Gores Truly is femme-driven but certainly not man-hating. Occasionally, we want to give our readers a chance to contribute to the horror-fest that we all adore – including those wielding the Y-Chromosome. The following article has been Murder-Her approved. Watch out! It’s an Invasion of the Y-Chromosome!
Hardware (1990), by writer/director Richard Stanley, is a low-budget film. It’s also an enigma because it defies classification. It doesn’t fall into the “so bad it’s good category” (i.e. Gymkata, Galaxy of Terror). It’s not cheesy fun (i.e. Evil Dead, TCM Part 2 (Not the remake you sellout! Chop-Top!)). It has a visual style akin to Italian horror, but can’t be labeled as such because it’s an American-funded film that was produced in Britain. The easiest way I can describe Hardware in one sentence? It’s a crazy homage to Dario Argento and Mario Bava.
The paper-thin story takes place in a dystopia that’s saddled with war and radiation. A nomad wanders the desert (because that’s what nomads do) and comes across a maintenance droid that’s been, according to Johnny Five, disassembled. Moses (Dylan McDermott), a soldier on leave from the war, bumps into the nomad at a pawn shop and buys the robot parts from him. He gives the pile of scrap metal, including the robot’s head, to his artistic and reclusive girlfriend, Jill (Stacey Travis). Jill paints an American flag on the robot’s head (what if he’s Canadian?) and uses it as the center piece of her art which consists of welded metals, wires, and burnt baby dolls.
Now it gets interesting. The robot isn’t a maintenance droid. It’s a military prototype, “Mark 13,” that’s capable of hacking into any power grid and rebuilding itself. Rebuild it does and it traps Jill in her apartment while Moses is away.
That’s it. Robot on a rampage. There is no “B” story. On paper it looks drab, but in the hands of director Richard Stanley, it becomes something much more. It is the first feature film for the young director, who has a background in music videos. Which makes sense since the entire film feels like a music video.
The soundtrack features Ministry, Motorhead, and Public Image Ltd. If that’s not enough to get your head banging, it also has cameos from Iggy Pop and Lemmy. When the rock stars aren’t on stage, Simon Boswell fills the void with a mix of western guitar and creepy synthesizer vibes. Fun Fact!: Simon Boswell wrote the original score for Argento’s Phenomena.
The movie looks and feels low-budget (1.5 million), but what sells it are the performances. Stacey Travis is solid as Jill. She’s not helpless and she holds her own in every scene. Dylan McDermott is cool under pressure. They make a believable couple and neither give a monotone performance that’s prevalent in any Asylum film.
The Mark 13 doesn’t break any new ground in FX, but it’s an enjoyable reprieve from the barrage of horrible CGI in any Asylum film (anyone from Asylum reading this?). Marky Mark 13 is kept in the darkness to hide the man in the rubber suit. Quick cuts and obstructed viewing help suspend our disbelief.
In fact, the only criticism I have of the film and all its mayhem, is that they broke the “man in the rubber suit” cardinal rule. They turned the bloody lights on! The entire apartment (and most of the film) is bathed in red light and darkness, yet the bathroom is lit up and it stands out like a white nightmare.
Did I mention that Richard Stanley directed music videos? Did I mention that this film was shot in the ’80s (I think they said 1988)? Because the lighting and cinematography are off the charts. Stanley uses a liberal amount of extreme closeups (eyes and lips), slow pans, slow motion, back lighting, and lingering shots. As a result, the pace is very slow. Mark 13 doesn’t rebuild until the 41 minute mark (pun intended).
In researching the film, I came across several themes. There are several different theories that symbolize the Mark 13. Some believe he represents the corporation and Jill is the artist. Others feel it’s the government versus the individual. There’s also the Right Wing versus Left Wing angle.
Stanley doesn’t outright admit to any particular theme, he just wanted to make a horror movie. Any religious theme is purely coincidental as it was Dylan who made the connection. They open the film with “No flesh shall be spared. Mark: 13″. I read the passage but I don’t see any connection. It’s just a cool phrase.
Hardware is available on Netflix streaming. I went the extra mile and bought the Blu-Ray for the extra features. The featurette is insightful and there’s commentary with Richard Stanley, but I was hoping for an unrated version. I saw no difference between the Netflix and Blu-Ray versions. The disc does offer deleted and extended scenes, but the quality is poor as they came from VHS archives.
This film is not for everyone. If you prefer substance over style then this isn’t the film for you. But if you’re in the mood for a crazy music video with some action then check it out. Mere words cannot encapsulate the crazy that is Hardware.
Billz hopes to one day prove that aliens are misunderstood creatures that really just want a hug – and to disembowel you. When he’s not running from Purple People Eaters, he’s likely watching monster flicks, or dreaming of one day filming his own.
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