Machined (2006)

DECEMBER 12, 2009


In an ironic turn, Lionsgate (the studio that made a Dark Harvest “franchise” out of three movies that were as unconnected as you can possibly get) released a film titled Reborn, which I rented the other night only to discover that it was a sequel to another film. And since I hate watching sequels first, I emergency-queued up the first one, Machined, and looked forward to a weekend full of killer robot action. And after about 20 minutes, it became pretty obvious why they would try to hide Reborn’s association with it.

While I’ve certainly seen worse, the film was just an endless and poorly paced series of setpieces in which people show up at this junkyard/auto repair shop in Arizona and are killed moments later by a human/machine hybrid that was put together by “Motor Man Dan”, a typically disgusting (read: overweight with an unbuttoned shirt) voyeur who watches (via a complex surveillance system) his creation kill folks as he talks (stutters) to himself and occasionally masturbates.

Now you might think that sounds awesome, and in the hands of an appropriately gonzo but talented filmmaker (likely an Italian) it would be. But Craig McMahon has zero visual panache and even less of an ability to pace a story, so it becomes monotonous before the 1st act is even through, and downright torturous by the time we hit the 3rd. It appears as if he has no patience whatsoever - characters are introduced in typical “these are our protagonists” fashion, and then they all get killed moments later. This might work once as a shock, but with each new character introduction/death cycle, it gets less and less interesting. And why are so many cars breaking down in this exact spot in the desert?

And there really is no one to blame but McMahon - he wrote, directed, shot, edited, produced, composed, and did the special effects for the film. And in some (well, one) respect that is admirable of him, and my initial distaste at giving himself a credit at the top of the film (when none of the cast or other crew was given one) waned once I realized that this WAS indeed “his” film. But all it does is re-enforce the common notion that the more jobs one takes on a film, the less impressive each of those jobs will be. Maybe if he wasn’t so busy producing and directing he could have had time to write a better script; and maybe if he wasn’t so attached to all of the footage he wrote/shot he could have been a more judicious editor. And... well, I have no idea what could have resulted in a better score, but he really should have just handed that over to someone else. The movie isn’t worth much to begin with, but the horrid, literally two-note score drives it down another notch or two.

He’s also not much of a speller.

I was also pretty disappointed at how poorly the junkyard was utilized. I was hoping for a few chases around the place, not to mention more creative things used to assemble the robot killer thing, but alas, other than a couple of (tight) establishing shots, the junkyard setting is completely absent, and all of the kills occur in a typical machine room dungeon, the type of thing we see in any Saw film. As I mentioned in my review for Hurt (which is now on DVD - go check it out!), the junkyard is a sorely underused setting for horror movies, and it’s a shame to see the rare film that DOES take place in one botch it so badly.

The best I can say about the movie is that it’s mildly amusing at times (the introduction to Dan is pretty great, as he murders a blow up doll and then masturbates) and the design of the robot is pretty cool, at least when you can see it (McMahon apparently went to the Peter Hyams school of lighting). But neither “perk” is enough to make slogging through the whole boring and repetitive film worth your time (which, since there are no extras on the DVD - thank Christ - is a maximum of 95 minutes, which is still too long).

And just think, tomorrow I get to watch the sequel!

What say you?

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