Ghost in the Machine Review
By Keith Breese
Technology has been the Luddite boogeyman since the dawn of time. But it's no longer fashionable to eschew all modern conveniences; the guy who can't turn on a computer has automatically thrown himself out of the gene pool. Heck, at my office (yes, even we esteemed film critics often have day jobs) one of the tech nerds is approaching 80. You've got to evolve to survive, and in our day and age of wireless hotspots and podcasts, fear of the machine equals pariah status. The Luddite is a Cro-Magnon. But our modern culture has always been about dichotomy. And in a purely American way, the Luddites - while unable to download a song or even run a spell check - have something that we techies have lost: an appreciation for the simple, quiet life and old-fashioned, nose-to-the-grindstone work. It goes like this: You can love the machines and get a kick from using them, but rely on them too much and you'll lose your soul. It's like a modern day Descartes-ian dilemma: what really separates us from our technology? The makers of films like Ghost in the Machine argue that all our technological advances have improved our lives but they can't fight off the "real" evil that always surrounds us. The type of evil you can't ctrl-alt-delete away.
Debuting before uncaring audiences in 1993, director Rachel Talalay's (Tank Girl) Ghost in the Machine is a derivative sci-fi/horror hybrid that adds nothing new to the old "amok machine" genre that is represented best by director Donald Cammell's Demon Seed. The plot concerns Karl, the "Address Book Killer," (the horror!) played by Ted Marcoux (Dark Blue), who is killed in a freak accident and has his ever-living and ever-evil soul transferred directly into the power supply. (Don't even ask.) Karl roams the electric highway, possessing all manner of gadgets and kitchenware, as he stalks lovely Karen Allen and her son.
Director Talalay, run into the wilds of television after this fiasco and the ill-fated Tank Girl, has a nice style. She's appropriated Dario Argento's swooping camera and swirling colors and we get some really nice macro POV shots as Karl makes his way through the machinery. But when it's all style and no substance, the movie quickly bores. The pacing lags, the special effects are decent but stupid and the over-the-top murder set pieces (the guy in the microwave is certainly memorable) are laughable. (You'll certainly never look at automatic pool covers the same way again.) The screenwriting pair of William Davies and William Osborne, who thrilled audiences with Twins, should have known better, but judging from their more recent output, still don't.
First billed Karen Allen, best known for her screechy role in Raiders of the Lost Ark, turns in a "where the hell has she been?" performance, and her obnoxious son, played by Wil Horneff, is suitably, well, obnoxious.
A reboot is definitely in order here.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 29th December 1993
Distributed by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Production compaines: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Rotten Tomatoes: 13%
Fresh: 1 Rotten: 7
Cast & Crew