FREAKSHOW Hardware

Join us every Monday as we look at a cult movie. Our film of the week this time features a deadly killbot

1990
Director: Richard Stanley
Cast: Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, John Lynch, William Hootkins
Available on region one and region two DVD
Watch the trailer here

British director Richard Stanley’s career sadly remains overshadowed by his experiences on 1996’s The Island Of Dr Moreau. Unceremoniously sacked and banned from the set, Stanley heroically returned to haunt the production, sneaking in disguised as one of Moreau’s human-animal hybrids, flipping the bird to The Man and forever cementing himself in our affections.

Back in 1989, all this drama was ahead of him, and Stanley was graduating from music videos to his debut feature, and drawing on youthful dreams. Set in a post-apocalyptic future that’ll give fans of 2000AD and Max Headroom a warm glow of recognition, it’s a classic one-room genre flick, unfolding almost entirely in the apartment of feisty sculptress Jill, who must fight for her life after a robot dug up in the desert turns out to be a self-repairing combat droid.

It’s one of those lovingly crafted movies where ingenuity and enthusiasm overcome the budgetary limitations. There are some smart background details: Jill’s fridge contains cartons of “Lactoplasm”, rather than milk. William Hootkins is strikingly repulsive as her voyeuristic neighbour, a sleazeball who must have left a slime trail behind him when he escaped from a John Waters film. Cameos by the likes of Motorhead’s Lemmy (as a cabby) and Iggy Pop (as a radio DJ) provide added punk rock cred.

It’s just a shame Stanley couldn’t afford to splash out on stopmotion. While we usually prefer the increased sense of physicality that on-set effects bring, the Mark 13 prop is too rickety to provide serious threat – for the most part, he’s about as scary as Short Circuit’s Johnny 5.

Ian Berriman, reviews editor of SFX and cult movie nut, has watched Rat Pfink A Boo Boo four or five times, but never seen On The Waterfront. The nutter.

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