Saturday, June 21, 2008
#39: Hardware (Richard Stanley, 1990)
Remember what the future looked like in 1990? Yep. That's right. Monochromatic post-apocalyptic urban wastelands, killer robots, industrial rock soundtracks, wise-cracking British sidekicks, midgets buying and selling scrap metal, crazy new street drugs, surprisingly outdated yet futuristic computer technology, lawlessness, sinister government plots to control overpopulation. That's music video director Richard Stanley's feature debut, Hardware, in a robo-nutshell. Basically a cross between Steel Magnolias and Caddyshack (I mean, Mad Max and The Road Warrior, Blade Runner, and Total Recall), Stanley's film opens with goth band Fields of the Nephilim's Carl McCoy wearing some very sinister clothing and walking through a monochromatic desert littered with scrap metal. He finds a robot head and claw buried in the sand and takes it into the urban wasteland to sell to horrible actor Dylan McDermott and the previously mentioned little person. Turns out, McCoy is a "zone tripper" (He was a zone tripper, one way ticket, yeah/It took me so long to find out, and I found out), which means he's a mercenary who wanders the post-2Pacalypse looking for shit he can sell. McDermott is back in town after a long time away doing something I didn't care enough about to pay attention to, and he hooks up with his wisecracking British buddy, Shades (because he never takes off his sunglasses, hyuk hyuk). They head over to the heavily fortified pad of McDermott's girlfriend, Jill (Stacey Travis). She's a sculptress of scrap metal installations who has never left her apartment. After Shades realizes his third-wheelitude, he takes off so the reunited couple can get it on, late-night Cinemax style. I need to mention here that McDermott's character has a robotic hand. When they started their sex romp in the shower, I said, "I hope he squeezes her ass with his robotic hand." Then he actually did it! Jill makes an installation with the robot, unaware that the robot can reassemble itself and power itself up by touching any power source. Did I mention it's a killer robot? Well, it is. And it's now ready to do some more killing. The other major character is a disgusting, slobby pervert who installed security cameras in the apartment complex and spies on Jill when her naughty bits are exposed. Will he get his comeuppance? The pervert is played by the hilariously named William Hootkins, who also acted in the other killer robot movie on our Fangoria list, Death Machine.
I have a very high tolerance for this kind of thing, but I can't recommend this to anyone who doesn't. Stanley clearly believes he's a major artist, and the pretension in this movie is so thick you could cut it with a slim volume of Foucault essays. He's a terrible writer, and the characters are wooden. However, the film looks great, and would probably look even better if it wasn't available only on VHS. The killer robot looks pretty sweet, especially after Jill paints an American flag pattern on its head (though this is probably another stab at pretentious symbolism: The robot is us! or The robot is U.S. imperialism!) Stanley's rock-video origins are apparent in the casting of McCoy, Motorhead's Lemmy as a cab driver, the voice of Iggy Pop as radio DJ Angry Bob (who brags about his "industrial dick"), and a soundtrack that features Iggy, Motorhead, Public Image Ltd., and Ministry's "Stigmata." The Ministry track is played over a scene showing GWAR on TV. Glad to see that GWAR survived the apocalypse. Director Stanley later went on to make the serial killer film Dust Devil and worked on the terrible 1996 remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau before being fired by Val Kilmer. He later snuck onto the set in costume as an extra and forced Kilmer to apologize. He hasn't directed anything since. Fangoria called Hardware "the best sci-fi/horror film since Alien." That's crazy talk.
I realized I wrote a post on Film-Watching Robot last night chastising people for voluntarily going to see the new Indiana Jones film even though they had low expectations, but I gladly, happily wasted ninety minutes of my life watching this entertaining piece of shit. Yes, I am a hypocrite. I love you all!