FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 30, 2009

Day 30: "No flesh shall be spared."

Richard Stanley's 1990 sci fi/horror flick Hardware, has been considered a cult classic by many. Until recently, it'd only been available on VHS or an exceptionally cruddy DVD release; well, Severin has changed all that, giving Hardware to the masses on Blu-Ray as well as a deluxe 2-disc DVD for those of us still living the lo-res life. So, should said masses be excited about getting their mitts on this long-lost & beloved film?

Nuclear war has transformed the world into a radioactive desert wasteland, but glimpses of its former glory peek through: cabs still run, TV still plays, and people still have jobs. Moses Baxter (Dylan McDermott) has been out scavenging in the wastes when he comes across a super neato robot head. He brings it home to his artist girlfriend Jill (Stacey Travis), thinking she'll find a use for it. She welds it into a sculpture and all is well...but what neither she nor Moe knows is that the robot is a M.A.R.K. 13, a deadly military-grade bot that can reassemble itself. Soon the M.A.R.K. 13 is awake, complete, and ready to kill kill kill!

While Hardware's narrative is fairly thin and a bit slow to get rolling, it's still an enjoyable ride through that dystopian '80s-flavored future; I, for one, am glad that not even nuclear annihilation can apparently stop people from quipping "Take a chill pill!". The film certainly pales in comparison to its obvious cousins, Mad Max and The Terminator, but if one can overlook the shortcomings of plot and, at times, the performances, there's a lot to appreciate.

The visuals are really where Hardware shines. Stanley and cinematographer Steven Chivers have created a complete, if small, world. The production design is top notch; though the action is largely confined to Jill's apartment, there's always some new detail to take in, from package design to the retrotastic computer graphics.

Frame after frame is simply gorgeous. This is masterful low-budget filmmaking that's all too rare; I didn't care if the story was a bit anemic, I still dug looking at the purty pictures.



Of course, your results may vary, and that's the tricky thing about films considered "cult classics". Some folks are going to rejoice over discovering something so long hidden, while others are going to wonder what all the fuss was about in the first place. Then again, that's probably true of all movies to an extent- yes, I know, I'm particularly profound today- but when a movie is buried for decades only to be unleashed, at last, with some fanfare, expectations run high. Were Hardware's visuals not so delightful, honestly, I'm not sure how much people would be talking about it. It's got some novelty in terms of music and cameos from musicians (Lemmy as a cab driver, putting on Motorhead's "Ace of Spades"? Yes, please.), but the story is familiar and there are several films in this genre that are far superior.

Still, it ain't a bad way to spend 90 minutes- when are non-CGI killer robots ever truly a bad thing?

4 comments:

Robson, Proprietor said...

_I_ give two shits about HARDWARE!

But I haven't seen it in ages. I need to revisit it since a) it's now available in that spiffy edition and b) because Stanley's next film DUST DEVIL (a semi-prequel to HARDWARE) has become a raging favorite of the House of Sparrows.

In my last weeks working at a San Francisco arts center I had the pleasure of working with Stanley (who had brought DUST DEVIL to a serial killer series at the Center). A pleasant and mind-expanding experience.

Stacie Ponder said...

Dust Devil has been on my list of things to check out for a long time, but I was unsure if it was going to be any good. Now that it's got such a hearty endorsement, though...it's time to step it up!

Gareth Walters said...

Definitely check out Dust Devil, I have the Blu-ray of Hardware and will take a look in the next couple of days but I loved it when I first viewed it 19 years ago (gulp). Stanley is a one of a kind – his involvement in the Brando Island of Dr Moreau remake is legendary.

Charlotte Smith said...

Dust Devil is gorgeous and haunting, especially the score. I was happy to see Hardware come out on DVD, and glad to see you review it! It makes me all wistful and nostalgic for non-CGI effects, which did make up for the movie's shortcomings. Thanks for a great month of reviews!