07/21/2023 10:45

Film: Hardware

Year: 1990

Director: Richard Stanley

Writer: Richard Stanley

Starring: Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis and John Lynch



This was another film that I had never seen before, but it popped up for prep on the Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Challenge Series for 1990s. I was shocked to see Dylan McDermott starring in this and that this was post-apocalyptic.

Synopsis: the head of a cyborg reactivates, rebuilds itself and goes on a violent rampage in a space marine’s girlfriend’s apartment.

We start this in the desert. The world has ended, but life continued on in a different way. Earth is no longer beautiful as it once was. We follow a nomad as he comes up on a fenced off area. He finds the hand of a robot as well as its head in it. He takes these items.

The film then fills in the back-story through Angry Bob (Iggy Pop) who is a radio DJ. We learn that the government is out to make it where people no longer can have children to avoid overpopulation. There’s also talk of some political assassinations that have happened as well to some new controversial bills.

Moses Baxter (McDermott) and his friend Shades (John Lynch) go to a local salvager. Mo is a space marine back from duty and he is trying to make a little money for his girlfriend. The man he goes to is Alvy (Mark Northover). He goes into the back for something and the nomad comes in. Mo buys the hand and hand of the robot off him and then tries to flip it to Alvy. When he can’t, he decides to give it to his girlfriend.

She is Jill (Stacey Travis). She is an artist of sorts and makes sculptures from different junk metal she finds. It should be pointed out here that she has a peeping tom, Lincoln Wineberg Jr. (William Hootkins), who takes pictures of her through her window. On top of that, he prank calls her.

When Mo shows up, she almost doesn’t let him in. He does give her the items he brought her and, in the night, she adds it to her sculpture. Alvy calls Mo during that time after doing research. She wants to talk to him about items. The hand was sold to Alvy and it comes to life before Mo gets there. The head turns on and starts to rebuild itself, turning its attention to Jill.

That is where I’m going to leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Now I have to say, this is a wild one. I’m surprised I never heard of it as this is right up my alley in that it is horror and sci-fi, especially the year it came out. I’m a big fan of post-apocalyptic horror as well as robots or technology becoming aware and trying to kill humans.

This has an interesting subplot that if you don’t pay attention to Angry Bob, you might miss. Now Jill brings up as well during a conversation with Mo that the government is corrupt and looking to kill off the poor. Their argument is masked in the aspect that it is about children, but that is part of what their overlords are doing. It is through what Alvy discovers that the robot head they found was for an urban cyborg that would clear out the poor. What made it worse was that it can regenerate itself, but it was scrapped when water would make them malfunction.

There is also a bit about religion that is veiled in the film. This doesn’t go into explicitly, but normally when you have post-apocalyptic films, religion doesn’t normally survive. If it does, it has fallen by the wayside and is a minority concept. I like that the Mark 13 chapter in the bible explains what this robot is capable of and comes true later in the film. This is another solid aspect to the writing that impressed me.

The last thing to cover of the story before moving on is the robot. I like that the head is self-aware where it can use the electric wiring to bring its hand back online, even though it’s across the city. On top of this, it can create a new body from the sculpture that Jill was building. That makes it an even more terrifying entity. I did find it intriguing that it ends up with a drill weapon that where it is positioned and how it looks phallic. Having it go after Jill even doubles down.

To move next to the pacing, which I think for the most part is good. I was intrigued to learn more about this world when we saw that nomad in the desert and the introduction to the city. I do feel like this hit a lull there early in the second act and it takes a bit for the robot to come to life. After it does there’s another slow period with Jill trying to figure out what is going on. Mo is also gone as well to learn what he can. I do like the climax though and how it ends. It also still builds the necessary tension to keep me wanting to see what happens.

Something I didn’t have an issue with was the acting. It was good and that carries it. I like McDermott’s dirtball role. It takes a bit to reveal his real name, but once it does, it makes sense for his character. On top of that, going back to the religious aspect I covered as well. Travis is also solid in her role. I like the starving artist that she is and she doesn’t like the world she is living in. She is also easy on the eyes and seeing her nude doesn’t hurt. Pop, Lynch, Northover and Hootkins are all solid in their supporting roles. It is funny to see Lemmy from the band Motorhead as well, especially since he plays his band’s music if I am not mistaken. The rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed.

All that is left would be with filmmaking. The effects were good. I like that writer/director Richard Stanley and the effects crew did what they could to make the robot come to life. It looks real to be honest. The blood and gore we get take a bit to be seen, but once we do, those looked great. I’m glad to see it was done practically which I’m always a fan of. The cinematography is good as this is shot well. Finally, to the soundtrack. It is fit for what they needed it to be. I do want to point out that I recognized a song used in the film a couple times as used for a promo that is played on a podcast that I listen to regularly and I loved that. The score overall isn’t one I’ll revisit a lot, but it helps build the tension of the scenes and that’s all I can ask for.

In conclusion, this is a film I knew nothing about and I’m glad I got to see it. I like the concepts that this film has and deeper themes that run through. They are still socially relevant today. I like the story as well, but I do think there are slight pacing issues. It doesn’t ruin the overall product though. The acting is good, as were the effects. If anything, I wanted a bit more of the latter. I think the soundtrack is fitting for what they needed as well. I would say that overall, this is a good film and would recommend a viewing if you like post-apocalyptic or sci-fi horror.


My Rating: 8 out of 10