Directed by: Garo Setian
Run time: 92 minutes
The Lowdown: Killer robots have not always gotten the best that Hollywood can offer.
From Saturn 3 to Chopping Mall, many sci-fi/horror hybrids have tried to capitalize on our collective fear that technology might just turn against us at any moment, with mixed results.
Hell, I would argue that some of the scariest killer robots weren’t even the focus of their respective films (Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ash in Alien) or starring in a horror film (Arnold in the original The Terminator).
Thankfully, no one clued director Garo Setian or veteran B-movie writer Rolfe Kanefsky into the fact that rampaging robots aren’t a guaranteed recipe for success.
Otherwise, we wouldn’t have Automation, a wholly surprising, gleefully gory and unexpectedly poignant tale of an A.I. experiment that wants nothing more than to crush on his favorite female co-worker and pretend he’s a real boy. Until his previously installed military software kicks in, that is.
Automation checks off a lot of boxes. A lot.
On one hand, it’s like an update of the classic beauty and the beast tale, except Auto the robot is like Mechani-Kong to Elissa Dowling’s sweet office worker Jenny.
The film creates a world in which viewers actually believe that a cyborg can develop emotional feelings toward a human, and it shows the impact that discrimination and ignorant bias can cause when people make snap judgments about technology and change.
There’s a lot of such big ideas at play throughout, which given the rapid rate of progress that we’ve seen in real life with robots being designed to tackle mundane tasks feels relevant and timely.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the film’s closing minutes.
Automation is also a gory thrill ride packed with above-average practical effects, not to mention Auto’s freaking laser-blast hands.
On a whole other level, Automation takes the premise of a film like Robocop and plays with the notion of mankind trying to have it both ways by designing an automated soldier that also can be repurposed as a menial laborer.
What if society built a non-human killing machine and then tried to constrain its programming to negate such dangerous directives? What could go wrong, right?
What if, indeed.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Elissa Dowling is smoking hot.
Nudity – Brief.
Gore – Oh yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – If the chicken created the egg, and programmed the egg, and the egg hatched and suddenly started killing everyone, who would be to blame?
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains (Dark Side Releasing, 96 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains may not be the first meta-meta-movie about filmmakers making an unorthodox, structureless horror film called, Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains, but it’s damn sure one of the funniest, goriest low-budget delights you’re likely to stumble across.
Co-directors Paulo Biscaia Filho and Gary McClain Gannaway shoot much of the film documentary-style, as if you’re watching what will become extra special features on a DVD release, including behind-the-scenes interviews of co-directors Shane (Ezekiel Z. Swinford) and his girlfriend Chloe (Kelsey Pribilski).
Through these snippets viewers slowly learn about the “tragedy” that befell the fledgling production, which is basically the set-up for Shane, Chloe and their hapless crew and cast arriving at a remote farmhouse that would be right at home in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The house belongs to a relative of Mike (Don Daro), a local video rental shop clerk who has appeared in several low-low-budget horror films. He’s also the biggest name in the mostly amateur cast that Shane and Chloe assemble.
Unbeknownst to them, he’s also a raging sociopath whose family of inbred hicks are only pretending to be actors who are then cast as the crazed inbred hicks in the script that kidnap and dismember a bunch of hot cheerleaders in the film.
Virgin Cheerleaders in Chains plays with traditional conventions all the while goosing the audience with clever asides, such as Shane and his director of photography discussing a need to add some backstory to the creepy house featured in the film.
“It’s a one-line fix,” the DP says.
“I hate exposition,” Shane replies.
Before long, Virgin Cheerleaders explodes into a full-on geyser of gore that’s both impressive and unexpected for a film with a likely low production budget.
Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing out loud throughout. I think everyone else will dig it too. This is one of those proverbial diamonds in the rough that should garner a deserved cult status with any luck.
The Zombie Apocalypse in Apartment 14F (Wild Eye Releasing, 87 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Here’s the deal, in 2019, if you’re going to make a zombie movie that feels like it was inspired by the Spanish [rec] franchise, which began with an undead uprising in a tightly-packed apartment building, you need to either find a new, creative twist to elevate the genre and distinguish your film, or you need to go in the complete opposite direction and be as funny as fucking possible in detailing the efforts of two lazy tenants to survive an otherwise improbable situation.
The Zombie Apocalypse in Apartment 14F decides to go the comedy route, and fails spectacularly, in large part, because the film just isn’t very funny and the zombie elements just aren’t original.
MST3K: The Gauntlet – Season 12
Robocop: Limited Edition
Reigo: King of the Sea Monsters
Now on Video-on-Demand:
The Dwelling (Uncork’d Entertainment, 88 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): The Dwelling, which was originally filmed in 2016 by the much better title, Bed of the Dead, opens with a hanging and a butchering by four imposing dudes in cult robes.
Immediately after, another dude in chain-mail chops down part of the tree from the lynching and uses the wood to build a bed adorned with a sigil on its headboard, and it’s the most badass gothic bed you’ve ever seen.
Yep, The Dwelling knows how to hook its audience right from jump.
What follows is a gory good adventure that follows two couples looking for fun who book a suite at an anything-goes fetish hotel for the purpose of swapping partners and screwing next to each other.
The room they get is like the most badass, gothic set from a Kink.com custom video shoot, and of course, the bed is front and center.
Before long, blood is spraying, people are dying and time is being manipulated by the bed and its special witchy powers.
The Dwelling isn’t the first genre film to focus on a human-devouring bed, and it’s also likely not the best horror movie that could be made from such a premise, but it is loads of fun and a worthwhile viewing experience.