You can't stop progress.
Year of Release: 1990
Genre: Science Fiction/Horror
Running Time: 93 minutes (1:33)
Director: Richard Stanley
Dylan McDermott ... Moses Baxter
John Lynch ... Shades
Stacey Travis ... Jill
Mark Northover ... Alvy
William Hootkins ... Lincoln Wineberg Jr.
Paul McKenzie ... Vernon
Oscar James ... Chief
Lemmy ... Taxi Driver
Carl McCoy ... Nomad
Iggy Pop ... Angry Bob
Richard Stanley ... Talking elevator (voice)
It was the movie that stunned audiences, shocked the MPAA and marked the debut of one of the most uncompromising filmmakers in modern horror. Golden Globe winner Dylan McDermott (The Practice, Dark Blue) stars as a post-apocalyptic scavenger who brings home a battered cyborg skull for his metal-sculptor girlfriend. But this steel scrap contains the brain of the M.A.R.K. 13, the military's most ferocious bio-mechancial combat droid. It is cunning, cruel, and knows how to reassemble itself. Tonight, it is reborn... and no flesh shall be spared. Stacey Travis (GHOSTWORLD) co-stars - along with appearances by Iggy Pop, Lemmy of Motörhead and music by Ministry and Public Image Ltd. - in the kick-ass sci-fi thriller from Richard Stanley (DUST DEVIL) that Fangoria calls "gritty, trippy and frightening...HARDWARE is one of the best horror movies you've never seen!"
Hardware, the movie that makes it perfectly clear that, even in the future, artists survive only by the grace of God, and the welfare system. I think the Amish would love this movie if, ya know, they watched movies an didn't consider anything fun to be a sin. They warned us about this technology stuff but we didn't listen cause we were too busy watching Youtube videos featuring guys getting hit in the cajones with various pieces of athletic equipment. You scoff at their antiquated beliefs and customs, but let me ask you this: how many Amish people do you know that've been mutilated beyond recognition by a butter churn or a water wheel? Put your hands down, you're full of it an you know it. Cause it don't happen, and it never will happen. We've gotta have our double latte espresso makers an indoor plumbing or we simply cannot function. I think a certain segment of the population would literally DIE if they tried that particular lifestyle and it's because they're spoiled and utterly dependent upon things they've convinced themselves they need to live. It's like they think if they touch the udders on a cow they'll melt into a pile of Versace goo or something. But they'd rather risk Johnny 5 goin' berserk an butchering 'em up into rump roast just so they don't have to wash their dishes by hand. The Amish are gonna outlive us all, an if they weren't such polite folk, they'd point an laugh at our misfortune. As they should. But anyhow, Hardware is probably the best movie ever to stuff a robotic Michael Myers into a mashup of 1984 an Blade Runner with gratuitous Iggy Pop ever to grace the silver screen; so try to stay awake for this next part, it could save your life one day. One, if you're being pursued by something that sees by using infrared heat signatures, just hide someplace cold. It's bound to miss your body heat over the frigid air (or Frigidaire in this case) surrounding you. Two, even with a large portion of the population being radiated to death, you still won't be safe from obnoxious neighbors. An three, if you think there isn't shit to watch on TV now, just wait.
But what I wanna discuss, an this is a little off tangent from the overall reasoning the movie uses to try to kill off a large segment of the population, but bear with me on this: in the movie they're generally trying to kill off people so the proletariat will quit squirting out so many babies that have 17 fingers an look like a Dodger Dog that got left on the dash board for a week. You know the ones, they've got three or four of these ugly ducklings waddling down the aisle behind them, all screaming that they want various items cause the parents missed that day in Health class in high school an they can't seem to figure out how to keep their uglies from penetrating each other's perimeters. They're leading us down this path to ruin. An of course the kids grow up an do the same thing if they're able to survive an unsupervised childhood full of M-80s an lighter fluid. An while they're oblivious to their children playin' hockey with brooms an a package of frozen hamburger patties the little asshats broke into over in the frozen foods section, if you so much as roll your eyes their insecurity mechanism triggers an they start hittin' you in the eye with Cheez-It shrapnel while they explain to you how you have no right to even think bad thoughts about them cause you don't have kids so you wouldn't understand. An you're thinkin' to yourself, "I understand perfectly you fat harpy, I'm scared to death that someday I'll be able to sit through a gaggle of rip saws with mouths, who destroy everything in their paths while I'm thundering around oblivious to everything around me with a constant 1000 year stare on my face knowing I've got nothing to look forward to because tomorrow is going to be just as bad." The population problem in the movie was my segue into that rant. It's a stretch, but Black Friday has a tendency to make me hate the human race even more than I would on any other day. An that's without ever participating in it.
The movie begins with Darkman wandering around Tatooine until he digs up C-3P0's skull outta the sand an takes it back to town where he unloads his heap of scrap metal onto the floor of the local salvage center. Up to this point we're basically looking at the day in the life of a meth junkie. But the fat, obnoxious midget from Willow isn't around at the moment, so our protagonists, Mo an his buddy Shades, make Darkman an offer he could probably refuse, but let's face it, this crap aint worth diddly an he's not gonna get a better offer anywhere else. So when Alvie (the midget shop owner) gets back Mo tries to flip the scrap heap for a profit, but Alvie didn't get that fat in a dystopian future by making bad deals an Mo has to eat the loss. Elsewhere, Mo's girlfriend, who he seems to be on again, then off again as the urge arises, lets her security guys outside the building know that she'll be expecting a package that day. An just as she forecasted, Mo (an Shades) shows up with a package, as well as some materials she can potentially use in her abstract art. Most of the scraps are garbage, but she loves 3P0's head so much that Shades has to discreetly let himself out cause it looks like there's about to be a lot more head exchanging. So then they shower together cause Mo's filthy enough to leave a ring around the Atlantic Ocean, an Jill (the girlfriend) doesn't seem to be the least bit bothered by the fact that he wears the Power Glove in the shower with him. Afterwards, they show the mattress and the voyeuristic slob downstairs (we'll call him Comic Book Guy), who happens to have surveillance setup in her room, a good time. Meanwhile, Alvie's lookin' up the scraps Mo sold to him to figure out what the hell he just bought an realizes he's got a prototype droid that the government scrapped cause it was either turning the wrong people into Hamburger Helper or collapsing in a heap when it got wet. Even though it doesn't look like it's rained in this place for about 23 years. So Alvie wants Mo to get his hind end over to his shop cause the info he's found is super cereal big deal type stuff that he can't talk about over the phone. Seems the Johnny 5 parts Darkman found can both repair and recharge themselves when given the opportunity. So while Mo heads over to Alvie's place to see what the big deal is, Jill turns on Headbanger's Ball an showers sparks all over her apartment until #5 is sitting pretty on a brand new body.
Then #5 gets his wires socketed into the wall outlet so he can get enough power to remotely tell his old body parts, which are over at Alvie's place, to get themselves into fighting shape enough to turn Alvie into Beef Stroganoff so he won't go spillin' the beans about the #5 project. So when Mo shows up an finds Alvie all disassembled he starts lookin' at Alvie's printouts an gets this look on his face like the barber just ruined his Tom Cruise hair cut an tries to warn Jill about #5. But he can't get through cause Jill's on the line with Comic Book Guy who won't stop asking what she's wearing even though he can see her through his hidden camera. So he calls Shades up so he can go warn her, only Shades is whacked out on crack balls an it takes him about 20 minutes just to get his pants on. So while Mo hauls butt back over to Jill's place, #5 is alive an he goes all Oceania Skil Saw Massacre on her mattress an she's just able to get out of the path of the buzz saw before it goes through her like a laser beam. She tries to leave, but #5 has disabled her automatic door, an about that time Comic Book Guy shows up an offers to fix it for her cause he used to set up these kinds of systems before he got caught attaching mirrors to his Reeboks so he could get upskirts of the female technicians. Jill knows he's a creep cause he's not real sharp an lets way too much info loose on her, but mostly she wants to get out of the path of destruction an points him towards the main control panel. So, being the smooth operator that he is, while he waits for the screen to load up on the Apple II, he tells her she aughta keep the blinds open so he can watch her giblets bounce while she's riding Mo an goes to open them, only that's where #5 has been hiding an he shoves his metal fingers into Comic Book Guy's eye sockets an constructs the Holland tunnel through his torso with a drill an basically gives this guy what he deserves. The security guards (Vernon and Chief) don't notice any of this cause The Chief is too busy whoopin' Vernon's ass at chess an Jill has to hide from #5 in the Frigidaire so its heat sensing circuits won't see her.
Then Shades is finally able to get his pants on an make his way to her building, an while #5 is distracted she takes her own buzz saw to him so she can make her escape. Only it grabs her leg as she tries to run by, an for a minute it looks like #5 is gonna give her some input with his power drill if you see what I'm getting at. She's able to free herself, but #5 is also back on his feet an, thinking quickly, she tosses him a piece of flaming debris, which he also thinks quick enough to catch. Unfortunately, her acetylene tank has sprung a leak in the conflict an his motherboard gets French-fried. About that time Mo, Shades an the security geeks finally show up, and when it seems like we're about to have the classic "help arrives when it's no longer needed" cliche come into play, #5 lurches into the hallway an the Mo Squad puts him down for the count. So then Mo tries to comfort her but she's in no mood on account of him leaving on her again just when her sculpture came to life an tried to turn her into extra thick Pace Picante. Seems like this has happened before, but there's no time to analyze it because #5 is back up AGAIN an yanks her out the window, leaving her dangling from the power line outside. Mo can't help cause if he tries to pull her in they'll both get an overdose of electroshock therapy, but that's the least of her problems cause about that time the line snaps an she ends up swinging Indiana Jones style through the dining room window of the family downstairs. At this point #5 grabs Mo an gives him a lethal booster shot before he's able to fire another round into #5's head. Then Mo goes on an acid trip while the security guys try to get Jill back in the game cause they know as the movie's token black guys, it's gonna be up to her to put #5 down. So while Jill an the rest of the crew head back upstairs, #5 has patched himself into the control panel an he's letting the hate/power flow through him so he'll be good an supercharged by the time they get up there for the big finale. We'll cut it off here to preserve the rag tag crew of misfits versus Johnny 5 climax.
So this one's another "undiscovered gem." This term is not meant to be taken literally, but the fact remains that you never hear anyone talk about this movie, even though it's actually pretty good. And a lot better than other movies you do actually hear a lot about. The original concept was based off of a comic strip called "SHOK! Walter's Robo-Tale." And although it doesn't have a whole lot plotwise that you've not seen before, it's got many elements from other great sci fi movies that work well together. It's essentially the hard rock version of 1984 where technology hasn't completely crumbled. Maybe comparing it to 1984 is a little too harsh, the government isn't *that* far over the top. It's also kinda difficult to tell just how insane the government really is, as it's unclear if they mean to just kill off as many people as possible using these robots, or if they're going to have some kind of selection process. It could be something along the lines of Huxley's "Ape and Essence" where in the post apocalyptic future, humans that're born with more than an acceptable amount of birth defects are massacred to keep the race "pure". It probably would get a higher score, at least from me, if they'd gone more into what the world is like, rather than spending time on the creepy voyeuristic neighbor that we all want to see die. They touch on it a little here an there, but I'd have preferred more depth. But I have a propensity for dystopian books and movies, and that may not have been the best way to go for a larger audience. It's still amazing after so much time, after seeing so many movies, reading about so many movies, you can still come across ones like this that you've never heard any mention of. And these types are every bit as good, or better, than say, Friday the 13th. Which everyone knows about. I suppose there are just so many that some things have to be overlooked. Besides, I know when I go into a movie that nobody's ever mentioned to me before, I figure it's gonna reek like month old rotting cabbage. Then when it doesn't, there's a certain feeling of satisfaction, and it doesn't solely come from the knowledge that you didn't waste your money. It's a good feeling, and even the most cynical among us (of which I count myself), to some very small degree, wonder if maybe some movies are still being made that aren't terrible. Maybe you've just not heard about them is all.
Anyway, time to break out the scalpel and forceps an see what lies beneath. The plot's pretty good, even feasible, in a distant future setting that uses movie science liberally kinda way. As I mentioned earlier, more detail about the planet in its present state would have been welcome, but you can't get everything you want all the time. The acting is also decent, no particularly fantastic performances, but nor are there any bad ones. The best performance is probably William Hootkins as the disgusting creep downstairs; he really comes off as the scum of the earth and makes you believe it. Additionally, and this is not so much what you'd call fantastic acting, but Paul McKenzie and Oscar James are extremely entertaining as the black security guys. The movie really could have used more of them, they play off each other really well. You've also got Iggy Pop in a cameo role as the aptly named "Angry Bob" disc jockey that plays over the radio periodically. He's amusing as well. Also, Lenny of Motorhead as a taxi driver that pops "Ace of Spades" into the stereo so they've got something to roll to. Not a whole lot on the interesting front in the cast, although interesting is subjective and many of them have done pretty well for themselves in the industry. From my version of "interesting" you've got: Mark Northover (Willow), William Hootkins (The Island of Dr. Moreau remake, Death Machine, Dust Devil, Batman, Star Wars), and Mac McDonald (Wrong Turn 3, NightBreed). The real bummer on the acting rating is that the director originally wanted Jeffrey Combs to play Shades, but the British union apparently only allow(ed) two Americans. Jeffrey Combs adds a flat 5% if he's in this. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
But anyway, good cast, good acting. The settings are great. Dunno where exactly they filmed some of these sequences, but the squalid hellholes look fantastic, as do the desert sequences. The dystopian future looks like a dystopian future, which is important. The rest of the shots could be filmed anywhere, and for that reason they're okay, but nothing special. The soundtrack is pretty good as far as matching the theme of the movie, it's got a hard rock thing goin' that works for it. The rock songs are what will be remembered, not so much the atmospheric scores, though they're pretty good as well. The world may have gone to hell, but the music scene is still happening at least. Lastly, the special effects. They're going to be the make or break element in a movie like this, and while they don't knock your socks off amazing, they're pretty good. There aren't a lot of scenes where it's painfully obvious that the drone is being controlled by a person, and they cut away in all the places that they need to to avoid that from happening. So pretty good on the special effects, not perfect, but it'll impact positively on the rating. Overall, highly recommended to fans of sci fi/horror and equally highly for people looking for something they haven't seen before, that's kinda weird, but enjoyable.