Bonus Reviews: The Machine (2013) and Night of the Demons (1988)
Horror Bulletin Bonus Reviews #146
Horror Bulletin Bonus for Week 146
For this week’s bonus films, we’ll look at a couple of good ones: First up, an under-the—radar artificial intelligence/android/sci-fi conspiracy thriller, “The Machine” from 2013, and the the classic “Night of the Demons” for 1988.
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The Machine (2013)
• Directed by Caradog W. James
• Written by Caradog E. James
• Stars Toby Stephens, Caity Lotz, Denis Lawson
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 31 Minutes
A Cold War with China has forced the west into the deepest recession in recorded history. There’s a new AI-based arms race.
Vincent works to rehabilitate war-wounded men with brain damage. One of them, Paul Dawson, goes berserk and kills a bunch of people in the lab and seriously wounds Vincent.
After a long recovery, Vincent continues working on artificial intelligence. He does a Turing test on various intelligences. His daughter is blind and deaf, and he has to feed her through a tube.
He’s very impressed with Ava’s machine. He wants her to come work for him. When she goes to work, an old woman opens her car door and says “They’ve got my son!” Eventually, she gets inside. The old woman is Paul Dawson’s mother, and Vincent lies about what happened to him, saying Paul’s mother is deranged.
The guards at the base are all war veterans with brain injuries and implants that help them survive; they’re all mute. Except we see that they can speak with each other. We see, but Ava doesn’t, that some nasty stuff is still going on here.
Ava is impressed with the man getting prosthetic arms. He whispers to her, “Area 6.” They claim to be helping these vets, but they’re also being treated like prisoners. The machines listen to everything.
The base’s boss, Thomson, finds Ava is using a hacking device to find out more about Area 6. He also has a plan to use robots to infiltrate and kill the Chinese government before a war can start.
That night in the car, Vincent admits that he wants to use all this AI research to help cure his daughter with implants to cure her brain disease. They stop to pick up Mrs. Dawson on the side of the road, but the old lady turns out to be a Chinese agent in disguise who kills Ava. Not really; Thomson was behind the assassination.
Vincent makes his next robot look and sound like Ava. In a test, they scare the new robot, and she kills the man. Thomson’s implanted assistant, Suri, comes to see the machine, and it talks to her in her own language. It’s clear that there is more going on with the implanted people than is generally known.
Vincent is called away to deal with his sick daughter and when he returns, The Machine can now dance. She’s smarter than anyone expected; Ava’s mind is in there somewhere. Vincent goes back to the hospital and does full body and mind scans of Mary, his daughter.
Thomson has installed a lot of secret knowledge; languages, combat skills, and so forth. He introduces The Machine to the man who killed Ava. It doesn’t take too much persuasion for her to hurt the man, but she refuses to kill him. After a little more “convincing” she does the job.
Every time Vincent goes to the hospital for his daughter, Thomson does some kind of military testing and training with The Machine. Vincent’s daughter finally dies.
Vincent comes to the conclusion that The Machine is alive and conscious, and Thomson thinks that’s a horrible problem. Thomson tells Vincent to turn down The Machine’s intelligence and then he can work on his daughter Mary’s replacement. Vincent ends up doing brain surgery on The Machine and removing her “soul.” Thomson goes back on his word and deletes Mary’s program.
The Machine does well in combat tests, killing without hesitation.
Suri has something going on with the security drones. It turns out that Vincent’s surgery only removed the GPS battery so they can’t trace her. She releases Vincent and then goes to rescue Mary’s program. The security guards revolt, killing the scientists. Thomson tries to disable the guards’ implants, but he’s locked out by Suri.
Vincent gives James his arms, and he and some of the other vets/prisoners help him. Vincent then turns off the cooling system, which will self-destruct the base. The Machine confronts Thomson and squishes his brain. The Machine downloads Mary’s program, and she and Vincent drive away.
The music and lighting are trying to be very reminiscent of Blade Runner, and obviously, some of the themes are closely related.
There’s a lot of middle-of-the-road-level CGI here, but this wasn’t a low budget film. The sets, acting, and story are all very strong. There aren’t many new sci-fi ideas presented here, but they are combined in an interesting way.
Night of the Demons (1988)
• Directed by Kevin Tenney
• Written by Joe Augustyn
• Stars Cathy Podewell, Amelia Kinkade, Alvin Alexis, Linnea Quigley
• Run Time: 90 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgement Zone
A silly but fun haunted house movie with the usual assortment of teenagers, but with really good makeup and gore effects.
Stooge and his buddies are driving down the road and moon some old man. It’s Halloween, and the old man is planning to put razor blades in apples.
Jay calls Judy and tells them he’s found a real party for tonight. This party is at Hull House. Judy’s sister Billy goes downstairs and runs into Judy’s wanna-be-boyfriend Sal. Billy tells Sal where the party is going to be, which surprises Sal.
Angela and Suzanne steal a bunch of stuff from the convenience store. Judy and Jay pick up Max and Frannie, and they all head to the party at Hull House, a former funeral home next to the cemetery.
Max explains that an underground river surrounds the property; ghosts can’t cross running water, so they’re trapped inside. The party begins; they all dance.
The music stops, and Angela suggests a party game; a seance. They all stare at a mirror to see who they were in a past life. Helen sees a demon’s head in the mirror. The mirror breaks and they start hearing sounds in the basement. The demon wakes up and invisibly flies straight into Suzanne’s mouth.
Suzanne kisses Angela and spreads the demon. Roger and Helen want to leave since they aren’t into this scary stuff. They can’t find the gate to leave the property. Helen thinks they’re already dead.
Max tells the group old scary stories about the history of the place. Jay and Judy make up, but eventually split up. Meanwhile, Angela does a dance for Sal. Stooge comes in and dances with her, but she bites his tongue off. Suzanne seduces Jay into having sex with her, and she ends up squeezing his eyeballs out. Stooge, now possessed as well, kills Frannie and locks her in a coffin with Max.
Judy is attacked by Max’s dismembered arm and is then chased all over the house by the other demon-possessed partiers. Sal and Angela fall off the roof, and Roger has to help Judy from doing the same. Judy and Roger run to the basement. They find the door to where the original demon was sleeping; it’s a crematorium.
Judy breaks off a gas pipe and gets ready to blow things up when the demon possessed break in the door. They burn in her improvised flamethrower. They get out of the building, but still have to get outside the wall. Roger makes it over and pulls Judy along behind him. The others die as the sun rises.
In the morning, Judy and Roger walk home, right past the grouchy old man. He goes inside and eats some homemade apple pie, which his wife has baked with all the leftover apples from last night…
The cinematography is really fun here. Rotating cameras, mirror shots, and lots of unusual angles make it fun to watch. There are nine easily distinguishable characters with actual names, each with a stereotypical personality, which makes it easy to watch if not especially original. The makeup effects are good, the gore shots are well done, and it’s all easy to see, even in the dark. It’s a very well-made haunted house film.
On the other hand, the humor is extremely dated, the story is one you’ve seen dozens of times before, and all the characters are, in fact, stereotypes. It’s a very 80s horror film. It’s fun, but it blends in with a huge number of similar films.
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