If you haven’t seen 1990’s HARDWARE, you’re missing out. The cameo by Lemmy, the voice cameo by Dee Snider, William Hootkins*—and that’s all before we meet the MARK 13, one of the cooler killer robot designs to debut post-Terminator (a look that gets even cooler when scrap metal artist Jill gets it a fresh coat of paint). There’s much fun to be had, but the movie’s got one problem—too much monster.
Not that we SEE the MARK 13 too much—budget restrictions are often a horror director’s friend, forcing them to suggest things to the viewer, to engage the viewer’s imagination, rather than just trotting out a CGI monstrosity. But the MARK 13 does suffer from the same problem that any monster designed by a child does. Ask a kid to draw you a monster and they’ll probably make it shoot lasers out of its eyes, breath fire, teleport, fly, and more. There’s a misconception that the way to make something scary is to throw more and more powers into a bucket, which only goes so far. Omnipotence isn’t that scary or even interesting. In the face of a truly unbeatable threat, there’s no reason to be afraid, just depressed. Death is inevitable.
In addition to the badass buzzsaw it sports, the MARK 13 can also inject its victims with a hallucinogenic poison. For me, this was too much. I wanted to see the robot tearing its victims apart. The poison function is an unnecessary layer of icing on an already-frosted cake. No thanks.
HARDWARE seems like one of those movies that’s kind of begging for a remake. If that ever happens, I hope they give the MARK 13 its buzzsaw and let it go to town with that, and only that. Way more fun.
*Who is probably worthy of an article/national holiday in and of himself—Hootkins appeared in both STAR WARS and RAIDERS, and even freaking BATMAN and FLASH GORDON. The guy was all over the place in the ‘80s.