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John’s Horror Corner: Hardware (1990)

November 5, 2011

John Leavengood

MY CALL:  This is just plain fun if you’re looking for  a cheesy sci-fi-horror that takes itself too seriously.  The premise is creative, in a  schizophrenically misled kind of way.  IF YOU LIKED THIS, THEN WATCH:  Hmmm, movies that feature killer robots with cool or fun effects…Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Virus, Robocop 2, Terminator, and for a real Mars-setting killer robot movie try Red Planet.

This movie may raise a brow to you as you wonder “Why should I care about this?  I never heard of it.”  But to a seasoned movie fanatic this flick has quite an intriguing cast.  It includes Mark Northover (better known as the unforgiving landowner Burglekutt from Willow), Iggy Pop as Angry Bob the DJ, Dylan McDermott (Cemetery Man, Hamburger Hill, In the Line of Fire), and our heroine Stacey Travis (Phantasm II, The Super, Only the Strong).  It also made some money, grossing over $5
million on a $1.5 million dollar budget.

Somewhere in a post-nuclear apocalyptic world of crimson dunes and matching skies a man scavenges a severed robot head, among other shrapnel, half immersed in the sand.  Between his attire and the surrounding environs, it appears as if one of the land pirates in Cyborg or Mad Max has ventured to a more friendly-atmospheric Mars.  The technology in this “futuristic” world nearly rivals a 1980’s arcade game.

Mo (McDermott) is a regular Joe with a too-good-for-him artistic redhead girlfriend Jill (Travis).  After months in the arid wasteland his fatigues are magically untattered and stain-free and his boots are still shiny, yet in the shower he practically sheds filth as if he was mud wrestling.  These tiny inconsistencies warn me to brace myself for quality film-making.  Despite the Hell hole suggested by the set designers, hair gel and the entertainment industry abound, apparently making it through the apocalypse unscathed.  They’ve got radio talk shows and GWAR music videos.  What more could you want back in 1990? So we (but not our heroine) come to discover that this robot head is from some  self-repairing combat droid.  Its  self-repair occurs by way of stop-motion telekinesis—it’s a lot like an old Tool music video.  The mecha-regenerative head’s face, detaching jaw, and crawling claws make me question whether or not Guillermo del Toro used  this as his idea for the Golden Army soldiers in Hellboy 2.  So similar, in fact, I find it doubtless!  Other than the self repair scene and the head, this kill-droid is pretty lame-looking.

Jill ends up trapped with this terror of a droid in her apartment.  The effects, acting and action are all very poor.  This may be the worst killer robot movie ever.  However the idea was pretty cool and likely fueled movies like Virus and Hellboy 2 with some great innovations.  The end gets a bit weird-trippy and the gore is funny.  In the end this drone, which has all of the dexterity of a drunk NYC hobo, is
defeated by a hot shower.  Strangely enough, when you clean up a hobo they’re much less off-putting as well.

Despite all the flack I’m flinging at it, I enjoyed it. It’s a bit slow, but it has some interesting ideas and effects (for its time).  If you appreciated the computerless effects of the 80’s and some mindlessly silly sci-fi flicks, then this should be right up your alley.

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