Tuesday, November 6, 2012

31 Horrors: Hardware (#22)

Wherein I attempt to watch 31 horror films over the course of October. 31 horror films that I have never seen before, from obscure to acclaimed classics. We'll see how well I go in actually finding the time to watch and then write about them in some way.

Well this was insane and I loved it.

It's hardly surprising to discover that Richard Stanley's 1990 sci-fi/horror action flick received a poor critical reception upon its release. It's a tough film to pin down, seemingly a pastiche of so many different films that it's hard to keep count - post screening my friends and I labelled Blade Runner, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, The Terminator, Alien, Short Circuit, Rear Window, Total Recall, Vertigo, and several more as obvious influences - and yet one that, despite it's mad sloppy screenplay, proved to be an intoxicating winner. It's an exhausting hoot of a film that shows flutters of such astonishing technical finesse that I couldn't help but admire its chutzpah even when it was flapping about like a fish out of water. I loved this movie, perhaps against my better judgement.

Set primarily in one of those futuristic dystopian cities that became so popular in the aftermath of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner where the skies bleed red from nuclear radiation and the cityscapes are dark masses dotted with neon and fluorescent. Hardware begins with the emergence of Dylan McDermott's Moses out of the desert where he has been scavenging for spare parts. Taking some mysterious, but uber-cool, electronics home to his girlfriend who uses these type of foreign objects in her industrial artworks. They live in a world riddled with dirty violence and people are lining up for voluntary sterilisation to reduce population growth. Naturally, the machine from the desert wakes up from its robotic sleep and begins to wreak havoc in exceedingly violent and explosive ways.

I'd never actually heard of this movie before I saw it on a Halloween night double bill with, what else, Halloween at the Astor Theatre. It shares nothing in common with that 1978 classic, so it was a double bill in horror goodness only, but I'm glad I got the chance to see it and to do so on a big screen. The astonishing editing and production design is best experienced on a cinema screen where they merge to form a dizzying collaboration. As the film continues to go higher and higher with its batshit craziness - culminating perhaps in a truly confounding, eye-popping sequence that takes a bit of visual influence from 2001 and Vertigo - I was continued to grow fonder and fonder. Richard Stanley, working from a screenplay (an admittedly odd, muddy one) by Stanley, Steve MacManus, and Kevin O'Neill, never lets up and isn't afraid to go to some truly unexpected places. The gore, too, which rears its head in the final act is certainly a bright and red in a gleeful fashion.

As a visual feast, it ranks alongside Blade Runner, Dark City and The Matrix as dying worlds on life support. It's visually stunning. The claustrophobic one-set nature is obviously derived from Alien, but Stanley is still able to do some interesting, fresh things with it. I admired the performance of Stacey Travis, more the star of the film than McDermott, and found she was able to make the preposterous sequences glisten with genuine emotion, not to mention blood, sweat and tears. Even when it descends into a grotesque Real Window moment of voyeuristic perversion, she keeps the film from spinning off of its axis, something that Stanley clearly had no interest in.

This hallucinogenic, post-apocalyptic, weird, crazy horror extravaganza was a real treat. Evil robots are always fun, but I don't recall seeing anything this flat out bonkers. A movie without blinkers on in its wide-eyed technology-is-evil-yo attitude and that has the balls to really go to some odd places. I loved it! And who can resist a movie in which Iggy Pop features as a radio DJ? A-

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