In the 21st century, man and technology has become so interlinked to one another that it may be safe to say that a man without access to technical assistance is almost as helpless as one without water! Taking inspiration from the ‘organic’ (pun intended) relationship between technology and humans a number of movies have been created over the years. Whike most of them are hypothetical explorations one cannot be so sure that they won’t come to life.
But what if what comes to life was not what you desired and was rather horrific? There is much to learn but we cannot deny the kind of cash these movies (Terminator, Robocop to name a few) rake in. Therefore, we take it on ourselves to explore the underbelly of this marvelous genre with some underrated marvelous work in it.
In a futuristic world, interplanetary wars are the order of the day. To negotiate a peace treaty, a commander travels with a handful of soldiers. However, danger lurks in every corner for them as they have to pass through a treacherous wasteland. Here live the Screamers, a blade-wielding, self-replicating killing machine that was once devised by man to hunt down all enemies.
With years of no human guidance, these creatures have out of control with one solitary mission, which is to eliminate all forms of life. Can Col. Hendrickson make his way through these killer robots?
This imaginative plot is inspired by one of Philip K. Dick’s short stories, but the makers made a few modifications. For instance, the story showed the wasteland to be a result of nuclear war between the US and Russia, but the film does not emphasize on a specific location. The audience can barely make out the lack of budget for the film, as the makers have done such a brilliant job in constructing a set that resembled the ravaged planet.
Peter Weller, the Robocop star, turns on the heat with a stunning performance that will please his fans. He is accompanied by equally talented supporting actors. In spite of an incredible cast and storyline we are left a little disappointed at the ho-hum sound and visual effects from the lack of budget and cannot imagine what a feast it would have been otherwise.
The climax gives you the hint of a sequel, but when a sequel was made in 2009, it did not live up to the expectations. Overall, if you are looking for an innovative sci-fi adventure, Screamers would fit the bill perfectly.
Project: Metalbeast (1995)
In another experiment gone wrong movie, we see a CIA-initiated research which is working towards creating an army of soldiers that will have werewolf like abilities. To do so the subjects must be injected with werewolf blood however in the dearth of volunteers, Agent Butler sets himself up for the task.
Unfortunately, his experiment goes awry as he is now turned into a ravenous creature of the dark, a blood-thirsty werewolf out to kill. He is fortunately taken down when he is shot with a silver bullet and cryogenically frozen to prevent mishaps and perhaps study him. Many years later, a medical breakthrough with a metal-based synthetic skin is tested on the corpse.
When the body is thawed and the bullets removed, lo behold! We have the once dead werewolf before us. Only, this time it is almost invincible with its impenetrable skin! This movie is a curious case of the werewolf horror meeting a nightmarish medical thriller. For a B-movie, the concept is pretty unique. It is almost the first time the audience hears of a werewolf with impenetrable skin, usually it is its mortal enemy- the vampire that displays this power.
Besides the interesting plot, it offers some interesting characters who have been brought to life with some soulful acting performances. Barry Boswick and Kim Delaney are particularly impressive, while Kane Hodder is unrecognizable as the dangerous Metalbeast. There are a few gory bits, and the one where the creature is killed in the end stands out.
The Metalbeast looks pretty menacing and is sure to make the audience shudder during its murderous moments. John Carl Buechler shines bright with his creature effects and gets you hooked on to the story once the monster is on the loose inside the facility keeping your heart beating with worry of what indeed would happen. Ignore the clichés and the mild cheesiness, and you will have a solid entertainer at hand!
Chopping Mall (1986)
What would you do if those meant to protect you become the reason your life is in danger. Set in a shopping mall, a few employees are excitedly planning to conduct a late-night party at the mall.
Little known to them all hell is about to break loose as the security system has now malfunctioned and has let loose the robots that were supposed to secure the premises from external threats except now it is just a handful of unwitting employees who must now fight off these crazed robots for their lives while being locked in the mall.
Chopping Mall might sound like a total gore-fest, but it is certainly not about mindless violence. In fact, the movie has some interesting circumstances and situations that you will never find anywhere else. Don’t put your thinking caps on while watching this film, and do not ask questions like how they found automatic rifles in the mall! The CGI leaves much to want however we must consider that it was not central to the narrative either.
B-movie fans will love the fast-paced action and tension in the plot, where you constantly wonder who will manage to survive the deadly bots. The shooting was done in Sherman Oaks Galleria, a real-life mall where a scene in the movie Commando was also shot. There is one noticeable change from the usual splatter movies.
Here, the young people fight the robot together instead of getting killed after being singled out. The movie could have been much better with some subtle changes but what you have is still a fun-flick for a casual movie night.
The tale starts off on a rough night as a rather malevolent typhoon takes an American tugboat in its clutches to wreck it apart. Forced to seek shelter amidst the storm, the crew find an abandoned Russian boat that seems to answer their queries. However, their relief is soon washed away when they discover that the Russian crew aboard had been murdered by an unknown force-aliens.
Unfortunately for them they are now locked in the confines of the abandoned vessel with vicious, unearthly creature(s) hot on their trail. Faced with the predicament the crew must now battle it out against a force that sees them as ungodly pieces of dirt that must be terminated at all cost.
A story of survival with a premise where technology, man’s most trusted companion, ended up failing them is a deadly duo that always hits the jackpot. In this film, the enjoyable romp is often dubbed by many as lacking in creativity. We beg to differ because Virus has offered us tons of entertainment and a tension-filled atmosphere that makes it the perfect thriller.
The mechanical marvels in this film are the watch out for! Right from the depiction of the alien monstrosity to the chase sequences involving a half-human half-machine structure, you will be amazed at the work from Tippet Studio’s CGI team. The Goliath robot was built by them with utmost finesse where they crafted the 9 feet tall structure within three-and-a-half months.
The involvement of James Cameron shows in the technological finesse, and that lifts the movie from mediocre to fascinating. The acting department has been well-handled by the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Sutherland. With such a promising premise, the climate leaves a lot to want but we are willing to overlook it for the brilliant and fun-filled movie we have been presented with.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
We see a strange metal fetishist as he plunges scraps of metal into his body for no apparent reason. One day, blinded by the agonizing pain from his pierced body, he runs into the streets but his misfortune do not seem to seize as he is now hit by a car. The car which hit the strage fetishist was being driven by a man out on a drive with his girlfriend.
As if the accident was not traumatizing enough, he is soon inflicted with a horrific disease that is now turning his body to resemble scraps of metals. This unfortunate man is now on his way to become a rather sore sight as he is now transforming into a hybrid made of metal and muscle.
This is one of those movies that will never cease to amaze you no matter how many times you watch it. We have another action-packed film from the talented director Shinya Tsukamoto who also directed movies like Tokyo Fist and Bullet Ballet. This film will unleash upon you surreal mayhem with possibly some of the most innovative cinematic techniques in the filming.
The soundtrack is paid special attention, and the haunting effect of metal striking metal will ring in your ears! We must take a moment to appreciate the black and white thematic of the film that rather than dulling only add to this magnificent horror giving its audience just the right balance of violence with a tinge of fear. Here is a strong Manga influence that the fans will recognize, and if you can handle the gory moments, you are in for a fascinating experience!
Demon Seed (1977)
The tale starts off with super scientist Alex who has special obsession- super computers. Naturally displeases with her husband’s behavior, his wife Susan and he are now contemplating separation as a solution. The genius Alex is able to develop a smart computer called the Proteus IV. However there is something rather strange request for an open terminal to study humans.
Alex naturally refuses his request but that does not stop the malevolent entity as it now looks for ways to take charge. He molests Alex’s wife only to fulfill his devious plans of procreating a child with her so that it might become mortal. What remains to be seen is will this malignant Proteus IV will be defeated before it causes a greater calamity.
Machine intelligence often has interested filmmakers to carve exciting plots, but seldom have we seen one that provides a machine with a definite purpose, conscience, and a calculative mind making it unsettlingly human-like. That is precisely the antagonist in this movie who leaves a thought-provoking message for you in the end.
You will see how extreme human emotions handicap our potential! The thrilling story is a nail-biting battle of wits, where you are constantly wondering who would win. When Proteus develops a will of his own, you already know that things are about to go haywire from here. As it takes over the house, there is no let-down in the build-up of suspense from the director, Donald Cammell.
As for the cast, Julie Christie almost carries the entire film and does a fabulous job at that! The special effects might seem a bit unconvincing at times, but that is only to accommodate a restricted budget. This techno-horror masterpiece is too good to miss out on!
Saturn 3 (1980)
Saturn 3 revolves around two lovers Adam and Alex who are living on the Saturn’s moon. The timeline of the plot is sometime in the future. Meanwhile they are making their best efforts to grow food that will serve the starving earth however their regular lives are soon interrupted by the arrival of a psychotic individual presumed to have taken up a false identity to do so.
This individual is obsessed with Alex and soon the boys find themselves trapped in the station fighting off a crazed psychopath on the loose. To add to that their opponent is a super-strong, 8-foot tall, intelligent robot. Quite an adversary to battle, huh?
Saturn 3 is an underrated gem with a premise that certainly appeals to the masses. A murderous man and his 8-feet robot after the two souls who have nowhere to run immediately make for a pot-boiler. The sets are going to remind you a bit about Alien, even though one might complain that the special effects remain rather dull.
While the storytelling is crisp, there are moments in the end where you will feel like a few questions are left unanswered. The movie drives home a few points with the acting performances of Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett. A special appreciation has to be reserved for the work on the robot, Hector. It is certainly one of the scariest movie robots of all time and gives out the invincible vibe with its massive appearance.
The direction in this movie came under a lot of controversies following the removal of the original director John Barry. It was only later when it was revealed that Barry was not serious about the project. He would arrive late and had very little inputs and ideas on how to direct a scene leading for him to be dropped from the project altogether. Even with such confusion, the movie turns out fairly well for an exciting sci-fi adventure.
In a futuristic world, robots are used extensively for everyday work, almost as human helps feature today. Sometimes a few robots malfunction, and a cop is specialized to tackle such situations. However, while investigating one of the robotic murders, he finds out that someone is programming these robots into becoming dreaded killers. Time is running out fast as the cop must find out the man behind this sinister plot because his own son has now become a target!
We all love watching futuristic films because it gives us an insight into how the world might look like several years down the line and Runway gives us exactly that. In Runaway, they show you a world where there is rampant distrust among fellow humans, and they are somewhat cold-hearted. The shift from a human workforce to a robotic workforce is an affirmation to technology finally penetrating into society.
Those who take an interest in artificial intelligence and cybernetics will love this movie. Tom Selleck plays the frustrated cop who has to take on some murderous gadgets that are under the influence of a modified chip. The robots here are like mechanical hardware things, but even in their primitive structures, they pose quite a threat.
The idea of cops going after rogue robots isn’t the most original, but the presentation is good enough to win you over. Some well-thought-out special effects add to the charm of the movie, and it is a great joy to watch the heat-seeking bullets fired from the villain played by Gene Simmons with his creepy stare! The plot gets a tad predictable, but you wouldn’t mind with so much going on in every scene. In short, this is a fine blend of a cop-flick with some exciting sci-fi drama that makes for the ideal content for a fun movie night.
Class of 1999 (1990)
In the late 1990s, the high schools in the United States are plagued with extreme violence that even gets the police hesitating before entering the dangerous premises. Naturally frustrated with the situation at hand, some military cyborgs are assigned to the school to keep everything in control.
Previously the teachers used to be scared of their students but with the arrival of thes cyborg tutors the teacher-student dynamics has taken a complete u-turn. Unfortunately these cyborgs go beyond the prescribed disciplinarian actions and soon the unruly students begin to question their real identities and intention.
Sometimes even the most implausible ofplots can be fun to watch and Class of 1999 gives you exactly that. Class of 1999 wouldn’t fare so well in terms of believability, but it has all the elements to keep you glued to your seats.
Some view it as a loose sequel to Mark Lester’s own movie, Class of 1984. The moment three robotic teachers arrive with their strict discipline, things get interesting for the viewers as we are always kept wandering what will happen next as we go from cheering on them to doubting them. This movie is like a mixture of The Terminator and Escape from New York. The gritty view of the future, the ironic humor, and some terrific performances from Malcolm MacDowell, Pam Grier, and Stacey Keach add to the goodness of this film.
The pumping rock soundtrack is catchy, as are the pseudo-military battle scenes. The special effects do not hit a home run, but it works just fine as a guilty pleasure. We would have liked the ending to be better-constructed, but the movie still has enough entertainment to make this a cult-classic!
In a post-apocalyptic setting where the world has now been torn into shreds, destroyed by Nuclear Wars making the earth nothing less than a radioactive wasteland. As a dessert scavenger is passing through the wasteland, he comes across a robot head. This hand finds its way into a space marine’s hand who gifts it to his girlfriend Jill, a sculptor.
Unfortunately for Jill the robot head activates itself when she starts working on it. The robot named Mark 13,starts rebuilding itself. It turns out that Mark 13 is a diabolical military cyborg that is now after Jill’s’ life. Now it is the space marine’s responsibility to save his lover before he is too late.
The underrated South African director, Richard Stanley, brings in the elements from his masterpiece Dust Devil. The themes like Old Testament, sexual violence, and dystopia come together to carve this thrilling journey. It has a straight forward narrative and gets to the point fairly quickly.
The use of montage is spot-on with the nightmarish effect being magnified perfectly. Do not miss out on the generous doses of sarcasm that the director has on offer. For instance, the killer Mark-13 is adorned with stars and stripes. It emits a deadly toxin that smells somewhat like an apple pie! Quite suggestive some would say.
Richard Stanley had plans of using stop-motion animation for Mark-13, but due to lack of time and funds, the ideas could not materialize. He even wrote a sequel for this movie that got stalled as the rights to the original was split between many. Hardware is a cinematic gem that we strongly recommend in spite of the harsh criticism that it draws from the critics!
Deadly Friend (1986)
Paul, a science whiz develops his own yellow robot BB. He fosters a friendship with the girl next-door Samantha who is a victim of her father’s abuses. One day, Samantha gets knocked down the stairs by her father and is declared dead by the hospital.
However Paul does not take this sitting down and steals her body and implants a microchip in her brain. However what he does not know is that his friend is no more the sweet girl that she had been but a deadly robot instead. This movie by Wes Craven is a great combination of some horror classics like Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. The plot is weird and creepy, and is loosely based on a short novel called Friend by Diana Henstell.
There are some truly scary moments, and the movie doesn’t shy away from the gore either. Matthew Laborteaux and the beautiful Kristy Swanson are delightful in their respective roles. The latter stuns the audience with her realistic robotic moves. There are some outstanding moments, such as the basketball scene, that will be worth the watch.
Besides the serious scenes, you also have some humorous elements to keep it a light-hearted business. From the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street, you expect nothing short of excellence, and he delivers with this goofy yet exciting sci-fi horror flick.
Death Machine (1994)
A company is experimenting with a robotic fighting machine that would be a hybrid between a human and machine. However, their work seems to be unsatisfactory as the resultants end up killing a few innocent people. This causes Cale to fire Jack, the brains behind this project.
However, Jack doesn’t take his sacking too kindly and unleashes the deadliest weapon from his armory – a machine called Warbeast that is determined to eliminate Cale and anyone who would help her.
How often are satires misunderstood in cinematic history? This is just another case of that where a carefully concealed comedy lurks underneath the apparently horrifying plot. The sense of fear is constructed skillfully with some tongue-in-cheek humor to lure the audience.
For a tight budget, the special effects are surprisingly impressive enough, and the robot is extremely well-designed. It will, in fact, remind you of an Alien/Terminator hybrid. There are some vicious death scenes that are more about the shock value than the gore.
Actors like Brad Dourif and Ely Pouget are appropriate in their parts, and the former stands out as the menacing villain who is a child-like psychotic genius. It pays homage to the directors of this genre, and you can tell from the names of the characters after directors like John Carpenter, Scott Ridley, and Sam Raimi. If you have a taste for a sci-fi flick out of the box, you are bound to love this one!