Director – Stephen Norrington
Cast – Ely Pouget, Brad Dourif, William Hootkins, John Sharian, Martin McDougall, Andreas Wisniewski, Richard Brake
Release Year -1994
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Death Machine was one of my favorite horror films to watch on television while growing up, although I admit that I never knew the name of the movie until I finally saw this film recently, and with pleasant results reminiscent of my younger days spent enjoying this flick. With a no-brainer plot, cheezy-as-hell execution, and a sweet pair of man/machine antagonists, Death Machine is a fun watch sure to please those who know what they are getting into, especially if alcohol and/or friends are involved.
Military contractor Chaank Armaments has been experimenting on creating the perfect soldier of the future, combining man and machine in a failed and deadly project. When the creator of the failed weapons, Jack Dante(Brad Dourif), is fired by newly-appointed CEO Hayden Cale(Ely Pouget) due to his recklessness, he unleashes his most powerful beast to date, a savage and indestructible machine who’s sole purpose is to kill all who cross its path.
If you could not tell from the film’s title alone, this is one hell of a cheezy watch. The storyline is as simple as they get, and while this is a turn-off-your-brain-and-enjoy flick I still found it to contain some very cool ideas that sold this to me as a legitimate horror film. I enjoyed the idea of Hayden Cale being brought in to Chaank Armaments to run damage control over the failed man/machine project, titled The Hardman Project, and soon finding herself not only in a mix of lies and conspiracy, but face-to-face with a supreme beast of technology and revenge. Jack Dante, whose name is an obvious shout-out to Joe Dante, was a unique character who stood out among the other more serious characters, coming off as the one psychotic sissy who feels that no one appreciates him despite his great work, which he deems “art”. My only complaint regarding this enjoyable character was that there were long bouts between his usage, which I somewhat understand and am forgiving towards given we are given good and entertaining action during those long sequences, but nonetheless we are given the feeling that he is an important character, a “star” of the film, yet his screen-time is fairly low compared to everyone else. The dialogue between our characters is nothing notable, unless you are looking for some good cheeze, which in that case the dialogue is sure to leave you laughing out loud at times as it did with me. I will not go as far as to say that this is a “so bad it’s good” horror film, because it really is not “bad”, it is just filmed in the vein of the 70s and 80s horror flicks. Thankfully, we get a good amount of action written into this piece, and its single location provides us with a nowhere-to-run scenario that forces our protagonists to run, hide, and eventually take up arms and fight back against the machine, providing non-stop entertainment via this well-paced story.
Writer Stephen Norrington also serves as the film’s director, and I applaud him for his fun execution and great direction of the film’s most important elements. Sure the acting could have been better from everyone except the fantastic Brad Dourif(Child’s Play series)(in a role perfect for his persona), and the editing was off on numerous occassions, but thanks to good direction the action was good, the tension was high, and I was given an experience that I will never forget, and that is what matters most to me in the horror genre. Fans of creature features will enjoy the look and usage of Warbeast, who may not be a “creature” as far as organics go, but nonetheless he gives us everything a diabolical creature would, and with a unique twist given his mechanics. Even more awesome and quite surprising was that we were given some great live-action FX regarding Warbeast, and even the CGI FX were fantastic (for its time), and so well done that at times I was not able to tell the difference between live-action and CGI FX. This is definitely due to Norrington’s FX background, which includes Aliens and Alien 3, which made him a good candidate for his next directorial effort, Blade, which sadly did not come with great CGI. We also get some good gore here and there, although this experience did not rely much on good kills, but more the awesome antagonist that is Warbeast, but I did not mind that one bit.
Overall, Death Machine is an awesome horror experience that gives us a fantastic killer, lots of action, and plenty of cheeze to go around. The FX are great, and Stephen Norrington does a great job executing this debut effort of his to make for one of the most unique creature features I have seen, and one that I will never forget.