The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - BLOOD MACHINES | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - BLOOD MACHINES

blood machines review
Artificial Intelligence takes the form of human women and turns against its masters.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Raphaël Hernandez, Savitri Joly-Gonfard

Starring: Elisa Lasowski, Joëlle Berckmans, Anders Heinrichsen, Noémie Stevens

blood machines poster

Readers of a certain vintage may recall the View-Master, a device that resembled a pair of binoculars and allowed you to view images that came on a small cardboard wheel. View-Masters were already passé by the time I was a child in the 1980s, but there was one such device knocking around my house that presumably had been passed down by some older relative. I was fascinated with one particular wheel of images comprised of a set of elaborate paintings of artists' renderings of imagined alien worlds and spacecraft. The drawings were so imaginative that I mused why Hollywood sci-fi movies of the era were so visually bland in comparison.

I wonder if Raphaël Hernandez and Savitri Joly-Gonfard, the filmmaking duo who work under the collective moniker of 'Seth Ickerman', were similarly entranced by a View-Master as kids, as their 50-minute movie Blood Machines resembles just the sort of psychedelic vision of the future that captivated me on that old device.

blood machines review

Hernandez and Joly-Gonfard announced themselves in some style a few years back with their arresting music video for synth outfit Carpenter Brut's track 'Turbo Killer'. The promo boasted neon drenched, '80s imagery that perfectly complemented the John Carpenter influenced music, and featured a mini-narrative of a masked rescuer coming to the aid of a dancing girl with an upside-down neon cross on her forehead.

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With Blood Machines, Hernandez and Joly-Gonfard resume their collaboration with Carpenter Brut to deliver something that exists between an extended music promo and a fully fledged movie. A sequel of sorts to Turbo Killer, its nominal plot concerns a pair of space hunters - the slimy Vascan (Anders Heinrichsen) and his more conscientious Walter Brennan-esque elderly companion Lago (Christian Erickson) - in a giant craft who have been chasing another spaceship whose onboard Artificial Intelligence system has gone rogue.

blood machines review

Vascan and Lago force their prey to crash land on a desolate planet, where a group of female scavengers led by Corey (Elisa Lasowski) face them down while the AI of the downed craft appears to take on the form of a naked woman (this time with a neon upside down cross on her belly) and escapes into the stratosphere. Vascan takes Corey prisoner and gives pursuit.

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Shudder are promoting this one as "A Shudder Original Experience," and it's easy to see why. While it does have a complete narrative with a beginning, middle and end, nobody will be watching Blood Machines for its storytelling, not to mention its crude dialogue and not entirely convincing turns from European actors forced to perform in English. Rather this is a sensory experience, the modern day equivalent of those Pink Floyd accompanied light shows planetariums would host back in the day.

blood machines review

Split into three distinct chapters, Blood Machines spends its first two parts establishing its set-up, which is quite novel, before exploding into a full-blown psychedelic phantasmagoria in the concluding instalment. It's at this point that Carpenter Brut's previously ambient score kicks into full gear, and Hernandez and Joly-Gonfard stage something of a cross between an action sequence and a ballet, as dozens of liberated female AI dance while psychically controlling the spacecraft they freed themselves from to launch an uprising. It really is beautifully put together.

I'm not sure what the final budget amounted to, but the crowdfunded project's Kickstarter page tells me a final total of €117,539 had been pledged by backers. Regardless, it's staggeringly impressive what Hernandez and Joly-Gonfard and their crew have managed to pull off on a relatively miniscule budget. The CG FX on display here are the equal of any Hollywood blockbuster, but there's a visual invention at play here that's all too lacking in such mega-budget productions. Hernandez and Joly-Gonfard have created a fully realised world here, one I suspect they'll no doubt return to, whether through music promos or further ambitious projects of this nature.

Blood Machines is on Shudder from May 21st.

2020 movie reviews