Machine Head (2011)

MARCH 26, 2014


Look, everyone around my age bought a Bush CD in the 90s. No judging, it's just what happened. And so anyone from that group will probably do the same thing I did when I saw the title of Machine Head, which is make a dumb joke about how it was based on a Bush song. But here's the kicker: your joke, and the damn song, is infinitely better than the movie, and you'd be better off dusting off Sixteen Stone (or even Razorblade Suitcase) and listening to it twice instead of watching this almost comically dull and clunky slasher/home invasion hybrid. I've seen worse movies this year (hence the lack of a "Crap" tag), but I don't know if I've seen one where I was constantly wondering if I was just having a rather bland dream. Surely no one actually MADE a movie this botched?

If I knew beforehand that it had been on the shelf for 2-3 years I wouldn't have been so optimistic. But then again, sometimes you just know within minutes that something is amiss, and this is one of those times. An opening sequence that has no bearing on anything else in the movie features a poorly executed first kill, and then we cut to our heroine, who has the shittiest tan I've ever seen (it reminded me of watching Star Trek in HD where you can see the Spock makeup falling apart around the ears) and is offering all of the exposition over her phone. Yadda yadda spring break, yadda yadda her dad's client's house (which looks a lot like the one she lives in, so I'm not sure what the appeal was), yadda yadda no boys allowed but of course her boyfriend and his two idiot friends are coming... etc. It's no more/less generic than any other slasher film, admittedly, but there's something abrasively phony about the whole thing; I kept expecting someone to yell CUT! and reveal that this was an INTENTIONALLY fake movie within the world of our real movie. That feeling never really went away throughout its 80 minutes.

The body count is 9 or so, but nearly all of them occur off-screen. I advise you not to put much stock in the cover, which has the trio of girls (or A trio of girls - their faces aren't seen so it could be anyone) all dirtied and with one carrying a bloody axe - they're all killed pretty quickly and cleanly, as the R rating for this film is due to language and brief nudity. And note I said nudity, not sex - the guys are all killed at once en route, so there's no sex after the intro where we meet the heroine and her boyfriend. Not that I'm the sort who needs a healthy dose of T&A to enjoy my slashers, but why bother with the spring break backdrop if you're not going to indulge? This could have been anything - even one of their birthdays - for all the point it had to the movie, which exists in a bizarrely empty universe. Even establishing shots are seemingly filmed in a ghost town, a peculiar approach for a slasher that is sort of set up as a whodunit (the killer is rarely seen, and his motive, even though it's meaningless when revealed, is hidden).

But that's nothing compared to the bizarre introduction of the heroine's two little sisters. They're played by actual sisters, making the fact that they look absolutely nothing like the main girl even more distracting. Worse, there's two of them but only one seemingly has any sort of presence, as if there was only one in the script and the other girl just kept stepping into frame, which just makes their inclusion even more distracting and odd. One of them is said to be a "demon seed" but apart from being bitchy there's nothing really "evil" about her, and besides ALL of the characters are kind of insufferable, which is a given since this is a modern slasher film made by people who clearly hate and/or have never seen a good one. The only saving grace from the guys getting killed before showing up at the house is the fact that if they DID arrive, there would almost certainly be some infidelity subplot to make us hate them even more.

And then there's the actual horror element of the movie, more broken than anything else. At times it's almost like witnessing a shared psychosis of some sort, as there's no physical presence for the killer until the final 10 minutes (beyond the opening, pointless kill and the quick bit where he offs the boyfriends), so you're watching a movie about a bunch of girls freaking out at every door creak or car engine outside or whatever. There are no stalking or chase scenes, the killer has no physical presence (you maybe see an arm or something), and the "twist" at who the killer is (or at least, why he's doing it, since again the killer himself is a non-entity) is ridiculous but not crazy ENOUGH. It's also the sort of reveal that would usually come along with flashbacks at how it all worked (like a Saw movie), but instead it just ends right then and there. "Oh, by the way, ____ is the killer." *Credits*

Fear not, the direction is just as bad as the script. My favorite example would have to be what sets off the movie's idea of a plot, which is when our car full of girls gets harassed by a cool muscle car on the road. It's like an early bit from Duel or Joy Ride or whatever; he's on their ass, tries to pass, they shriek "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" or whatever, and then he zooms off. What makes it special is that none of the footage matches at all - the wide shots showing both cars are clearly shot in a different area than the road we see in the closeups, and other cars behind the villain appear and disappear from shot to shot. It's bad enough when this happens with expensive 35mm cameras, but when they're using sub-par digital, there's no real excuse for it - they could have had 3-4 cameras shooting the sequence simultaneously to ensure some continuity when they cut it all together. This stuff almost appears to be from different movies entirely. Ditto for the lengthy scene of a cop walking around, possibly seeing the killer, realizing he's gone, and then driving off. We never see him again, so it doesn't even count as a red herring - it's just a weird way to kill 5-6 minutes in your 82 minute (with lengthy end titles and an admittedly decent opening title sequence) movie that has maybe 2-3 minutes' worth of entertainment in it.

In short, save your money for Glycerine or Little Things.

What say you?


  1. Hardly a very constructive comment, but Machine Head is also the name to a Deep Purple album which features their most famous song: Smoke on the Water as well as Highway Star.

  2. Everything zen? Judging by this review, I don't think so.


Movie & TV Show Preview Widget