Film Review: Ghost in the Machine (1993)

Also known as: Deadly Terror (working title)
Release Date: December 29th, 1993
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Written by: William Davies, William Osborne
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Karen Allen, Chris Mulkey, Ted Marcoux, Wil Horneff, Jessica Walter, Rick Ducommun

Twentieth Century Fox, 95 Minutes

Review:

“Excuse me… a little stiff. Caught a bitch of a virus.” – Computer Ghost of Karl

I never had much urge to see this way back when it was a current movie. Even though I was a fan of horror and cyberpunk concepts, I knew that it was directed by the same woman that did Freddy’s Dead, which murdered that once great franchise. I also figured that this would be full of computer graphics fuckery and that’s probably why she was hired, after she gave us that abysmally bad CGI 3D sequence in that previous movie.

However, I’m also a fan of the worst ’80s and ’90s cheese, especially in the realms of horror and sci-fi, so I figured that I’d finally give this a watch, as it’s on HBO Max. Plus, it starred Karen Allen and Chris Mulkey and I like both of them quite a bit.

So to be upfront, I didn’t hate this and even though it was a bad movie, there was enough to enjoy in it and the “virtual reality” stuff was every bit as awful and wonderful as it is in other movies from the same era like The Lawnmower Man and Brainscan.

The CGI is primitive as hell and it dates the movie but seeing it in the 2020s, nearly thirty years later, makes it much cooler than it would have been experiencing it back then. Frankly, it made me really nostalgic for this stuff and the early days of computer animation, the Internet and the sort of unknown wonderous world of what technology could be.

I even enjoyed the pixilated killer ghost whenever he appeared in the real world and thought that they utilized the CGI well for what they were trying to achieve.

So the story is about a serial killer that works in a computer and software shop. He steals the address books of clients after his boss uses them to show those clients how his address book software works on common PCs. The killer takes out everyone on the address books before finally killing the person who owns it. However, he is killed in a car crash. Upon getting an MRI, weird shit happens to the power at the medical facility and he is essentially copied onto a hard drive and is essentially now a digital copy of the killer’s brain (and I guess soul) that can travel the Internet and effect any electronics he possesses.

While it’s an interesting concept, I feel like you could easily just trap him in a toaster, unplug him and toss it into the furnace. Also, he is able to manipulate electronics in impossible ways, like using a small microwave to essentially turn an entire large kitchen into a microwave oven.

Plot holes, plot conveniences and ridiculousness aside, some of the kills in this movie are really damn good, such as the microwave kill. The killing sequences also have a bit of a Final Destination vibe to them, as you know the person will die but it’s interesting seeing how it’s all going to unfold. Kind of like watching a Rube Goldberg machine of death.

In the end, though, this is still pretty bad. Most people will hate it and dismiss it as unpalatable schlock but for me, it had enough cool stuff in it to hold my attention and to make me appreciate the effort.

Rating: 5.25/10

Film Review: Tank Girl (1995)

Release Date: March 31st, 1995
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Written by: Tedi Sarafian
Based on: Tank Girl by Alan Martin, Jamie Hewlett
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell, Jeff Kober, Reg E. Cathey, Scott Coffey, Iggy Pop, James Hong, Doug Jones, Frank Welker (voice)

Image Comics, Trilogy Entertainment, United Artists, 104 Minutes

Review:

“Look, it’s been swell, but the swelling’s gone down.” – Tank Girl

While Lori Petty was a great choice to play Tank Girl, this is a pretty awful movie that I’ve never been a fan of.

The concept is cool but the execution of it was terrible in just about every way.

I will say that I like the general look and aesthetic of the movie but it’s the clunky and unfunny script that really drags this concept down into the mud and drowns it before it has a chance to save itself.

The jokes never land and that’s not Petty’s fault, as she’s working with the script they gave her. And honestly, I have to give her props for really giving this her all, as she brings her A-game but basically wastes it in what should have been a really cool flick that could’ve even spawned a franchise had it been handled much better.

I also think the direction is a big problem too. I’ve never been a big fan of Rachel Talalay’s film work and that started with the abysmally bad Freddy’s Dead, which truly derailed the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise. By this point, nearly a half decade later, she still hadn’t found her footing as a director.

Now I do generally like most of the characters in this but you’ve got Malcolm McDowell and yet, he’s severely underutilized and it feels like he’s barely in the film other than about three key scenes.

Honestly, this is just disappointing and the source material could’ve been harvested much, much better.

Side note: this is the cutest Naomi Watts ever was. I think I watched this shit movie more times than I should’ve in my teens because I was crushing so hard on Jet Girl.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other sci-fi B-movies of the early-to-mid ’90s. Especially, those based on comics or video games.

Film Review: The ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ Film Series, Part II (1988-1991)

 A Nightmare On Elm Street IV: The Dream Master (1988):

Release Date: August 19th, 1988
Directed by: Renny Harlin
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Scott Pierce, William Kotzwinkle
Based on: characters by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner
Music by: John Easdale, Craig Safan
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Tuesday Knight, Brooke Theiss, Andras Jones, Toy Newkirk, Ken Sagoes, Rodney Eastman, Robert Shaye

New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 93 Minutes

Review:

The Dream Master is the most successful film of the original series of six. I believe it is because it took the formula of Dream Warriors and then upped the ante and shot it more like a 1980s MTV music video in a time when MTV ruled the world and teenagers’ minds.

It is a colorful film with great editing and visuals. It opened the door for director Renny Harlin to go on and have a pretty big film career.

While Dream Warriors is my favorite film of the series, this one is right behind it. The dream sequences are very imaginative even the few that are a bit cheesy. But, at this point, the franchise was serving up more cheese and laughs than utter dread. Sure, Freddy was still sinister and evil but he had fully become the character everyone was cheering for.

Robert Englund was stellar as usual and he had great chemistry with his new foil, Alice (played by Lisa Wilcox).

This film sees Alice gain the powers of her friends as they die. Whatever their talents are, she has them all by the end of the movie, giving her more ammunition when taking on Freddy. She also knows how to control her dreams in a way that others before her weren’t able to do. She is Krueger’s perfect nemesis. Ultimately, where Nancy is the godmother of all the Elm Street children, Alice is their unrelenting protector.

I love this movie. It was also the last of the good films in the series.

Rating: 7/10

A Nightmare On Elm Street V: The Dream Child (1989):

Release Date: August 11th, 1989
Directed by: Stephen Hopkins
Written by: Leslie Bohem, John Skipp, Craig Spector
Based on: characters by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, William Kotzwinkle, Brian Helgeland
Music by: Jay Ferguson
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Wilcox, Danny Hassel, Beatrice Boepple, Whit Hertford, Kelly Jo Minter, Erika Anderson, Nicholas Mele

New Line Cinema, Smart Egg Pictures, Heron Communications, 96 Minutes

Review:

Alice is back. This time she’s pregnant. Freddy wants the baby in an effort to resurrect himself. Essentially, we have the A Nightmare On Elm Street version of Rosemary’s Baby.

I was glad to see Alice and her boyfriend Dan return but overall, this film sucked.

There were a few good dream sequences, mainly the one where the kid gets sucked into the comic book. Also, the force feeding death to Greta was pretty well done and stomach churning – literally.

While this film tries to give Freddy Krueger more backstory, it chips away at the mystery too much. They revisit the nun mother plot from the third film and expand on it. All this ties it to the baby plot thread.

This film was also toned down in its color palate and just feels and looks really bland after the MTV-esque Dream Master.

It is mostly a sterile film with little to add to the series. Considering they got Alice back, they wasted an opportunity. Additionally, the writers completely disregarded the fact that she had the ability to get her friends’ skill sets. She ran around like a bad ass, which was fine, but she didn’t have the magic about her character that was there in the previous installment.

Rating: 5.5/10

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991):

Release Date: September 13th, 1991
Directed by: Rachel Talalay
Written by: Michael DeLuca, Rachel Talalay
Based on: characters by Wes Craven
Music by: Brian May
Cast: Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Yaphet Kotto, Breckin Meyer, Ricky Dean Logan, Johnny Depp, Tom Arnold, Roseanne Barr, Alice Cooper, Robert Shaye

New Line Cinema, 89 Minutes

Review:

This is, by far, the worst film in the series. While Freddy’s Revenge was a weird piece of work, it had so many redeeming factors. This film, truly has none.

The mythos is completely fucked up, similar to what happened to Jason Voorhees around the same time with Jason Goes to Hell. Freddy now has a daughter, he is now cemented as a child molester – which was just implied before, he had a normal family with a nice house but murdered his wife in front of his daughter and none of it made much sense or added anything interesting.

The film fast forwards to ten years into the future where all the Elm Street kids are dead and Freddy needs the last kid to go out and lead others to him. The fact that Freddy just assumes that kids will make it back there, doesn’t make any sense either.

Also, there are barely any kids in this film. Only three of them die. There are also too many survivors in the end.

Most of the dream sequences are completely retarded. For instance, the one where the kid is trapped in the video game is more of a cartoon and looks nothing like video game graphics. Also, the game play makes no sense. It was clearly devised by someone who never played a game before.

The drug use parts were also written by someone who clearly never smoked weed. Weed doesn’t make you hallucinate like LSD. But in this movie it did. Sure, you could write that off as Freddy making the kid trip when he got drowsy but it still doesn’t make much sense given the scenario.

The film is capped off by an atrocious 3D sequence through Freddy’s brain. It serves no purpose to the story and just makes the film look more ridiculous when played back over twenty years later on a 2D screen.

I hate this movie. Freddy wasn’t killed by the heroine of this film, he was killed by shitty execution, shitty writing and a shitty director.

Rating: 2.5/10