Sub-Cult

Why Fateful Findings Deserves Cult Status

Sub-Cult is Nathan Rabin’s ongoing exploration of movies that have quietly attracted devoted followings and are on the verge of becoming full-on cult sensations.

by | December 8, 2015 | Comments

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For bad movie lovers, there are few things guaranteed to get pulses racing more than the prospect that some misbegotten cult favorite isn’t just a bad movie for the ages, it’s the next The Room. The Room occupies a weirdly rarified place in the trash cinema realm as, to quote the title of a documentary about Troll 2 (a previous honoree), the “best worst movie.”

The Room is the gold standard for exquisitely, transcendently, historically unself-conscious awfulness, but in recent years its position has been threatened by Neil Breen’s Fateful Findings. The movie has an unmistakable The Room quality, if only because both films are the works of homely middle-aged men the world might otherwise ignore, but who look in the mirror and clearly see a younger, sexier Ryan Gosling with Steve McQueen’s swagger and James Dean’s effortless, timeless cool.

Like The Room‘s Tommy Wiseau, Breen is unwisely obsessed with sharing his unclothed body with the world, but while Wiseau thrust the image of his naked ass grinding into the minds, subconsciouses, and nightmares of his audiences with brutal, nightmarish force, Breen treats his audience to scene after scene where his top is ripped off in a sexual frenzy, revealing a hairless, bird-like chest Breen apparently imagines will send women into fits of erotic ecstasy.

Astonishingly, Breen seems to understand the mechanics and psychology of sex even less than Wiseau does. Wiseau at least seemed to have seen a few Cinemax erotic thrillers and surmised that roses, forgettable R&B music, sexy red dresses, and ass-thrusting are essential to the act of making love. The sex scenes in Fateful Findings feel like they were ghost-written by a 10-year-old boy who has yet to be given the “facts of life” speech and imagines that babies are the product of two adults awkwardly hugging each other standing up, sometimes in a shower with one party rocking a dinner plate-sized bandage on his face, and sometimes in the presence of the many laptops that are Fateful Findings’ primary set dressing.

Leah1

“Imagine a version of The Room that’s 10 times as ambitious and twice as incompetent.”

To get a sense of the film’s delirious lunacy, imagine a version of The Room that’s 10 times as ambitious and twice as incompetent. Wiseau might have sought out to be Marlon Brando and Tennessee Williams in the same disturbing-to-look-at package, but Breen sets out to be Marlon Brando, David Lynch, a Nicolas Sparks romantic hero (and for good matter, Nicolas Sparks), a Spike Lee-style provocateur with a kitchen-sink approach to social commentary, Alan Pakula when he made All The President’s Men, and Douglas Sirk in the 1950s.

Wiseau made a movie about the duplicity of women and the tragic futility of being a nice guy. Breen made a movie about everything, including magic. The film opens with a pair of children — a boy named Dylan and a girl named Leah — on a hike through the woods who discover some rocks that have some manner of magical power, though the exact nature of that power remains ambiguous throughout the film. Many thrillers thrive on an underlying sense of mystery; with Fateful Findings, that mystery often takes the form of, “What the hell is going on?” Having now seen it, I can only offer a feeble and insufficient answer to that question.

Dylan grows up to be a best-selling author played by Breen himself, who looks like someone was molding a replica of David Duchovny’s face and, after getting 10 or 11 crucial things wrong — a turkey-like expanse of wobbly neck fat where his chin should be, a weird, unruly net of hair — just decided to give up and leave the mess unfinished. Breen is not bad looking (if your tastes run towards unattractive middle-aged men), but in the strange world of Fateful Findings, Dylan is sexually irresistible to women of multiple generations, despite his predilection for yelling at them as if he were a hectoring Jewish grandma, not a moody cross between Edward Snowden, M. Night Shyamalin’s character in The Lady In The Water (you know, the one whose next book will benefit all of humanity with its genius), and sexy cyber-Jesus.

The now adult Dylan is perambulating about one uneventful day when a Rolls-Royce barrels down the road and hits him with a cartoonish force and velocity that can only be deemed “hilarious.” It’s never encouraging when the formative trauma in a film engenders the kind of sustained belly laugh that comedy professionals dream of scoring at least once in their life.

Dylan ends up in the hospital and the prognosis is grim. Nobody thinks he has much of a chance of survival, including an attractive blonde woman in scrubs who volunteers, apropos of nothing, that this strange mystery man is not her patient but she’ll check in on him anyway.

This at first appears to be a wonderfully unnecessary, irrelevant detail, like The Room tossing in a character with cancer as an afterthought, but in the world of Fateful Findings, there are no coincidences. It turns out that this comely medical professional is Leah (Jennifer Autry) from the opening scenes, despite the fact that she looks a good 20 years younger than the haggard-looking middle-aged man with whom she once shared a childhood. Apparently those magical stones caused one of the young sweethearts to age and wither at a markedly faster rate than the other.

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“Breen’s conception of politics is as childlike as his conception of sex and romantic relationships.”

Unfortunately for Dylan, he already has a partner in Emily (Klara Landrat), who he slinks out of the hospital to have bloody, bandaged, stand-up shower sex with after making a miraculous, possibly magic stone-powered recovery. Alas, Dylan’s relationship with Emily is not magical in nature, nor have the schmaltzy forces of fate designated her his soulmate, so their coupling is innately doomed, especially after Emily proves herself unworthy of a genius sex bomb like Dylan by getting addicted to the pain pills he heroically refuses to take.

Dylan is supposed to be writing a follow-up to his debut novel, but he’s got more important things to do. It seems he’s got a side gig as the world’s greatest hacker, using the many laptops littered around his office to hack into government and corporate files, and he’s discovered more incriminating information than any hacker in the history of the universe.

What kind of incriminating information? Fateful Findings doesn’t bother wasting its time specifying exactly what Dylan is doing as a whistleblower. He’s blowing the whistle! He’s delivering a lid-blower that’s blowing a lid off all the bad stuff the bad guys are doing, with the money and the lies and the corruption! Dylan’s revelations are so shocking and profound that when he announces them in a press conference (where he is hilariously and unconvincingly green-screened in front of a Washington, D.C. tableau), they compel all of the bad people who are doing the bad things to confess publicly, and then commit suicide in dramatic fashion as penance. The film is, remarkably, a political thriller with no politics. Breen wants to expose the covert machinations of the powerful, but his conception of backroom statecraft is as childlike as his conception of sex and romantic relationships. He comes out against the stealing and the cover-ups and the hypocrisy and the lies and whatnot, but that’s the extent of his political commentary.

Fateful Findings is paced and scored like a massage so sleepy and glacial that it puts even the masseuse to sleep. It has the hypnotic, disorienting quality of a waking dream, in part because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to regard the action as anything vaguely resembling reality. Really, the only way Fateful Findings would make any sense at all would be as the elaborate, narcissistic fantasy of power and sexual virility experienced by a sad baby-man just before he dies after getting slammed by a Rolls-Royce at what appears to be a hundred miles an hour. I haven’t even mentioned Dylan’s beer- and car-loving best friend, whose wife kills him and makes it look like a suicide, or the sexy teenage girl out to seduce Dylan, because honestly, there is far too much craziness in Fateful Findings to chronicle completely in a mere 2000 word essay.

On an episode devoted to the film, one of the commentators on the glorious bad-movie podcast The Flop House noted that what truly great films and truly terrible films have in common is an exhilarating element of unpredictability. You literally never know what’s going to happen next. That’s true of Citizen Kane. It’s also true of Fateful Findings. Because it inhabits so many different genres and understands so little about each one, it’s impossible to predict whether a specific scene in Fateful Findings will be devoted to Breen’s weird sexual issues, his messianic sense of specialness, the weird splashes of David Lynch-style gothic surrealism, or his child-like understanding of romance, whimsy and magic. The Room is a slave to convention by comparison.

ImportantPressConference

Fateful Findings doesn’t want to be a great bad movie; it just wants to be great.”

That’s what makes the film so endlessly fascinating. Breen isn’t just free of the rules and dictates of professional filmmaking. No, he’s also free of the rules and dictates of logic, sanity, and rational, adult thinking. In Fateful Findings, there is a gulf both tragic and poignant between the man Breen clearly imagines he is and the reality, as well as between the film Breen imagines he’s making and the film he actually produced.

The promise of outsider art is that, whether through neurology, psychology or history, there are some people who see the world differently than everyone else does, and they create art or entertainment or psychodrama that powerfully reflects that unique understanding or, in the case of the Wiseaus and Breens, lack of understanding.

Like The Room, Fateful Findings is less fascinating as a coherent, comprehensible work of art or entertainment than as a revealing window into its creator’s rampaging madness. As such, its rewards are infinite, its mysteries captivating. It’s a worthy successor to The Room in part because it never aspires to be the next great bad movie. Fateful Findings doesn’t want to be a great bad movie; it just wants to be great.

That almost embarrassing sense of intimacy is only enhanced by the fact that you cannot buy a DVD of Fateful Findings on Amazon, nor rent it from Netflix, although you can stream, rent, or buy a digital copy of the film on Amazon. I purchased this much buzzed-about cult sensation directly from fatefulfindings.biz. Breen shipped it out in a screener with no packaging, just a no-nonsense case, which added to the feel that I was procuring Fateful Findings straight from its creator’s warped mind.

Nothing destroys a great bad movie like an excess of winking self-consciousness, by a need to let the audience know you’re in on the joke. Not only is Fateful Findings not in on the joke, it inhabits a world where jokes do not exist, only trembling sincerity and tone-deaf earnestness. It is this earnestness that makes Fateful Findings something special. A movie that does everything right is an absolute miracle, but so is a movie that gets everything wrong, and now that I have been introduced to Breen’s surreal world, I can’t wait to delve back into it again and again.


My Certification: Fresh
Tomatometer: N/A (Audience Score: 30 percent)


Follow Nathan Rabin on Twitter: @NathanRabin

  • bleurgh

    We all know you found out about this movie through Red Letter Media.

    • Yes. This.

    • Marcos

      Of course not, The Flophouse was the first on this. They reviewed this back on september.

    • Raptor Gonzalez

      RLM reviewed Double Down, not FF.

    • Pretty sure it was shown at some film marathon a couple years ago, and immediately compared to The Room.

    • Wizard Phoenix

      How did you get here?

  • Wait… this article is about Fateful Findings why does it feature photos from “I am here… now”?

    • Barlon Mando

      All of the images are from Fateful Findings.

      • I’m pretty sure they aren’t unless Breen re-used them in Fateful Findings.

        • Barlon Mando

          They were all cropped from screencaps directly from the film.

        • Barlon Mando

          Haven’t seen I Am Here… Now, but I can’t imagine that’s outside the realm of possibility. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

          • You know what? I take that back. I watched I Am Here Now in its entirety and the Fateful Findings trailer last night in the same viewing. Things might have got a bit blurry. Now I feel silly.

          • Barlon Mando

            Haha, no worries. It’s the brain-melting power of Neil Breen.

    • WetButtsDriveMeNuts

      All of the screencaps are from Fateful Findings. I haven’t seen I Am Here Now, but have seen FF, and I recognize all of them, and what scene they’re from.

  • Vits/Vicente Torres

    I’ve never even heard of this movie, but I wanted to comment on something. You said that he looks like David Duchovny. He looks more like Alan Rickman to me.

    • DJ JD

      I was thinking more like “Steven Seagal’s second cousin didn’t study any martial arts, at all, ever.”

    • Bananaranma

      Fateful Findings is magical. It’s so baffling that it’s just a treat.

  • DJ JD

    Klara Landrat, holy crap. You really did that shower scene? With him wearing that? If you did anything other than pugh (“pyoof”, puke & laugh) you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.

  • BlackRapids

    I think it’s tired, easy and cruel to personally ridicule the creator of this incredible movie. Why can’t we enjoy something like this without positioning ourselves above it? Breen is a real person who, in the legacy of The Room and Birdemic, put their life and fortune into making something legitimately unique and infinitely more entertaining that 99% of what’s on RT. He’s still creating. Having a platform to introduce this to a wide audience and wasting it by laughing at it like an insecure schoolyard bully is an elitist yawnfest and complete disservice. You don’t deserve Fateful Findings.

    • PantsPantsPants

      Thanks Mr. Breen.

      • The Living Tribunal

        Nah, BlackRapids is much too good of a writer. Somehow I doubt that Breen can string together complete sentences and use punctuation properly.

    • DJ JD

      100% of what’s on RT is made by real people who put something of their life and fortune into it. Why don’t we deserve FF? (I’m not picking a fight, I genuinely want to know why you think this movie in particular deserves to be set apart.)

  • Adventureface

    This is the best Breen movie by far, and is the most easy to understand what is going on, which is saying a lot considering what the movie is about. I actually think it’s sort of cool that he takes it so seriously because it is so far off the wall that it is in someone else’s house, that being said he finances these movies completely by himself and they are almost Lynch level dream sequences that seem to make more sense to him as if he has more of the story in his head than what is presented on the screen. Double Down has some of the strangest “dialogue” I have heard in any movie, with this being a close second. I AM HERE….NOW is absolutely the worst of the bunch just because it’s ambition becomes a joke due to the bad effects and strange message. I actually really like this movie, especially the weird barbecue scenes and neighbor murder

  • Angela Franck

    One of my favorite excerpts from The Flop House beautifully describing just one small facet of the staggeringly incompetent heights attained by the film: “It’s as if he found two children who have never waved before in their life, and then he had a dog teach them how to do it.”

  • Roughcoat

    You youngsters are probably too young to have seen or even know about Tom Laughlin and his Billy Jack movies. Worst. Movies. Ever. They make Breen and Fateful Findings look like Orson Welles and Citzen Kane. Do yourself a huge favor and binge watch them. You will never be the afterwards, I guarantee it.

  • MistahTibbs

    Must…
    Resist…
    The urge…
    To watch this shit….
    Noooooooooooo!
    *clicks on Youtube link

  • Mahjudd

    This movie sucks. Poor Mr Breen, venerated for being a complete nincompoop

  • truthfinders

    Dear Nathan Rabin -author here for Rotten Tomatoes. You say in your headline “…movies

    that are on the verge of becoming full-on cult sensations.” I must tell you that THE Room by Tommy Wiseau has been shown at midnight shows worldwide for the last 13 years to standing room only packed houses. Therefore I must insist that The ROOM is already a cult clasic knocking Rocky Horror out of many venues across the planet. Thank you. Edward Lozzi, Publicist for the original film The ROOM for Tommy Wiseau in 2003 and consultant to James Franco for “The Disaster Artist” now filming. http://www.lozzipr.com

  • Ryancritic

    I couldn’t believe it when Jim committed suicide

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