Movie Review: Automation, A Return to Men In Rubber Suits
Automation, the newest entry from Epic Pictures which is the movie wing of Dread Central is out with its newest ‘horror comedy’. I put it in quotes because I am not exactly sure its either. That being said I dug Automation far more than a few of the other films Dread Central has produced, namely Terrifier which I felt to be mean spirited and not nearly as fun as this film. Automation is both fun and funny and is at least attempting to make a larger argument even if it is not always successful. Generally speaking Automation had a whimsy about it that I could appreciate…kind of like a porn parody.
Epic gives the description of the movie as a workplace robot, AUTO, transforms into a killing machine when he discovers he will be replaced by a more efficient model. AUTO fears being terminated and will stop at nothing to prevent his own destruction. The human employees must band together to stop him before it’s too late. Auto’s voice played with Data like stoicism by Jim Tasker really steals the show. At its core this is a movie about a guy in a rubber suit attempting to be more human. In that way it feels like a throw back to a simpler type of horror movie. There is no doubt Auto’s creature design is not supposed to look real. It has a throwback art deco feel that actually works really well for the type of movie that it is in. There are also some emotional scenes that I think could be super silly but because of Tasker’s earnestness come off as genuine. That is not to say this film is serious it is most definitely not. However I think it is not content to be that silly film, it punches up and for that it deserves credit.
Automation is one of the largest drivers of social unrest and while I don’t believe this movie is seeking a great deal of meta-commentary about the changing work force it fits squarely within the canon of work place horror. Auto is being replaced and is ultimately angry and worried about his future and goes on a killing spree. The unfortunate truth is that we have already seen this movie in the real world. An angry worker who is treated poorly by his/her corporation enacts revenge on the people he works with. While scenes in Automation are played for laughs (and they are often funny) the reality it is speaking to is all too serious.
Perhaps the largest problem with this movie is that it doesn’t go full anti-corporoation. Jenny played with a hard sweetness by Elissa Dowling is clearly the heroine. Jenny tries to do the right thing and manages to navigate work place harassment and corporate restructuring with a hopeful optimism that is believable. Her foil Susan, the cold and callous corporate officer is presented at the beginning of the movie as one of the leading causes of Auto’s killing spree. As the movie progresses we get more Auto being ‘bad’ and less corporate nastiness. I was not surprised when Susan partnered with Jenny at the end of the film. What started as a film that wanted to engage in a worker driven discussion of post industrialism appeared by the end to present an alliance between workers and corporations as the way to deal with our own impending conflict. Automation starts with a hammer and sickle and finished with late stage capitalism. My personal politics may be poking through but I would have like more of the first message and a little less of the second.
Tyler…why so serious? You are absolutely right. This movie is about a killer robot. Auto is essentially B-9 from Lost in Space with an attitude problem. I wanted to watch that movie and I wasn’t disappointed. Automation is not meant to be more than the sum of its parts, not entirely different that Auto. as long as you are content to let either do their job there won’t be any problems. Check out Automation its well worth a watch. Automation is streaming now and available for blu-ray.
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.