The head of a cyborg reactivates, rebuilds itself, and goes on
a violent rampage in a space marine's girlfriend's apartment.
Written and Directed by Richard Stanley
Starring Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, Iggy Pop,
Lemmy Kilmister, Carl McCoy, John Lynch, Mark Northover
Based on the short story "SHOK!" by Steve MacManus
and Kevin O'Neill
After watching Color Out of Space, I have decided to revisit the beginnings of Richard Stanley's career. This intelligent, enigmatic, and thoughtful storyteller first rose to fame with the post-apocalyptic fever dream, Hardware. In an America left in ruins after nuclear war, humanity is reduced to scavenging to survive. This is where we meet Moses Baxter (McDermott) a former soldier turned scavenger as he takes his latest haul of techno garbage to sell to Alvy (Northover and, yes, he was Burglekutt in Willow) but keeps the head of a droid he bought off another scavenger. Mo takes the head to his girlfriend Jill (Travis) a metal sculptor as a Christmas gift. The landscape is just blown out desert and crumbled buildings so we aren't really sure if it is really Christmas at all. There is a creepy voyeur who watches Mo and Jill have sex while "Silent Night" plays so maybe it really is Christmas.
As I mentioned in my review of Color Out of Space, Stanley structures his films like drug trips with a slow build up as you begin your journey into his world and frequent peaks and valleys as the film progresses. I say this because while there is a narrative to follow it isn't spoon fed like a conventional Hollywood movie is, there are images and music used to inform you and cue your experience. A scene where Jill begins to build a piece using the robot head as it's intercut with a GWAR music video and an industrial song blasts through her stereo really immerses you into her creative process. As if you're experiencing it as Jill versus watching her create from an observer's perspective.
There is no box to put this film in, it functions as different genres at different times. Sometimes horror, sometimes sci-fi and they blur the boundaries to where you aren't sure what kind of movie you're watching and that's not a bad thing. It is even part monster movie as the robot begins to reassemble itself and start killing people. At the time of it's release, it was labeled a cheap ripoff of Alien and The Terminator. While I can see the latter more than the former, I think that there's a little more artistic flair in Hardware than you'd find in Terminator and it's not just a simple man vs. machine movie. I think what Stanley was saying with this film is that our reliance on technology will ultimately be our downfall as it becomes more aware it will eventually kill us. In society today, if you look around at the automation of industry jobs, we are already beginning to have robot workers. How long before they take us out?
An interesting side note: made for $1.5 million (USD), it grossed over $5 million and was subsequently caught up in legal issues that kept it from being released on DVD until 2009. It wasn't restored and put out on Blu-ray until October of 2009 by Severin Films. My next trip with Richard Stanley is Dust Devil and I cannot wait.