Blood Machines is a fast-paced, quickie you won’t feel bad about participating in. Questions of morality, religion, and what it means to be alive are explored in Shudder’s latest out May 21st, 2020.
The hour-long part music video part feature film Blood Machines is as satisfying as a synth-laden, laser-heavy wet dream. If you don’t know what that is, watch it and you will. It is like nothing you have ever seen before. That’s a phrase that is often overused. In this case, it isn’t hyperbole. When I say you will sit shocked with your mouth open the entire run time, I mean it. Split into three segments; each part tells a portion of the story overall. The crowdsourced labor of love is an example of what indy film making can be. It explores thought-provoking themes while captivating you with arresting imagery and heart-pounding music. Blood Machines is the story of a hunter of rogue AI, a coven of technopunk witches, and what it is to have a soul.
Let that sink in a moment. It sounds absurd, and it is, a little. That doesn’t mean Blood Machines isn’t absolutely fabulous. Chapter 1 gives us a naked woman with a giant glowing cross wringing herself from the carcass of a newly wrecked ship after some kind of religious ceremony. Chapter 2 finds our two-person crew consisting of Lago and Vascan with the help of their ship AI, Tracy, chasing down the mysterious ghost woman.
Their kidnapped witch Corey is helping whether she likes it or not. Lago is the older, more gentle pilot who has seen some shit in his day and has come out more philosophical if not always more patient. Vascan is a misogynistic dick. He is jaded, universe weary, and abusive to the extreme to everyone but Lago. Corey hides a wealth of knowledge behind a stoic face and an acerbic tongue. Chapter 3 brings a surprising balletic resolution to Vascan’s quest for understanding. The finale hurls you through space and time to a place where all your questions are answered in a flash of a strobe and the caress of a cyber witch.
Elisa Lasowski, as Corey, is feminine strength at its best. She radiates intelligence and wisdom through her eyes. Anders Heinrichsen(Vascan) plays an excellent slimy monster. Christain Erickson(Lago) manages to fill the older pilot with a lifetime of experiences in very little screen time.
Blood Machines feels like an ’80s Sci-Fi action movie only minus the over the top cheese often associated with the era. This story has something important to say if only you look beneath the choreographed modern dance, overt worship of the female form, and pregnant looking AI named Tracy. If 1960’s Barbarella, 1980’s Heavy Metal, got involved in a thruple with Blade Runner (either original or sequel), this would be their love child. It is weird, wild, sexy as Hell, oddly emotional, and entertaining to the end.
The effects aren’t exactly cutting edge, but what they lack in innovation they make up for in visual style. The opening segment, in particular, is stunning with ethereal glowing gasses and grimy toothed spaceships. There is a gritty nastiness to the camera work that serves to enhance rather than detract from the film. The scratchy film effects ground the movie in the era it is obviously glorifying. That’s a good thing. Directors Raphaël Hernandez and Savitri Joly-Gonfard are 100% committed to their vision and the devotion shows.
Music by the reclusive Carpenter Brut is a standout. This is what science fiction should sound like. It has outrageous driving beats and soulful vocals, which help portray the overall tone of the film. Blood Machines has a cyber heart, and it is as real as you and I. All the elements of a fantastic music video combined with a sci-fi flick are present. Heartfelt montages set to music that really builds allow the plot to come to fruition without excessive exposition. Instead, the music does the talking in resonant beeps, plinks, and soaring notes.
What makes a human is not a fresh concept. At the point that the Singularity arrives and true artificial intelligence exists, will that also bring a soul? What is the soul? Does one exist at all? Everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Ex Machina has delved into that theme. Blood Machines does so within the framework of a quick parable. Vascan hunts AI’s who become corrupted by something which makes them more than the sum of their technology. A community of people not only believe AI’s have souls they know how to free them from their steel frames. The concept is similar to Farscape’s Moya but in computer form. Lago and Vascan find themselves right in the middle of computer heaven when they chase down the freed spirit. There they find a world-shattering secret they may not live to share.
The final act plays out with Tracy finding her agency, and Corey asserting her purpose. They both are powerful women in their own right. As objectifying as the film may seem, it is by design that the ships and Corey are so strong. The struggle between Corey and the men who want to hunt the AI down is one of the most unbelievable things you will see as a ship battle becomes a ballet resplendent with accompaniment. There is a real beauty to the fight you seldom find in sci-fi action movies with this much boob on display. Far from juvenile, Blood Machines makes a statement that almost makes you feel guilty about admiring the visuals.
A sequel of sorts to a 2016 music video Turbo Killer(which is equally amazing if you haven’t seen it) this full-length film flies by with the same speed as the earlier short. Blood Machines is more than a little incomprehensible, and yes, it is light on plot development. Why Corey can control the AI, and if she is a God, a Tron programmer, or just another evil human, you never know. In the end, you don’t care because it is jaw-droppingly pretty, fun throughout, and there are so many boobs. Bonus, the ship’s computer is named Tracy, and that’s just rad.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.