Hardware (1990 film)

Posted: January 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

**Author Brian (C.) Baer wrote this piece on Hardware, a little British film that was initially an unauthorized adaptation of a 2000AD comic strip. As such, it is technically the first movie to be based on a 2000AD comic. Enjoy!**

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Richard Stanley’s Hardware was released in 1990 to a level of success which surprised even its filmmakers, and is still regarded as a cult classic. The low-budget horror film initially did not mention its inspiration, but it was based on “SHOK!”, a seven-page story from the popular British comic 2000AD. The “based on” credit has since been inserted.

dmhThe film tells the story of a miserable, irradiated future where the scavenger and absentee-boyfriend Mo (Dylan McDermott) finds a broken robot, thought to be an old maintenance droid, and makes a gift of it to his artist girlfriend, Jill (Stacey Travis). When Mo ducks out again, the robot is revealed to be a government prototype battle droid, armed to the teeth and capable of self-repair. It comes back to life to terrorize Jill in her sealed skyrise apartment.

hw2Currently available to stream on Netflix, it’s well worth a watch. Hardware is a beautifully cacophonous jumble of visual styles and genre tropes, all tied together by Stanley’s eye for color and a wonderful soundtrack. As far as classifications go, it would have to be defined as a post-apocalyptic western/cyberpunk/arthouse horror film; though initially knocked by critics as a rip-off of 80s flicks like The Terminator and Alien, it appears to owe more to the dusty pessimism of The Road Warrior and the pollution-spewing skyscrapers of Blade Runner. The world is very clearly established, despite the film’s events taking place almost entirely on two sets. Though the killer robot’s special effects are nothing to write home about, the film is still a master’s class in low-budget, high-concept horror.

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Pictured: Dusty pessimism.

The script is appropriately thin for a creature feature, but there are some fascinating things happening just below the surface. There are tidbits of social and political commentary throughout, but the way Hardware handles gender is much more intriguing. Its small cast only includes one woman, Jill, who is lusted after in one form or another by the male cast. Everyone who shares a scene with her, from the fairly scummy boyfriend-figure to the literal Peeping Tom neighbor (William Hootkins), seem equally worshipful and objectifying. All the men carry big guns and are eager to kick down the door and fire wildly in an attempt to save her, but none are there when she actually needs them. Similarly, none can save her. Nearly the entire second half of Hardware’s running time is devoted to Jill being a capable protagonist. She manages to protect herself from the killer robot and her neighbor’s creepy advances, while the men simply show up to die.

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Who’s creepier?

As an adaption, Hardware hits the high notes of “SHOK!” There is plenty of room for expansion from the very brief comic, and the first half of the movie is spent world-building and establishing its bleak tone. The tone is a major departure from the comic, which was essentially a gag strip. The references to the 2000AD universe, and concepts that would be familiar to viewers of the two films based on Judge Dredd, were removed. This allows the film to stand on its own more, instead of being viewed as a spin-off.

Hardware walks the line between genre conventions and originality, but it stands apart for its smartly realized production. Richard Stanley is a thoughtful, thorough filmmaker and his attention to detail and subtext come through nicely. The world needs more horror films (and comic book adaptations!) of this quality.

 

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“See ya!”

 

 

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