Welcome to Schlock Art — where truly tasteless, gleefully grotesque and insanely inventive works of genre cinema are celebrated with unironic fervor. Every other week, we highlight a title available for streaming you may have overlooked. This week, things take a turn for the surreal as we gaze in awe upon Neil Breen’s profoundly incompetent opus Fateful Findings.
Streaming now on Amazon Prime.
The aim of Schlock Art is shedding light on underseen genre films that I believe contain some type of artistic merit or singular vision that never managed to capture the public’s attention.
Plenty might argue today’s specimen falls short in artistic merit.
A fair argument, but one toward which I’m ultimately ambivalent. No, dear friends, what Fateful Findings has to offer is capital-v Vision, something I say without any irony. Yes, the movie warrants placement alongside other premier works of tasteless cinema such as Plan 9 from Outer Space or The Room; nevertheless, Fateful Findings outshines them both with stupefying ambition and pure WTF-ness. It’s the bad-movie equivalent of a rare diamond: uniquely carved with endless entry points for examination.
Fateful Findings is, most prominently, the product of an ego run dangerously rampant. Sure, that could describe many famed disasterpieces, but those are technical marvels compared to the craftsmanship on display here. Despite that, I’d be hard-pressed to find an example with this much aspiration. Few films, schlock or not, possess the caliber of ambition writer / director Neil Breen brings to his third effort.
This is a movie that strives to be many things: a scathing indictment of political and corporate greed, a love story steeped in magical realism, a tense cyber-thriller and an incisive relationship drama, to name a few. Mainly though, it’s about the anguished, messianic hero in the midst of it all. A man who is, of course, played by Breen himself.
Opening with a childhood flashback, Fateful Findings shows Dylan’s tragic separation from his childhood crush after they find a magical stone in a forest (stay with me here). We then meet our protagonist in the present day as a brilliant-but-struggling writer. Soon, in a confusingly edited sequence, he’s struck by a car in a hit-and-run. Not to worry, however, because the magical stone bestowed him with extraordinary abilities. These powers allow him to heal at a superhuman rate, much to his wife’s astonishment. That all takes place within the first 15 minutes.
It would be a fool’s errand to attempt to describe this baffling and overstuffed narrative with any accuracy, so I won’t. What starts as a bizarre melodrama morphs into a sort of superhero origin story crossed with a Christ parable. The plot of Fateful Findings’ is never less than cripplingly ambitious. Still, it would be meaningless drivel if not for Breen, whose total conviction and utter lack of talent make it coalesce into something special.
Breen seems to suffer from what experts might label a messiah complex. This becomes increasingly evident while witnessing Dylan’s character arc, which he begins as a misunderstood genius and ends as society’s unquestionable savior. He is, truth be told, the world’s smartest man. That trait is cemented with a stirring bit of dialogue, in which he informs his wife of a secret powerful enough to upturn the foundations of American society: “I’ve hacked into the most secret government and corporate secrets.” You’d be forgiven for thinking the screenplay would elaborate on these most-secret secrets, for that’s all the information given about one of the plot’s crucial moments.
Of course, you can’t be a savior to the people without good ol’ fashioned sex appeal, and boy, oh boy, does Breen believe he’s oozing with it. Virtually every female character falls into two distinct categories: those who want to seduce the ever-righteous Dylan and those who are suicidally in love with him. It’s a lesson in empathy to see the discomfiture on actresses’ faces during several stiff and graceless love scenes, a meta touch that amplifies the deeply surreal atmosphere.
So many inexplicable moments can be found in a given scene, and it’s best to let the more subtle and memorable details come as a surprise to newcomers. Like other prime entries in this niche subgenre, Fateful Findings is a unique failure that could only stem from a severe and peculiar brand of narcissism.
If your tastes align with mine, then discovering the warped perspective of Breen’s masterpiece will carry a joy akin to the beginning of a promising new relationship: you had no idea what you were missing until you found it.