightly different in Double Down and Fateful Findings. In Double Down he is some kind of super-elite special agent who is also a fighter pilot who has won "many medals". Here's a picture of the medals on his weird denim waistcoat:
Whereas in Fateful Findings, he is apparently an author, whose capability as a hacker who has "hacked into more information than ANYONE" comes from some kind of mystery source.
Either way - both of them are privy to a significant amount of secrets, involving corporate and political corruption, the mere knowledge of which is enough to make him a target. Both of them are possessed of a drive, an urge to fix things or make things right, which they manage to do, somehow.
Cyberjesus isn't from here. He has come to see what "The Humans" are up to - and he isn't impressed. In I Am Here....Now, he is first depicted covered in broken bits of computer, then as a caveman zombie, then as just Neil Breen who steals a junkie's clothes - come back to Earth to check up on the mankind that he created. In Pass Thru he is an AI that is projecting back through space and time to look at the human race like a kid in a zoo - who has some very interesting ideas as to how to make the human race not be shitty to each other.
We begin with the writing. As we so often do.
A commonality between Neil Breen and Tommy Wiseau is that they don't seem to...really know how people talk or act. Which is interesting. I don't know if the Breen Machine has the same life experience as Tommy but evidence indicates that neither of them have spent a lot of time hanging out...around people. They just don't know how humans interact.
Now, being someone that writes scifi and endeavours to be somewhat inclusive in his writing, I am aware of the fallacy of the notion of only writing what you know. In this case, Breen doesn't write what he knows. Apparently he doesn't know anything about what he writes. Nothing at all.
His characters monologue a lot. The sentences they utter are often totally unconnected to the last thing that was said by another character that they are supposedly in conversation with. Their motivations are either a total mystery or so basic that they could be in a children's picture book as supporting cast. There also seems to be a total disconnect between what the character is saying and what they are meant to be feeling.
One unexpected benefit of this whole thing, though, is that his characters can be used to flagrantly tell you what the plot is, and what is happening now. Which is good, because the plot otherwise would be thoroughly impenetrable. I am still not sure strictly what happened in Double Down.
Another commonality: in the first three movies, there is a mystical rock. Usually a cheap doodad that Breen has seen in a store somewhere and thought would make a neat plot maguffin.
In Double Down it's a bit of cheap pyrite, which the main character believes has helped him cure a girl's brain cancer. (We don't know how he knows the girl's family, why he is eating dinner with them, or anything else.) It doesn't work, something we find out in a half-assed one-sided phone conversation later on in the film, and he seems surprised.
In I Am Here....Now, it's a glass paperweight. You know, the round ones with the flat bottom and the bubbles in it. Maybe it was what brought him to earth - it is only seen in the Nevada desert where he "landed", along with his collection of doll's heads. Yes, you read that right. His collection of doll's heads.
In Fateful Findings, it's a smooth black glass-type thing. As a kid, he took it out of a magical mushroom on a magical day. It gives him the ability to walk through things like a ghost, which adds to his already uncanny powers of being Hackerman and also being the writer.
You see, Neil Breen is the writer, and the star. This means that, naturally, he is the subject of significant and positive female attention. I feel bad for any woman that appears in these films. Fifty fifty chance that you will end up in the scrawny chicken-wing arms of Neil Breen, because you are his love interest, or his prostitute friend, or just a nice girl, or the woman he's going to have an affair with, or the victim of a human trafficking ring, or...
Here, we start to see a pattern.
The plots of each of these movies loosely involve the world being a terrible place, and that being the fault of corrupt politicians, businessmen, lawyers and media. You know. Standard fuzzy badness. It's not a unique point of view, or even a rare one. How Breen deals with this fact varies from movie to movie, and appears to involve some things happening to inconsequential people before Breen saves the day through some vague sequence of events.
It's always the same people who need to be schooled, even if the methods change. 2D villains who are clearly street-level gang thugs, and rich people in suits. Credit where it is due, though - these individuals are almost always a spread of race and gender, rather than all of the rich people being white men. Again though, this is where the due credit runs out.
Double Down invokes a terrorist attack masterfully put together (somehow) by the Hackerman with a satellite dish connected to the back of his car and some old broken laptops. This leads to several (near literal) talking heads talking about what happened, talking about how it could have been terrible, and talking about how now they have to change everything.
I Am Here....Now takes a more direct and anti-capitalist bent, painting a street gang with assault weapons hanging out with a group of senators and lawyers like they're all buddies. Cyberjesus fixes capitalism and corrupt government by punishing people directly. When someone is an asshole he makes them go blind and bleed out of their eyes. He crucifies half a dozen people at the end of the movie. Which, according to his own narration, makes mankind better and solves a lot of problems.
Fateful Findings - after navigating its way around personal tragedy, ghost magic and Breen being an adulterous asshole - leads to a memory stick full of the most incriminating evidence ever being THREATENED to be released to the world. This immediately causes half a dozen of the most corrupt and bad people to commit suicide. (There's seven suicides in this movie, including Breen's own wife, while he is off cavorting in the woods with his childhood friend.) This, also, fixes mankind as all the corrupt people have been defeated.
It's Pass Thru that takes a distinct turn to the psychopathic, wherein the friendly visiting future-AI just....kills three hundred million people. All of those people that the AI has determined are harmful. Which is apparently literally everyone with an amount of wealth or power or influence, and also every criminal. Aside from a notable exception, who then shoots two innocents, but we'll let that slip.
Pass Thru is the movie that probably frames Neil Breen's thinking on this in the most direct way. He literally takes over a news network so he can shout his opinions at people. That the human race can be fixed as long as we are honest with each other. That anyone who disagrees needs to be deleted. That there is definitely a cure for cancer that hasn't been circulated. That he has now taken away all the harmful people and so the human race is ready to be saved.
But then, after making all of the human smugglers vanish, he then turns around and shouts at the refugees from various other countries and shouts that they need to "go home and fix their problems" rather than come to (presumably) America. He leaves the ex-husband of the attractive female lead alive, perhaps accidentally - the husband shoots the lead and her niece, tries to shoot Breen and fails and is then forced to shoot himself, just so Breen can bring the lead and her niece back from the dead. They're surprisingly chill with him, despite the fact that he has committed literally the worst mass murder in history. Three HUNDRED MILLION people.
So we're getting into more of this man's head. We're seeing more of the world he creates for himself when he has the ability to do so.
In the two Hackerman movies, he has a childhood friend who was apparently the same age as him, who he loved very much and loved him back. In both movies, the women they grow into are clearly so much younger than him that I can't help but wonder if he has some kind of early-onset aging condition. Maybe that's a tradeoff in being a hacker, he literally traded away his entire twenties and thirties.
He also fixes a bunch of social problems, sometimes just by existing, by standing near people, or by waving his hands. He cures a guy of cancer and being wheelchair-bound - and also apparently of being old, as he is replaced by an actor perhaps a third of his age - in I Am Here....Now.
He has friends, and people who like and respect him. How he knows them isn't ever explored. The dynamic of their relationships - not really a thing that is explored either, or that makes any sense. It's like they are just his friends, now, and they have to deal with that.
And here we get to the nugget of it.
Breen's movies are when he gets to be the him that he wants to be. He gets to act out all his fantasies - of being liked, and loved, and desired, of being a talented and valued man who is also mysterious and respected and feared. Of bringing down an establishment that scares him as much as it confuses him, of ending corruption however complex or nonsensical.
People like him, girls want him, and he gets to save the world.
That is who Neil Breen wants to be, and so whenever he makes a movie - that is who he is.
In a way I sympathise with him. I want to be able to fix the world. I don't want it to be scary and confusing and complicated and many different shades of evil. I want it to be clean-cut and simple, and to always know who the good guy is and who the bad guy is.
Would be nice, wouldn't it?
The best may be yet to come though, because according to IMDB... there will be a new Neil Breen movie this year.