Pass Thru – 0 out of 5
A couple of years ago I was guided towards a very unique filmmaker by the name of Neil Breen. Breen is a man with absolutely no education in film production or writing whatsoever. He’s an architect and a real estate agent who used his wealth to fund some passion projects—but since the films are really just monuments to his own ego, they are realistically vanity projects. Now because of Breen’s lack of film education, his films are messy and horrendously made. Their quality and writing are so bad that they are sometimes infuriating to watch and possibly even a health risk because they might cause an aneurysm in some viewers (maybe not but it wouldn't surprise me if they did). However, they have received cult status because of this and, it is in this utter incompetence, that accidental comedy is achieved. It was recently announced that he is producing a new film and it reminded me that I missed his fourth film; Pass Thru, that came out in 2016. It is truly a magical piece of shit but, what’s absolutely astounding about it, is that this is his fourth film and he still hasn’t learned how to tell a story yet.
|Ah, yes, Breen's abandoned piano. It's like Chekhov's gun only it's just a scene|
that makes no goddamn sense because this is a Neil Breen film.
Neil Breen movies are really hard to sum up because the writing is just awful but here’s my best and what I was able to decipher from this mess. A junkie/homeless man living in the desert (Breen) has his body taken over (?) by a being from the future/distant planet (or maybe a person from a distant planet in the future). He’s come to see the world as a vile, disgusting place where corporations (Breen’s favorite buzz word he uses to describe society’s evils), governments, and banks are being immoral and unethical. He’s decided that there will be a cleansing and he will kill three hundred million people and then the world can get its act together. He does this by wandering around in the desert, disappearing into rocks, and having disjointed conversations with a woman who is either a drug smuggler, a drug addict or an immigrant from an unnamed country (this distinction is never made clear). Also, there’s a B-story about some teenage astronomers that never really connects to the main story beyond them constantly saying, “We found you,” to Neil Breen’s alien/future guy character—who is also named Thgil, by the way (pronounced “Till” because the English language works that way now).
|Totally immigrants and not college students Breen got to work for him in exchange|
for a sandwich or something.
|Yeah...that's not how drugs work, Breen.|
Neil Breen movies are hard to review for me. It would be easy to just say, “This is trash” and move on but I don’t feel that really explores the experience I have watching films and the word “trash” as a descriptive of an item is overused and used way too broadly. The thing is Breen is a completely incompetent filmmaker. I admire his drive to make these films but he shows no progress for wanting to learn the art. Pass Thru suffers all the same downfalls as his first film Double Down and these all stem from his lack of understanding of both writing and the technical process of creating feature films. As showcased in my synopsis, Breen has a major issue with his scripts. He doesn’t understand how to introduce characters and he has no clue on how to develop them or the story. For example, there isn’t a single character (beyond his own) that is introduced by name or even referred to by any sort of title. As a viewer, you are left to figure out who these people are. Sometimes Breen throws you a bone by delivering lazy narration to inform his audience what exactly is happening or a character has unnatural dialogue that literally tells you what is going on but the rest of the time you are left to conclude details all by yourself. Breen’s inability to write is further highlighted when it comes to developing the story. Characters jump wildly from moment to moment, scene to scene and it’s hard to tell if what you are watching has any connection to what came before. Too often things feel like you are placed in the middle of a scene where you missed the first minute or two and are left to catch up. Entire sequences play out with no structure, pacing or narrative development. The passage of time simply doesn’t exist in a Neil Breen film so you are left wondering if the events you are seeing are taking place over a single day or hour. To put it bluntly, Breen’s writing feels like the ramblings of a madman that is a never-ending stream of consciousness that chaotically erupt into existence and disappear immediately as different streams come crossing the previous one’s path. There’s no structure and no flow so you are left wondering if what you are watching actually makes sense to the man who made it.
|"This has been Breen News. All Breen, All the Time."|
Breen’s next big issue that he seems adamant on never improving on is literally every single technical aspect of filmmaking. Editing is probably one of his biggest issues and hinders any possible flow his incomprehensible stories could potentially have but he also has the added problem of inadequate lighting, poor shot composition, weak audio and use of green screen that borders on an almost satirical usage. Breen is notorious for re-using footage over and over again (sometimes dozens of times) and sequences of meandering establishment shots that feel superfluous at best and like he is just trying to pad out his movie to a feature length at worst. Pass Thru showcases all of these Breen tropes to the point that you could literally edit out about 45 minutes of footage and still have the same film and still have it make the same amount of sense.
|If you like tons of drone footage of rock formations in the desert then this|
is the movie for you!
As badly as I am dragging Breen through the ringer here, there is a magic to his products. Bad movies have their own majesty to them. Sometimes, they are so bad that they are just hard to sit through but sometimes they are so bad that they are an utter joy to experience. Breen’s work is exactly the latter. Pass Thru (and all his other work) is so poorly constructed, so terribly acted and so horribly written that they are fun to watch. The crummy camera work, the inane dialogue, the horrendous acting are easily to riff on and laugh at. Most of the time you don’t even have to tease the film and can just laugh at what is presented—for example, the truck that is clearly not moving but the driver is pretending it is or the character who is supposedly the niece of another character but they literally look the same age or trying to figure out what country the college kids who are supposed to be immigrants are fleeing from and sneaking into (and that’s just for starters because Breen’s films offers up a lot of nonsensical moments and bad filmmaking sequences to laugh at). Hell, you can make a drinking game of all the reused footage or the times Breen tries to act like he’s making social commentary but really isn’t saying anything (like just saying the word “corporations” doesn’t mean you are actually saying anything of substance). The only real take away Pass Thru (and all of Breen’s works) offer is they are fun to laugh at and become more so when viewed with friends. I’m just shocked that RiffTrax hasn’t done one of his films yet.
|Wow, what a seamless effect. It really looks like they are in a man--|
I can't finish this sentence. They guy has ties to real estate. He couldn't
find a mansion to film in? What exactly did he do with the money that
help crowd fund this project?
|Breen clearly is in love with himself. His next movie will|
probably be a romantic comedy that involves him
cloning himself and...well...you can imagine
There’s no getting around how bad Neil Breen’s Pass Thru is. The story is barely a concept, there’s no development of characters or situations. The conflict is barely introduced and never thoughtfully explored. The technical aspects are well below what an amateur would create and the performances lack subtlety and nuance. However, it is in all this incompetence that makes Pass Thru a movie to behold and find an odd entertainment value in. I would warn against watching it alone (because I’ve done that before with his other films and the effort can be exhausting and make you question your sanity) but when viewed with others in a group, his movies can be a joyful and hilarious experience. I will rag on him for how awfully produced his films are and how he seemingly can’t (or won’t) learn how to improve as a filmmaker but the magic that occurs from this can’t be beat and I’m sorta glad he is so egotistical that he already thinks he’s at the pinnacle of his abilities (this is the guy, after all, who makes himself the lead and the lead is usually a Christ-like character) because, if he showed a desire to learn, his films might get better and they might lose the accidental comedy quality that they have and then something like Pass Thru would just be a mundane bad movie and not a fun one.