ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Hardware (1990)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Richard Stanley

Starring:
Dylan McDermott/Moe
Stacy Travis/Jill
John Lynch/Shades
William Hootkins/Lincoln
10 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
In a decrepit, post-apocalyptic future a recluse “artsy” gal (Travis) gets a “oh so sweet” Christmas present from her returning boy-toy (McDermott); robot parts. Unbeknownst to them, the junk pile is really the remains of a "population control droid" and when it eventually pulls itself back together, it goes on to do what it was built to do: slay flesh! [Arrow sings] "This is what you want, this is what you get, this is what you want, this is what you get...."
THE LOWDOWN
"No flesh shall be spared"-- MARK 13

Richard Stanley is one of those names that held so much horror promise when it first hit the bloody trail. "Hardware" was the man’s first badass film; he followed it up with the equally groovy "Dust Devil", and then got the razor sharp shaft on the "Island of Dr. Moreau" remake (Stanley was fired after one day of shooting and John Frankenheimer took over). After that, we lost a good soldier in the trenches as he disappeared from the genre altogether. It’s a damn shame!

At first glance, "Hardware" might seem like just another baddie-on-the-loose in a claustrophobic hell hole entry, and yes, it does carry some of the conventions of an "Alien" type film, but the flick quickly proved to be more than just another soulless clone by 1) often deviating from the set patterns we all know so well, to venture into more courageous/unorthodox territory (the "trip out scene" is a great example of that) and 2) by touching upon political, ecological, sociological and even spiritual themes throughout its insane trek (loved MARK 13’s biblical connection). Relentless in its ambitions, the flick even found the time to address the “voyeurism" fetish (that fat pervert…gross) and the question of losing our humanity through technology. No gnarly horror film is complete without some good old sexual symbolism and we get some of that sweet stuff here as well (phallic drill anyone?).

The better news is that Hardware is much more than a thought-provoking mind warp. It also comes through ball-busters in everything else. The soundtrack is beyond AMAZING, the sometime satirical humor hit home (loved the reindeer commercial) and the suspenseful action bits knocked me out. I was like a toddler reaching for a steak knife during the last block of this plasma jamboree as MARK 13 used his slew of kool slaughter tools to perform human laundry. NOW THIS IS REAL QUALITY HORROR! It also really helped that the lead characters were endearing and well developed; it made me give a hoot for them and upped the stakes of the mayhem. Jill (Travis) the strong, independent female heroine and her love story with Mo (McDermott), in particular, kept me engaged on a human level while tweak machine Shades (Lynch) kept me chuckling with his high-off-his-ass demeanor. I want some of what he’s dropping!

Then we have the flick’s horror LSD-inspired coating. My eyes were scotch-taped to the screen for the duration of this magic carpet ride. Stanley’s movie fanboy tendencies thankfully came out with visual nods to everything from spaghetti westerns, Argento films to Hammer movies. To top it all off, it’s all dipped in a syrup of surreal music video-like aesthetics. VIVA EYE CANDY! You like your reddish lighting, your epileptic strobes and your arresting slow motion? You'll be well served here. I always say that a good director should make an audience feel through images alone. Well, Stanley excelled at it and he had me at “there is no good news”.

Hardware does have a few shortcomings though. The first being that it was shot on a low budget and in order for the droid to be credible, Stanley had to immerse it in darkness, shadows or frame it in tight shots. On the upside, I bought the droids' existence, on the downside, the film is sometimes too dark and I had the occasional headache in figuring out what the fuck was going on onscreen. Another minimal minus has to do with a visual effect during which the droid was obviously a dude in a suit. Picking up on that took me out of the picture for a micro-second, but I got back in there with gloves on.

Having said all that, "Hardware" delivered 100% as a potent chiller, but also as a relevant cautionary tale with a delightful and brave pessimistic attitude. All of the worthy bases are covered here…heavily. Now let’s toke on some marijuana cigarettes and enjoy the buzz because the world we live in is burning and we are the pyromaniacs igniting it! BURN PLANET EARTH! BURN!
GORE
I saw the R-rated version of this film and although it was trimmed by the evil censors, we still get some tasty gore in the house. How about some gouged out eyes, flesh sawing, nasty knife cuts, a man split in half, a dude drilled to death, some fat guy’s thick drool and a bullet in the head for dinner? Bon appetit!
ACTING
Dylan McDermott (Mo) comes through as the tough guy with a heart. I bought it! Stacy Travis (Jill) handles her part very well and I was rooting for her the whole way. John Lynch (Shades) had me in stitches with his intoxicated attitude. William Hootkins (Lincoln) is simply disgusting as the perv with the drool.
T & A
Both Stacy Travis and Dylan McDermott have a semi-revealing sex scene together. Mark 13 is also nude for most of the film and sports a big drill that should induce moistness for the ladies.
DIRECTING
Stanley's music video background backed him up like an army here. He offers us strikingly snazzy images while going all out in the overhead shots, extreme close ups, blinking lights, trippy color assault and powerful slow motion. Stanley also knows how to capture the momentum in specific scenes and milk them for all that they’re worth. The cinematography is also the dope! FUCK YEAH!
SOUNDTRACK
We get an awesome New Age-like score by Simon Boswell. And the big treat is that we also get a hard hitting metal/punk soundtrack from the likes of PIL, Iggy Pop and Motorhead.
BOTTOM LINE
Hardware is one damn impressive debut. It took over my brain for a buck and a half with its depressive aura, spellbinding style, hard hitting tunes, layered narrative and gory goods. Although the film does have minor flaws, I can’t bring myself to give it a lesser rating than 4 on 4. I just truly LOVE this picture and the immense horror fix it gave me, compensated for the boo-boos. If you crave a horror injection that pushes further than the mainstream in all of its techno punk and psychedelic glory; hack into MARK 13’s mainframe and get ready for a pleasurable cell destroying virus. In a perfect world, Richard Stanley would still be doing his thang in the genre today, offering us priceless daggers like this one. Come back hombre! Not every actor is a "schmuck on wheels" like Val Kilmer or Wacko Brando! COME BACK RICHARD! HORROR NEEDS YA!
BULL'S EYE
Thirty-six seconds of "Hardware" had to be snipped for it to get its X-rating turned into an R.

The nomad who sells Moe the Mark 13 is played by the lead singer of Fields of the Nephilim.

Hardware is loosely based on the comic book, SHOK.

MARK 13 is named after a scary bible passage: "These are the birth pains. No flesh shall be spared."

Lemmy of Motorhead has a cameo as a cab driver in this film and Iggy Pop is the voice of the radio DJ.

After being fired from the "Island of Dr. Moreau" remake, Richard Stanley had the makeup crew turn him into one of the background creatures so that he could at least keep witness the making of his pet project. He did not reveal his identity until the wrap party, where Val “big head” Kilmer (who had Stanley fired), apologized to the man like a pinched adulterer.
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