Thursday, May 21, 2020

Shudder: Blood Machines

Who knew the Singularity would strike such a blow against the so-called “patriarchy?” Yet, you would think humanity would be better off in the long-run if we were not beholden to artificial intelligence and the machines they control. A couple of old school scavenger dudes still think are on top of the intelligence pyramid, but they will learn differently in Seth Ickerman (a.k.a. Raphael Hernandez & Savitri Joly-Gonfard)’s Blood Machines, “a Shudder original experience in three chapters,” which premieres today on the streaming service.

Vascan and his older, more human co-pilot Lago have been chasing a rogue ship to salvage for parts, but Mima, its damaged AI unit, has been frustratingly elusive. Just when Vascan thinks he has it cornered, a shamanistic tribe of women who commune with artificial intelligences helps her escape as a naked ghost. Despite Lago’s reservations and the buggy behavior of their own AI system, Vascan refuses to back down. He even takes Corey, the mysterious tribal leader as his prisoner. He might even have more contemptible motives, which further stokes Lago’s mounting unease.

Or something like that. Blood Machines is definitely a case of style and visuals prioritized far above narrative and characterization. It makes sense that the project started off as a proof-of-concept music video for Carpenter Brut’s “Turbo Killer” and it still has that kind of razzle-dazzle look and fire-and-fury vibe. If you love the old school Heavy Metal film and magazine, Blood Machines will probably appeal to your sensibilities.

Frankly, the inverted cross motif is more than a little baffling. Obviously, it brings to mind all sorts of satanic horror tropes, but some cult film fans might also get Evangelion flashbacks. Regardless, the way Ickerman freely intermixes it with naked female bodies gets a bit creepy.

Although most of the characters are really stock figures, Christian Erickson admirably humanizes Lago. In fact, it is a tragically human performance that happens amid a micro-series-experience that largely discounts the value of humanity.

Blood Machines is not great science fiction, but its energy is quite potent and the maelstrom of imagery is definitely over-powering. The bite-sized 15-20-minute episodes also make it a handy time-filler in-between longer programs (but Shudder’s Dead Wax is even more fun). Recommended for sf and cult cinema fans who always want to see something crazy, Blood Machines is now streaming on Shudder.