Who is Neil Breen?
There is a tradition held regularly at Black Lodge, the video store here in Memphis, known as Sh**Fest. After the shop closes the owner hosts, a screening of some of the worst films he has in his 30,000 title collection. Now that things are returning to normal after the Global Bastard shutdown fun for over a year, Black Lodge once again welcomed people to the return Sh**Fest. It was on this night I finally got to be experience something which before I had only known by reputation, the cinematic work of writer/director/producer/actor/hack Neil Breen. That night we watched not one but TWO of the travesties which has earned him a cult following among lovers of bad films and I can now safely say that his reputation is one that is more than deserved. For those not in the know, Breen is a Las Vegas area real estate developer who happened to make a lot of money in this and used that money to make his own movies. Normally I would applaud someone utilizing their own resources to be the boss of their own art……but this guy.
The movies made by Neil Breen are beyond a level of bad that the laypeople are familiar with. He makes Tommy Wiseau and Ed Wood look like Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg. Often when an independent filmmaker makes a bad movie, it can be chalked up to lack resources, talent or experience. Breen’s work does not only display all of these deficiencies but his moviemaking can truly be best described as lazy incompetence. I have never sat in a director’s chair but I can recognize the most basic elements of putting a scene together. If someone is typing on a computer, you gotta make sure the computer is turned on. If someone is drinking out of a cup, make sure there is liquid in said cup and that it is not blatantly empty. If someone is saying a bunch of lines, make sure their mouth is actually moving onscreen. In is movie Fatal Findings, we are treated to a hospital scene where two doctors carry on an entire conversation without moving their lips. I do not mean the ADR did not line-up, I mean like, their mouths were tightly closed.
There are many filmmakers who once they have made a terrible movie roll with the punches. Since the release of The Room, Tommy Wiseau has been proclaiming that he intended for it to be a comedy all along (it wasn’t). Y.K. Kim who made the ridiculously fun cult action film Miami Connection is beyond thrilled that his movie has been resurrected from obscurity and found a new audience. They have learned to laugh with the audience who finds joy in their work, even if it is not the joy they may have intended. Neil Breen does not fall into this category, despite the amateurish at best quality of his flicks, his tremendous ego refuses to let them be seen as anything less that culture shaking art. As such, he always casts himself as a messianic protagonist who leads humanity to some great revelation and in the process rids the world of the corrupt politicians and businesspeople (who all blatantly say they are evil just to make it clear for the audience). In Fateful Findings he plays a writer…or hacker maybe? … who out of the blue hacks into a system which reveals all the corruptions and wrongdoings of those in power, with the help of a ghost….or magic rock he found in a mushroom….l’m not sure. What follows is a parade of government officials, CEO’s etc. taking the stage one at a time in front a green screened Supreme Court to confess and off themselves shortly thereafter in an unintentionally hilarious macabre scene. In his mind, this makes the entire world a better place because of his work. He takes it so far in his 2009 film I am Here….Now (yes that is legitimately the title of the movie with the “….” and all) that he plays an alien (or maybe a monster…or robot) who believes he is a Christ-like figure. Of course, in all of these roles he makes sure his leading man always gets creepy love scenes with women half his age who always look visibly uncomfortable around him.
Sometimes a director behind a bad movie can at least blame a poor script, but in this cases he writes the nonsensical screenplays to his movies as well. During said Sh**Fest I attended of his movies halfway through Fateful Findings, a person in the back yelled out “Has anyone actually figured out what this movie is about?” which summed it up perfectly. He plays a writer who becomes a hacker, who finds a magic mushroom with a magic rock as a kid and is guided by a ghost I think. He has marital problems with a pill addict wife, and is a soulmate to a childhood friend who has a magic bracelet. He also might be immortal and can talk to aliens….maybe? In one scene, he can phase through solid matter and is occasionally stalked by a character we can only see the feet of who can vanish into thin air. There is a large magical book which may be connected to his therapist who is probably a spirit……So there’s that. It’s like someone took 17 storylines, threw them in a blender and what came out was filmed.
If, like me you are a fan of “so bad, it’s good cinema” I wholeheartedly recommend you check out the works of Mr. Neil Breen, which apparently is not easy. According to one of the business partners at Black Lodge, you can not simply contact a distributor, if you want a Neil Breen film you have to reach out to the man yourself and that is where it gets interesting….even moreso than it already is. From what they told me if Breen had a new movie you were getting that new movie, if not he was sending you whatever movie he felt like. Those hoping for a pristine print of the film, which came from the filmmaker himself, will no doubt b surprised when what shows up is a simple DVD rip on a standard rewritable disc he probably picked up at Target.
There have been many who have theorized that Neil Breen is intentionally churning out these flicks as some kind of Andy Kaufman-esque avant-garde comedy project. In all honesty there may be truth to this as Breen is just bad at making movies at a level that needs to be seen to be believed. Or perhaps his monstrous ego has blinded him to the poor quality of his work and prevents him from attempting to improve on his craft. Either way Neil Breen has developed a cult following via his terrible films and he is doing what he wants on his own terms.