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Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Rachel Talalay’s Gonzo Sci-fi Slasher ‘Ghost in the Machine’ Entertains at Every Turn [We Love ’90s Horror]

The ‘90s often get a bad rap with horror fans. After the numerous successful slashers and creature effects films of the ’80s, the ‘90s offered a different variety of horror fare. Though there were plenty of hits, hidden gems, and misunderstood classics, the ‘90s usually don’t get the kind of love that other decades get when it comes to horror. It’s time to change that.

The early-to-mid ‘90s were littered with a horror sub-genre called “techno-thriller.” While this term would end up mostly being applied to things like Tom Clancy novels, there was a small movement in horror and sci-fi cinema that tried to take advantage of our collective unease surrounding emerging technologies. Prominent examples would be The Lawnmower Man and Johnny Mnemonic, but there were a few films that flew under the radar.

One of those was 1993’s Ghost in the Machine.

On the surface, the story is one that sounds suspiciously familiar to Wes Craven’s 1989 screwball slasher Shocker: a serial killer’s spirit becomes an electrical entity that can possess machines to kill his victims. But where Shocker isn’t really interested in commentary about technology, Ghost in the Machine makes its ghost tied to then-modern ideas about interconnected technologies. He finds his way into computers, ATM machines, and even virtual reality video games.

Director Rachel Talalay (Freddy’s Dead, Tank Girl) was clearly interested in taking advantage of whatever new technology was available at the time and playing with it in ridiculous ways. Yes, it will all look viciously dated now and was probably even a bit incredulous at the time, but it exhibits big stylistic choices that seem bolder and stranger in comparison to a lot of modern sci-fi’s tendency toward streamlined “realism.”

And Ghost in the Machine isn’t concerned with realism. Its biggest concern is having a grand ol’ time, and it overwhelmingly succeeds at that aspiration. If you’re looking for giddy slasher fun, Ghost in the Machine is committed to that in spades. Kooky, creative deaths abound and Talalay wants to show them off every chance she gets. Her time spent with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise is put to good use here by understanding how to cleverly set up and execute over-the-top murders with some stylish directing choices to boot. There are a few uses of extreme microscopic lenses that add a sparky energy to a few shots that I wish actually showed up more.

But even still, this is a movie where you have your pick of wackadoo deaths. From a hand dryer that becomes a flamethrower to a malicious dishwasher that spells out “DIE” on its digital display, Ghost in the Machine always goes for whatever the goofiest idea could be and commits to it. One of the standout moments in this regard is a funeral service where the casket is instantly fed into an incinerator. Something goes wrong and the charred corpse is flung into the audience, resulting in this applause-worthy close-up:

Yeah, it ends up being a dream sequence, but who cares? Ghost in the Machine is out here trying to entertain at every turn. The same goes for the strong cast led by Karen Allen and Chris Mulkey, with amusing supporting appearances from Arrested Development’s Jessica Walter, The ‘Burbs’ Rick Ducommun, and The People Under the StairsBrandon Quintin Adams. Everyone knows the kind of silly drive-in fare they are in and acts accordingly.

Frankly, I wish there were more Ghost in the Machine type movies out there in the ‘90s. Wacky, energetic, and with some moments that will make you scream, “What?!?” at the top of your lungs – the “bribing the babysitter” scene is something that I can’t even begin to describe here – Ghost in the Machine is the kind of gonzo gem you hoped to find when you would take a chance on something at the video store. It’s got plenty of memorable moments and an overall sense of, “Make ‘em laugh.” Sure, that means it’s not a very scary experience, but horror is such a great genre because it can capture numerous different kinds of emotional responses.

You’ll have a great time with Ghost in the Machine. If a crispy cadaver being catapulted into Karen Allen’s face doesn’t brighten your day, I don’t know what will.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3624216/rachel-talalays-gonzo-sci-fi-slasher-ghost-machine-entertains-every-turn-love-90s-horror/

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