Fateful Findings is a new film directed by the up-and-coming and relatively unknown Neil Breen. It is a political thriller of sorts with paranormal and cosmic undertones including, but not limited to mushrooms that turn into magical crystals, spiritual beings and a car accident that turns someone who already had special abilities into some sort of super genius who now has incredible hacking abilities, is a scientist and well-regarded novelist.
This movie is being touted as a new The Room, a movie so bad that its badness transcends everything that we know about bad movies and becomes sort of brilliant.
Take, for instance, a series of scenes in which the main character, also played by Neil Breen, appears to transport himself into a magical crystal, and the set inside of the crystal is clearly just a basement lined with trash bags to give the illusion of a shiny, black stone. Or the awkward sex scenes, or the insistence that he definitely show off his ass for some required auteur-related nudity.
I’m a lover of bad movies. I think that bad movies can be equally entertaining as a great movie. The only difference is that what is so enjoyable about a bad movie is unplanned and completely unintentional. They work as the best kind of comedy, being totally devoid of self-awareness. A certain amount of schadenfreude is involved when you get so much pleasure out of these movies, because you’re always aware that the director and his cast and crew set out to make something legitimately great and entertaining, but failed miserably along the way. We laugh at the movie screen not because of some wonderfully witty banter, but because each reaction shot seems to be filmed on a different day with a different lighting set-up and no consideration for the audio matching the rest of the scene.
Years ago, I caught a screening of Birdemic with director James Nguyen in attendance and the audience howled with laughter the whole time. I got up to use the bathroom and saw Mr. Nguyen get up behind me and follow, also having to use the restroom. Inside the same theater was a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and there was a line out the door. Mr. Nguyen said something along the lines of, “Huh, and I thought Vertigo was a great movie, but no one’s here to see that. They’re just here to see some old, bad movie that’s 20 years old.” He looked hurt that great cinema didn’t seem to have the lasting appeal as great movies do, not in terms of mass numbers of audience participation, anyway.
Inside the bathroom, a cross-dressing Rocky Horror fan using the urinal with his dressed hiked up over his crotch corrected him, “It’s actually 35 years old.”
“35 years old…” Mr. Nguyen said to himself.
“And it’s a terrible movie!” The cross-dressing Rocky Horror fan helpfully pitched in and added.
“It’s a terrible goddamn fucking movie…” Mr. Nguyen hissed.
During that moment, I felt terrible for having laughed so uproariously at Mr. Nguyen’s film. He answered his Q&A honestly and openly and admitted that he did not make the movie as a comedy and the laughs were totally unintended. He didn’t seem to enjoy his movie being enjoyed on an ironic level, but he did appreciate the fact that so many had made it out in mass numbers to actually witness the trainwreck.
As I re-watched Birdemic for the fourth time or so, seeing it in the theater twice, I reasoned that, sure, maybe Mr. Nguyen did not intend for his movie to be taken as a comedy, as Tommy Wiseau never intended The Room to be anything other than a great, personal drama, and the sting of such a failure must really hurt… but the amount of pleasure these movies have given to so many sold-out audiences is even better than what must have resulted if they had been successful. If Birdemic had been faithful to the director’s vision, it would have been a low-budget, B-grade disaster movie. The Room would have been a nothing-special indie flick about heartbreak. But, now? Now they’re phenomenally funny, endlessly quotable movies that make me smile and laugh when I remember them.
I have an autographed coat hanger from James Nguyen and have met most of the principal cast of The Room, including Mr. Wiseau himself. I love bad movies. I love them.
If you, too, are a lover of bad movies and cinematic failures, Fateful Findings will be perfect for you. It was a sincere effort to say something meaningful, obscured through bad writing, terrible performances and direction that never really found any sort of groove. The opening shot of the movie is pretty damn masterful and builds tension and you’re thinking that you might be watching a movie from a skilled craftsman, but immediately after that, the movie looks like an after school special from the 1980’s, and then the cinematography only gets worse from there. It’s like the quality declines and then does a reverse plateau somewhere near the bottom and flatlines from there until the movie is over.
Fateful Findings is good, very good, but not great. It won’t rank as highly as The Room, Birdemic or Troll 2 in years to follow. It just doesn’t have the personal auteuristic passion of a romance that had gone sour, obviously inspired by a real breakup. It doesn’t have the spectacular set-pieces involving birds that shit acid and explode when they hit buildings. And no one pisses on hospitality.
“No more books!” is going to be the oft-quoted line from this movie, when our main character chucks a book he wrote at one of his five laptops that he utilizes for hacking “the most secret government and corporate secrets” despite never being on. He mostly just sits at a black screen and clacks away and nods, letting us know his efforts are successful.
Through a series of events including a pretty realistic looking car accident, our main character meets up with his childhood love, now working in the hospital he visits during his recovery. He mentions to her that he knew he was in love with her when they were 8 years old, which means I guess that they’re the same age, even though he’s gotta be at around 60 and she at least half that age. Because this movie was written and directed by the star, every woman in the movie seems to have a huge boner for him, everyone from his drug-addicted girlfriend to his former childhood love to the teenage neighbor… but he’s too honorable for that particular fling.
I’m unable to write a straightforward review for this movie because it doesn’t follow any sort of traditional narrative. I mean, it has a beginning, it has a middle, it has a climax and some sort of resolution at the end there, but the plot itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There is magic and gems and floating vapors of ghosts and mysterious men with strange abilities, leading to a massive exposé on corruption, but how all of those things actually fit together is anyone’s guess. It could be argued that Neil Breen is employing some Lynchian, dreamlike logic to his movies and has created a low-budget surrealist masterpiece—the black gem of this movie is like the blue box from Mulholland Drive. If that’s the way you want to read into it, awesome.
If you have an interest in cult movies, watch Fateful Findings as soon as you can at your local grindhouse or when it inevitably becomes available on home video