Although billed as a sci-fi film, HARDWARE is unquestionably a horror. In his calculated enthusiasm to shock, first-time writer-director Richard Stanley has filled the screen with gratuitous violence and psychosexual perversion but failed to present a plausible, reasonably coherent plot. Like other movies of its genre (TERMINATOR, MILLENNIUM, etc.), HARDWARE...read more
Although billed as a sci-fi film, HARDWARE is unquestionably a horror. In his calculated enthusiasm to shock, first-time writer-director Richard Stanley has filled the screen with gratuitous violence and psychosexual perversion but failed to present a plausible, reasonably coherent plot.
Like other movies of its genre (TERMINATOR, MILLENNIUM, etc.), HARDWARE is set in an oppressive, post-apocalyptic future world dominated by debris and clunky hardware. Because the environment is contaminated, human life is confined to overcrowded, claustrophobic dwellings. Synthetic nutrients have
replaced now-inedible real food, and an emerging mutant population is growing at such an accelerated rate that the government has enacted the diabolical "Population Control Bill," creating a killer cyborg force, the MARK 13, to destroy violators of birth control laws. Mo (STEEL MAGNOLIAS' Dylan
McDermott) is a "zone tripper," a scavenger who dares to venture outdoors, collecting fragments of machinery that might have some value on the black market. An easygoing guy, he wanders the earth's parched surface in a protective suit and mask that shield him from the radiation polluting the
landscape. In desert sands, Mo finds the head and hand of an android, which he gives to his girl friend, Jill (Stacey Travis), a sculptress who spends her days in a fortresslike apartment, welding metal scraps into works of art. Mo's present should come in handy; instead it proves to be the
remnants of a MARK 13 cyborg, which latches onto the power supply in Jill's building, systematically reconstructs itself, and goes on a murderous rampage, fulfilling its programmed mission to "spare no flesh." Almost everyone in the small cast is killed, including Mo's black market fence, the
dwarf Alvy (Mark Northover). Jill's neighbor, Lincoln (William Hootkins), a particularly disgusting, sexually repressed peeping tom, is also dispatched, and in one of the film's most disturbing scenes, a security guard is severed at the waist by a steel door. Finally, to the background strains of
an angelic choir, Mo himself bites the dust in an equally discomfiting manner as MARK 13 injects him with a deadly poison. The robot, a Robocop II lookalike, is ultimately destroyed by Jill, who survives, no doubt, to continue her work with metallic sculpture. As the film closes, the shrill
singing voice of former Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon repeatedly intones, "This is what you want ... This is what you get."
HARDWARE's imaginative, splendidly effective sets are unquestionably the film's most laudable attribute, lending the movie a look that belies its small ($1.5 million) budget and brief (8-week) shooting schedule at the Camden Roadhouse and Spiller's Wharf in London. Considering the stilted
screenplay they've been handed, the actors also give competent performances. But, regrettably, Stanley's emphasis on design and visual effects fatally undermines the content of this "cyberpunk " thriller. In the production notes for HARDWARE, the 25-year-old film school graduate credits, with
great specificity, his cinematic influences (the gothic atmosphere of the Hammer horror movies of the 50s and 60s; the lighting of Italian horror master Dario Argento; German Expressionist classics; the little-known Danish Film ELEMENTS OF CRIME; a Tibetan film, THE HORSE THIEF; Luc Besson's
costumes; and the climax of Sam Peckinpah's THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND). (Gore effects, sexual situations.)
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