Horror Recommendation: Hardware (1990)

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

Hardware (1990); Directed by Richard Stanley

In One Sentence: In a post apocalyptic dystopia, a scavenger gives his girlfriend a robotic skull for her art project, which proves to be the worst gift ever received by anyone.

Why You Should Watch: Right, I know Im chancing it a wee bit here because Hardware isn’t technically a horror film, but it is weirdly scary and is totally a cult belter you should watch, especially if you’re interested in cyberpunk and industrial music.

Mo, played by Dylan McDermott (the handsome dude from Miracle on 34th Street) is a scavenger and barterer in a heavily irradiated, post apocalyptic world, who ends up with a defunct robot skull in his possession and decides to give it to his artist girlfriend Jill to use in one of her sculptures. Weirdly enough, the sculpture becomes sentient and turns out to be a non-stop murderous killing machine. Apart from a few other plot parts like a creepy neighbour and a few notes on the TV and radio about the world, that’s the basic plot. But that’s fine because plot and acting take a back seat to the visual and audio aesthetics of Hardware.

Heavily influenced by industrial culture, this film is big rusty beauty of a thing. Everything is harsh. From the irradiated, scorched, cloudless sky of the outside world to the clunky, raw technology of the apartment complex where most of the film is set, everything looks brutal and primitive, but never outdated. The art team have made all technology fit so well in the world that even now in 2015, all the control panels and sets refuse to look dated, which is a hard thing to get right. You can tell this is heavily influenced by the industrial music scene of the late 80’s/early 90’s. It just feels like it should LIVE in a nihilistic gen-x club somewhere. There are even cameos by Iggy Pop and Carl McCoy of Fields of the Nephilim for fucks sake!

Editing is quick and frantic at times but totally works well when it needs to and actually complements the score more than the film at times which is something you rarely get to appreciate.

Now, Simon Boswell’s score. Unreal. A really western feeling mix of cowboy-esque lap steel and industrial music. I know, right? It’s beautiful. This thing is so good that Stanley sometimes lets it dictate the PACE of the film. Wild!

Even an incredible Ministry song makes its way into the film just to bolster every industrial leaning the film has. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBi8U9hJy-E)

I wont spoil or detail much about the robot, or why it exists (which is amazing) but what I will tell you is that you can forget the justice fuelled force of Robocop, or the human-faced death bringer of the Terminator, the Mark-13 in Hardware is terrifying. A faceless, wordless, unstoppable killing machine. It doesn’t have any quotable phrases you’d put on a t-shirt, or a figurine you’d buy for your child. This thing is a cyberpunk nightmare. It wants you fucking dead and it will do it.

Unsurprisingly, it gets some of the best kills in the film and the gore given to you is stupendous. So much so, that it was originally rated X before some cuts. Blood and machine and rust all coming together in a nice big metaphor for, well…I won’t tell you.

I’ll cut it here because I would bang on about lighting and that aswell and end up boring you to death, but here.

If you like cyberpunk things and industrial music and seeing folk being scared, watch this film. It’s like one big Skinny Puppy music video and how can that be a bad thing??

Favourite Line: “You can’t go in there. There’s a droid going crazy in my lounge”