By: BabyRuth & Henry J. Fromage –
Henry J. Fromage: This week, just in time for Best of 2016 lists and, dare I say it, the awards circuit, comes a film that it feels like the one a seasoned, nay, legendary director’s career has been building towards all this time, a compendium of the glories of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Tree of Life, but operating on a more personal, and even yet, more universal level.
I speak not of Silence.
I speak of Pass Thru.
BabyRuth: In his fourth theatrical feature-length film, visionary independent filmmaker Neil Breen triumphantly returns to the screen as an alien artificial intelligence from the future sent to Earth to cleanse the human species of all the no good and corrupt people. (Heard this one before?)
I’m going to leave it to Breen himself to further explain what Pass Thru is about (mostly because I’m still trying to figure it out myself).
From the Pass Thru Indigogo page:
PASS THRU is a visionary , revolutionary , emotional and passionate sci-fi drama . It is a feature film that will entertain , provoke , disturb and cause controversy ! A.I. Artificial Intelligence , from the distant future arrives on earth and is alarmed at the state of humanity . A.I. proceeds to identify those who are harmful and remove them . A.I. is confronted with a human condition that challenges it , confronts it and raises it’s own vulnerability . EXCITING !!!!
Henry J. Fromage: Neil Breen is an American treasure. Any movie he makes is guaranteed to be unlike anything else you’ll see this year. I also have to applaud the surprisingly legitimate drone cinematography of rocky Nevada landscape, which is deployed early and often. Finally, when you find yourself nodding along to the points Neil Breen is making, you know that yes, this is the year 2016. Just, you know… I hope you aren’t nodding along at all of it.
BabyRuth: I second all of the above. Also, I must toast Breen for casting himself in the role he was born to play: an alien.
Henry J. Fromage: Even with the clear uptick in production values from past Breen films, they are still amazing in Pass Thru in all the wrong ways. It seems he’s run out of that initial bulk laptop buy, which saddens me greatly, but now he’s got toys like that drone and somebody willing to collaborate on some truly awful, truly beautiful green screen. The more behind-the-camera competence and budget Breen gets, the more head-scratchingly amazing the creative choices.
BabyRuth: I don’t understand what you mean with this “green screen” stuff. I saw elaborate sets and filming locations whose permits must have cost a bundle.
Not to mention, a live TIGER!
Look at how calm Breen is acting alongside the tiger. It doesn’t even faze him in the least! Who knew he was also animal tamer? Is there anything this guy can’t do?
I know you’re thinking, Oh silly Ruth, the tiger isn’t really there. Those are just some fancy CG effects like in The Jungle Book and Birdemic.
No, not true!
The tiger has a name and he is listed in the credits. Therefore, he MUST be real. Viad also has an IMDB page, so there!
Henry J. Fromage: The child acting is truly impressively bad, not that they were given the best lines or anything.
“Hey look, the power’s out on my phone!” “Wow, me too!”
Actually, the whole kids subplot, where they’re working with a bed-ridden astronomer to find aliens or something, is bizarre and really only sets up more Breen-Alien worship for no other reason than to get what I hope are his nephew and nieces some screentime.
BabyRuth: I suspect Breen picked up these kids in the Disney Channel parking lot (you know, kind of like Home Depot day laborers?) after they were rejected from the upcoming That’s So All That, We Can’t Even, Stevens! for not being animated enough and taking too long to shout their lines.
Henry J. Fromage: The, I guess, lead actress seems to be trying to overplay to match the material, like so many of the other extras, but lacks the talent to even do that. Mostly she screams or bugs her eyes out at everything she can. Her and her ‘niece”s subplot, with the surprisingly racially diverse Mexican or something immigrants with impeccable American English, is just as confusing, and that’s even before they get mixed up with Breen-Alien and his hobo trailer.
“YOUR NAME ISN’T THGIL, IT’S LIGHT, SPELLED BACKWARDS!”
In discussion of bad acting, I’d be remiss to not mention the “International Media Center” news anchors, who are the worst of the bunch, somehow. As the only remaining news anchors in the world, I’d have expected them to at least attempt a little speech inflection on occasion.
BabyRuth: As far as the lead actress, I’m thinking Breen directed her to portray a “tough, badass chick” and her way of doing that was by yelling every line of dialogue. (We also know she means business because unlike other leading ladies in the Breenverse, she wears a bra. Ain’t no time for out of control boobs when you are running for your life!)
I’m still a little confused about the niece (“YOUR MOTHER IS MY SISTER!”) as the two women look to be the same exact age.
But my favorite character, BY FAR, was this lady. I call her Drill Sergeant Hoops:
She has an epic showdown with Breen later in the film that is one of my top five movie moments of the year.
“YOU ARE DONE!”
“NO, YOU ARE DONE!”
Henry J. Fromage: All of Neil Breen’s favorite themes are here- environmentalism, drug dealing, racism, lying governments and businesses and media. However, in Pass Thru it leads somewhere… different than where he’s gone before. In it his Alien Jesus character straight up murders “all humans who have been harmful to other humans”, apparently exactly 300 million of them.
“The primitive humans must continue the cleanse in order to survive as a species.”
BabyRuth: Yeah, then he parts all the dead bodies and walks through them a la Moses parting the Red Sea while telling the audience that we must continue this cleanse.
So…he’s telling us to, kill people?
But fortunately, Breen balances out the tricky subject matter with some genuinely heartwarming moments of his A.I./THGIL/(light)(yogurt) interacting with humans and learning their ways. My very favorite is when they find an old piano in the middle of the desert and with THGIL’s magic, are able to…uh, play it, and bond over the universal language of…uh, music.
Henry J. Fromage: The ending goes even more bugfuck directions somehow. Apparently all the weird shadows that have been showing up in broad daylight all movie most people just assumed were a garden variety cave ghost. Never mind the fact nobody actually mentioned them or the cave ghost at any point. Anyway, don’t worry, it ain’t no cave ghost, just a surprisingly chipper veteran who wants to escape from the world. You know, which Breen-Alien fixes.
“You are now free of PTSD.”
BabyRuth: I nearly cried. That line is the new “No More Books.”
Also, during this scene, Breen throws in a bit of an easter egg for his hardcore fans. Did you spot it?
The medal vest from Double Down!
Just when everyone thinks they are in the clear, along comes another character out to kill the two women who happened to know exactly where they were located within the vast desert (maybe it was HIS drone camera all along!) But no worries, he’s dropped just as quickly as the now-cured-of-PTSD chipper veteran.
Henry J. Fromage: Pass Thru feels like Neil Breen’s magnum opus. I actually ordered this (absolutely zero frills) DVD, which of course didn’t arrive until the day after it showed up… somewhere anyone with an internet connection can see it without even breaking the law or anything (I’ll leave it at that). I hope he uses the money to keep on rolling, although I can’t possibly imagine where he’ll go from here. You know, what with the heartfelt pleas for mass murder and all.
BabyRuth: My fingers are crossed for a rom-com.
Pass Thru (2016) Drinking Game
(Tip: Fill up a gallon water container with your favorite alcoholic beverage to really feel like part of the film! And also because this drinking game requires at least a gallon of booze.)
Take a Drink: whenever a new clearly non-professional actor gets a line for the first time
Take a Drink: whenever anybody complains about the government, politicians, or CEOs
Take a Drink: whenever any of the government officials, politicians, or CEOs monologue about how terrible they are
Take a Drink: for drone shots
Take a Drink: for clear (and glorious) green screen
Take a Drink: for shadows
Take a Drink: whenever the filthy mattress is shown
Take a Drink: Also, GARBAGE!
Take a Drink: for the pink dots, or the handprints
Take a Drink: for plastic water bottles
Take a Drink: whenever somebody gets shot
Take a Drink: “corrupt”
Do a Shot: for the tiger (Viad!)
Do a Shot: during the trailer cleaning scene (A.K.A.: the best scene of this entire film)