Hardware (1990)

Wandering the red desert ruins of post-apocalypse Earth a man searches for junk to sell. Happening upon a marked off area he cuts his way through the barbed wire and finds a half-buried robot head. The robot head ends up in the hands of Mo, a fellow scavenger, who gives it to his crazy industrial sculptor girlfriend. Little do they know that the robot head is still functioning!

The first thing that will likely strike you about this movie is how amazing it looks: the sets are simple but very convincing and there is fantastic use of color and shadow in every scene. It takes place in that special sort of grimy but cool cyberpunk world we all thought we'd be living in by now, where everyone is covered in dirt and mutation but since everyone is in that situation together no one really is bothered by it. Everyone gets to wear awesome gas masks and coats while stomping down deadly looking alleyways in combat boots, but other than that there isn't much too look forward to. The nuclear apocalypse giveth, and it taketh away.

So by now, around the thirty minute mark or so, I was ready to proclaim this as the best cyberpunk film ever made. It is Blade Runner but even more depressing and hopeless, all filmed in the kind of primary colors that make you realize that this movie means business and you had better sit up and pay attention if you know what's good for you.

From here the script introduces a creepy stalker subplot and we start getting into horror movie territory. I admit, I was a little worried about this. I know my horror movies. There are a ton of mistakes you can make with a creepy stalker subplot and this seemed like just the kind of movie to make them. I had to get another slice of pizza to calm my nerves. And to my surprise (my delight even) the whole thing was handled amazingly. By this point I had decided I had found the chosen one of under-the-radar horror/scifi movies. I considered lying in my writeup and listing the movie as coming out in 1989 so that I could pretend that it came out in my favorite decade of movies, saving it from the attitude and baggy pants and edgy coolness of the hated 90s.

Unfortunately the movie sort of starts to fall apart once the robot starts killing people. People start lining up to be massacred by the robot (no complaints there) but it all takes place in this tiny dark little apartment and suspending your disbelief at that point is impossible. The only solution is for everyone to get together and support that suspension with the combined suspending power of all disbeliefs in the room. The heroine starts acting like an action hero, swearing at the robot who doesn't even understand human language, and then you have multiple climaxes and twists, climaxing and twisting one upon another until you aren't sure whether your twists are climaxing or your climaxes twisting. The gore effects are pretty cool though.

It's definitely worth watching though as the movie stays wonderful looking throughout, and you can get through the stupid stuff at the end if you keep in mind you are going to see some great effects.

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