This week's movie is reeeeeeeally cheesy, but also very silly fun....it's yet another one of those "Hollywood doesn't really 'get' technology, but they want to cash in on it", slashers, called Ghost In the Machine. Before I even post my usual SPOILER warning, I'll even suggest that you watch either The Horror Show or Shocker instead, as this one's pretty much just a knock-off of better slasher movies with similar plots....Still with me? Okay, but I warned you...Oh, and get ready for the SPOILERS!
The story begins with a typical, normal-looking house in Genericville, USA. Heck, there are even flamingo statues on the front lawn. A beat-up looking car pulls up to the house, and the person in the car verifies the address from an address book on the seat next to him, while gorging himself on pixy stix.
Apparently, that scene belongs in a different film, because we get whooshed away to a basketball game at a small gym. A bored-looking kid is watching the game, and one of the participants asks him for a towel. The kis just looks at him with a mopey stare, and then gives the guy some bull about not being able to cash in on a lottery ticket.
Honest to God, the guy buys his story. Another child sitting in front of a PC "verifies" that the ticket won $100, The adult almost gives him money for the ticket, until the boy's mother shows up. She lectures the kid during the ride home, and nearly gets them both killed by not spotting a stop sign up ahead.
Well, that was boring for the film crew, so they decided to return to the house from the first scene. All of this teleporting is making me queasy. Inside the house, everything looks like it fell out of a Norman Rockwell painting: a pie is on the counter, the dinner table is set with a scrumptious feast, and the family is seated in front of the television in the living room. Oh, and the 3 of them are dead, their bodies stabbed and mutilated. Let's see Norman Rockwell top THAT image!
The killer has a travelling pouch filled with weapons, and he selects a large knife. After his work is done, he crosses out the address in his book, then steals a family portrait to keep as a memento of his experience. Gotta enjoy the little things, I guess.
The next day, we see the mother and son browsing in a computer store. The mother is Terry Munroe, and the kid is Josh. Anyway, Terry is buying a gift for her boss, and a salesman talks her into a looking at a program that will scan her employer's entire address book into his computer. (Remember, this is from the early 1990's, where this stuff probably seemed amazing...)
While his mom is being sold something that will probably crash an hour after it's installed, Josh wanders over to another display counter, to watch an employee fixing up some doodad in front of him. The creepy worker freaks the boy out, so he decides to go watch the fascinating high-tech world of address book software being demonstrated. As Terry is purchasing the gift for her boss, the creepy guy stares her down from across the room.
Next up, we meet Bram Walker, the Indiana Jones of computer repairmen and hackers. He's been out in the rain, and now he's being dressed down by a pompous ass named Phil, who has him working as a sort of temp at his company. Phil briefly mentions something about a computer virus that Bram either discovered or eliminated or whatever, but he really seems to hate Bram for some reason.
Creepy Karl, the weirdo from the computer store, has stolen the address book that Terry brought to the store. As he looks it over(and sniffs it--our buddy Karl is a sniffer), his boss walks in on him and demands to know what he's doing. The boss doesn't just buy the flimsy story, he actually encourages the stalker to go to Terry's home and return the book. Karl's boss must have a blind spot for serial killers.
Meanwhile, Terry is back at home, entertaining her mother Elaine. While Elaine meddles around in Terry's kitchen, we see Karl on the highway, getting ready to claim his next victims. Oh, and before I forget, Terry is played by Mrs. Indiana Jones herself, Karen Allen; and her mother is played by Arrested Development's Jessica Walter. Neat.
We then meet Axel, the family dog, Hurray. He must not be integral to the plot, because the movies switches back over to Karl, who is now dodging his car around the other traffic like he's a Grand Prix driver. This leads to an accident(I know, amazing huh?), where Karl not only runs off the road, but also overturns his car. Oh, and he's giggling during the entire process. Dumbass. Maybe he'll die early, and we can go watch a better film...
No such luck. Rescue workers arrive, and Karl is rushed to the hospital. They do an MRI on Karl during the storm, and a power surge magically transfers his soul into the hospital's computers, in a cheesy sequence that looks like a cross between Lawnmower Man and Touched By An Angel. Except cheesier than both of those, by about a 100 times. There's a shower of sparks from the light fixtures, followed by a reboot of the computers, and Karl's MRI'ed face appearing briefly on a monitor.
The somehow segues into a close-up on a not-too-shabby female posterior. It's attached to Carol, who is going to be babysitting Josh and his best friend Frazer(the "lottery ticket" accomplice on the phone earlier), while Terry has to go to the office. This movie's pace is about as dynamic as a snail stuck in cement.
Josh sees Carol outside picking up trash, so he decides to put the moves on her. This entails pulling his underwear up, Marky Mark style, putting his baseball cap on backwards, and trying to develop a "cool swagger"...man, this movie is so early-'90's, I'm surprised half the cast isn't wearing parachute pants! Gnarly, dude!
Back at Bram's crappy job, Phil is watching him fix a problem with some computer circuitry. Bram speaks some tech tech goobledy-gook at him, and it sends Phil into a tirade. Bram just watches him storm away, and calmly goes back to fiddling with wires. While that's going on, Karl 2.0 zaps himself back to the computer store, and absorbs the address book that was scanned into the demo computer earlier.
At her cubicle, Terry has to deal with some snafu involving a bunch of kinky underwear being ordered on her credit card. Her co-workers wander over to look at some of the sexy nightwear, and Terry walks away to blow off some steam. A small television in the office shows a news report about Karl's death, and identifies him as "The Address Book Killer", which seems like a mouthful.
Bram, while trying to figure out if Phil's office network has been hacked, finds a lot of searches in the records for information about Terry. After Bram and Phil say "Terry Munroe" about 17 times in under a minute, Bram admits that the hacker is searching faster than anyone he's ever seen before. He and Phil then watch, dumbfounded, as a ton of scanned paperwork flashes by, all of it pertaining to Terry Munroe, Terry Munroe, Ter--
Sorry, it was getting kind of catchy there for a sec.
At an ATM, Terry Munroe!(heh heh) tries to withdraw some cash, but Karl 2.0 empties her bank account. As the long, impatient line of customers whine and moan behind her, Terry catches a brief glimpse of Karl's face on the ATM screen, right before a metal "OUT OF ORDER" partition slams over the ATM, nearly chopping her fingers off. Yikes. Why is he so mad at her? It's not her fault that he can't drive in the rain...
Josh, in the meantime, is on his PC, playing what looks like the world's crappiest "adult" game, featuring wire-mesh females asking him if he wants to undress them. That's just sad. Luckily, before Josh can get any more pathetic in our eyes, he is interrupted by an instant message that calls itself an e-mail. I'd love to meet the person who researched this stuff, and find out how they managed to write the story from the early 19th century.
In any event, the "e-mail" is from Karl 2.0. He tries to get Josh to touch the screen, so he can electrocute him(why doesn't he just send a power surge through the mouse or keyboard, if he's so strong???), but Josh turns the computer off. Then his mother walks into his room, demanding to know if Josh made several hundred 900-number calls in the last day or so.
Josh points out that it would be almost impossible for a single person(much less a young teen) to make that many calls from a single location, and his mother decides that she doesn't much care for his tone. She unplugs the phone jack from the computer(boy, that sure gave me major flashbacks...), and tells her son to do something else besides playing on his computer all day. Perplexed, Josh turns back to the monitor, and finds the PC back on, with Karl 2.0 filling the screen with "ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG". Holy crap, the killer is Billy Joel!
Terry finally realizes that the address book that she brought with her to the computer store is missing, so she decides to see if anyone at the store might have found it. An employee brushes her off, but his potential customer tells her that The Legendary, Infamous Address Book Killer worked at the store. Naturally, this new piece of info gives Terry quite a start.
At home, Josh is working his way toward diabetes, but stuffing himself with about a metric ton of cookies dipped in milk. Terry sneaks in behind him(Hey, wasn't she just at the computer shop? What, did she borrow the same teleporter Jason Voorhees uses to get around???), and gives him a huge hug and a kiss. She apparently feels guilty over blaming him for the computer stuff, after deciding that The Legendary, Awe-Inspiring, Infamous Address Book Killer was the real culprit...While Josh looks like his skin is crawling, his mother stops pawing over him to go answer the front door.
It's Bram. the super technician. He introduces himself to her, then explains that her files have been coming up at the data company he's been with all day. She tries to tell him that she doesn't know anything about computers, but then he shows her the stack of her personal files that have been coming in. Despite his lame attempt to flirt with her, she lets him into her home.
Josh goes crazy when he meets Bram. Apparently, Bram's past notoriety as a hacker is quite extraordinary. After Josh calms down, Bram asks Terry if she might have pissed off any hackers in the past, enough for them to expose every single cyber-file with her name in it, but Josh distracts her before she can respond. Bram then decides to just get up and leave, which is exactly what you should do immediately after coming into a stranger's home and giving them a reason to panic. As he leaves, we see a page from Terry's address book, with the names "Frank" and "Elliott" on it.
One of the guys who was ogling the naughty nightwear at Terry's cubicle(Frank? Elliott? Let's just say he's Elliott, to save time), is home alone, getting ready to eat some frozen food. He puts it in the microwave, then we watch as Karl 2.0 zooms into Elliott's home computer. Karl 2.0 zips around the various electrical outlets, then gets inside the microwave, where he sets the frozen meal on fire.
Elliott goes into the kitchen to check on his food, and the microwave mini-explodes in his face. As he screams in agony, Elliott sees every food item on the countertop begin to spontaneously cook....eggs fry, popcorn pops, bananas burst. It's equal parts stupid and fun to behold. Then Elliott's face begins to blister from the radiation, and he soon falls to the floor and dies. This movie's grasp of how technology works is too amazing to put into words. Einstein is probably rolling in his grave as we watch this sequence.
Oh, and a brief flash of the scanned address book page reveals that the dead guy was actually Frank. Oh well, I had a 50-50 shot at getting it right. C'est la vie.
Terry gets the news about Frank's demise, and then his character actually gets his own funeral scene. At the service, Terry sees Bram a few pews behind her, then smells smoke. Frank's coffin comes flying out from a back room, set on fire by Karl 2.0, which makes absolutely no sense at all. As everyone start shrieking at trying to get away, it turns out to be a nightmare that Terry was having.
Terry, for some reason, decides to go to Karl's home, and check out the bedroom he lived in. She finds nothing and does nothing useful, so this scene is more or less useless. Heck, even Karl's landlord in this scene is given the shaft, listed in the credits only as "Karl's Landlord". Yeesh...although, on a side-note, the actress also played the nosy neighbor with the dog in Dr. Giggles. Cool.
After a long day of being bogged down by the supporting cast and peripheral characters, Terry needs a break. She decides to skip out on a date, until Josh walks into her bedroom. He tries to give her a pep-talk, in a blatant attempt to get Carol to babysit. What a horndog this kid is. I wish I had half of his energy! He keeps pushing her to go to the party, to the point of insulting her, even. That somehow convinces Terry that he's right.
Whoops, I was wrong....while his mom is on the date from Hell(with a guy who looks like a cross between Jim Carrey and Brad Garrett...and not in a good way...), Josh is at the local arcade. Oh goody, now we get to see what a Hollywood screenwriter thinks "Virtual Reality" and "Cyberspace" might look like. I'm sure it won't be dorky in the slightest.
But wait....first, we get a priceless scene at the now-empty house. Karl 2.0 goes zipping around in the various outlets and devices in the house, and turns on the television. Axel, the family dog, sees the television turn itself on, and a video showing what is apparently some kind of porn for housepets is playing. As the dog begins to watch the video and hump some furniture(I really wish that I was kidding, but this is actually in the movie), the video comes flying out of the VCR, aimed right at the dog. Axel responds by saying "Screw this!", and escapes through the doggy door. Yay, someone got smart enough to escape the movie!
After Josh signs a computer registry to play this "Virtual Reality" game, Karl 2.0 gets his non-corporeal mitts on the signature, and does an online search for anything related to the name "Josh Munroe"(which is now spelled "Monroe", for some reason....I'm sure that won't screw up his search results, though), and somehow gets a few results.
Then the killer goes into the game that Josh and Frazer are playing. I wonder if Frazer has a brother named Niles? Anyway, the graphics in this sequence suck worse than the most defective Hoover vacuum on the planet. Remember the animation in the Dire Straits video "Money For Nothing"? This is worse.
Josh and Frazer walk around in a low-res MC Escher environment, filled with flat-looking staircases, grey walls, and occasional "windows" and "doors" to give it some "variety", if you want to call it that. Imagine a game on the Atari 2600...then lower your expectations much, much further. Yeah. THAT bad.
Anyway, the 2 kids are "walking around" in this travesty of a game, trying to fire flat-looking guns at each other. Oh, and they're both in these dumb-looking armored suits that have their faces superimposed on them. As they try to shoot each other, Josh sees something lurking in the background. He goes off to investigate, and Karl 2.0 surprises him. After Karl 2.0 scares Josh with a face best described as "Looney Tunes"-ish, Josh and Frazer quit the game and head back home.
Upon arriving back at his house, Josh tries to find his dog. Yeah, good luck with that. Being a dumb kid, Josh decides to check around the exterior of the house, because it's always smart to wander around outside in the dark in horror films. And I think we all know how smart Josh is...
He decides that maybe his dog committed suicide in the family pool, and hits a button to sloooowly draw back the pool cover. It gets jammed at about the halfway point, so Josh dives in to see if he can loosen it up. This kid deserves the Lifetime Achievement recognition from The Darwin Awards! Seriously, does he want to die?
I doubt that it'll come as a shock when I tell you that Karl 2.0 gets into the mechanism that controls the pool cover. As Josh goes underwater to work it loose, the corpse of his pet floats by his face, giving him a shit-fit. He barely gets out of the pool before the cover closes him in, and leans over the side of the pool, gasping for air.
Terry tries to make Josh feel better(I'd like to see the Hallmark card for THIS scenario!), then decides to pay Bram a visit at his home. His home, by the way, is a motel. They must have run out of "house" sets to use in the film. Just when I think this movie couldn't get any dumber...
Anyway, Terry asks Bram if there's any way that a copycat killer might be following in the footsteps of The Amazing, Legendary, Infamous Address Book Killer, and using a computer to kill his victims. Bram stops just short of calling her an idiot, and says that there's no possible way that someone can be killed with a computer. Uh, I can think of several ways, but okay....
This somehow then takes us to a place where crash-test dummies are being used in prototype car frames. I'm not sure what this has to do with any....oh wait, the guy Terry went on that lame date with works there. Boy, this movie sure does like to kill off non-essential characters! Who's next, Bystander # 3? (I'm going to laugh my ass off for an hour if that's the next victim.)
Anyway, Date Guy is named Miller, and he calls Terry at work to try to get her to have dinner with him. One of her co-workers fakes an emergency to get him off the phone, and Miller is left high and dry. Guess it's not Miller Time.
Kurt 2.0 goes into his computer, and makes it look like the test vehicle has a problem with the brake. Miller gets under the car to have a look, but nothing happens. Then, when he's told a camera is malfunctioning, Miller steps right up to the wall that the car crashes into to get a closer look at the supposed malfunction.
Again, nothing happens. As Miller steps off of the track, an underling brings him a ladder. Miller yells that it's the wrong kind of ladder, then decides to get on the floor of the test car to look at the brake again. Kurt 2.0 finally decides to do something, and sends the car, with Miller half-inside, flying towards the concrete wall.
After the crash, all of the other workers come running to see what happened. They lean in to look, only to discover that Miller is rattled, but very much alive. He heads off to the restrrom, and gets set on fire by one of those hand-drying machines. Yeah, riiiiiiiiiight. Is it possible for a movie to jump the shark? Because this one just did.
Terry starts to get inundated with telemarketing calls, and it gets annoying pretty fast. When she answers the third one in a row, Kurt 2.0 threatens her. So now he can talk on the phone too? Does this movie's world have any rules at all? What will he do next, fly? Grant wishes? Fart maple syrup?
Whatever. I don't care anymore. Terry makes a date with Bram, leaving Josh and Frazer in the hands of Carol, the gal who puts the "babe" in "babysitter". Over drinks, Terry tells Bram about the phone call from the dead killer. He doesn't believe her, but she insists that it was definitely the voice of the killer, dead or not.
Okay, back to the orgy....uh, I mean babysitting job. While Carol is on the phone, the 2 boys are going from room to room, checking her out. Kurt 2.0 calls her home phone number for some inexplicable reason, and gets wind of her babysitting gig. Only in the movies, could information fall so easily into his lap right when he needs to know it.
Carol gets annoyed by the kids following her throughout the house, and tells them to leave her alone and watch some TV. Kurt 2.0 goes into the home security system, and fiddles around with it. Maybe he's as bored as I am.
Oh wait, Karl 2.0 was disrupting the phone. While Carol continues yammering, Frazer's baby sister crawls out to the kitchen, and eyes all of the dangerous items that he/she could play with. This movie seems to have a kitchen and a bedroom fetish. Seriously.
The baby heads right for the stove, and Karl 2.0 decides to turn it on. The baby screams, and Carol comes running. Relax, they didn't kill a baby...the kid is fine, playing on the floor. Carol sees that the stove is on, and lectures the boys about putting the baby in danger. She then makes them clean the kitchen, which leads into a fake-scare, in which Josh pretends that his hand is getting mangled in the garbage disposal. Let's make a new rule, right here and now: no more fake scares with garbage disposals. They're always lame. The last good one was in Halloween: H20, but the majority of the rest suck.
Carol seems to have a VERY short memory, because now Josh and Frazer are paying her to take her top off. Hey, I'll chip in! Anyone else want to make a contribution to a good cause? After what feels like 7 straight hours of pure malarkey, I think we deserve a reward!
Carol does a little dance, while slowly unbuttoning her shirt. The boys get more and more excited, then Carol shows them her bra. They nearly explode with excitement, then run back to the bedroom. Ah, to be young again.
While Bram and Terry keep going in circles about the killer, the kitchen back at the house begins to flood. Evidently, the washing machine overflowed. Carol is sitting at the computer when it happens, and the suds literally explode out of the machine, covering her. Carol is then killed by cartoon lightning bolts, and falls to the floor while convulsing. Awwwww....
Terry finally chooses to go to the police. She tries to tell them how the deaths are connected back to her, but the cop taking her statement doesn't really give a crap. While the disagreement continues to rage on, Josh looks over some of the papers that Bram brought from the office. He glances at the copy of the address book page, and concludes that all of the victims from that page were killed in the order in which they were listed.
That prompts Terry, Bram and Josh to rush home, and unplug every possible electric device in the house. Grandma is there to keep Josh company, while Terry and Bram try to lay a trap for the killer. Terry drives around, with a phone installed in her car. Sure enough, the killer calls, and Bram is tracing the call. The killer taunts him though, by making all of the phones in his office ring at the same time.
On the car radio, the killer's voice makes a request at a local station, and it's a threat to Bram. Terry dismantles the radio and the phone, and Karl 2.0 gets frantic looking for an access point. He finds a police band radio, and decides to have some fun...
He calls several units, and has them show up at Grammy's house. She gets shot in the confusion, and is rushed to the hospital. The incident pisses of Terry, and she wants to know how to destroy the killer in as permanent a way as is possible. Fridge magnets are mentioned.
Okay, well that's dumb, but the idea is sound. Bram brings Terry and Josh to a high tech lab, where they deal with gigantic magnets. Karl 2.0 shows up too, in full body. While chases Terry and Josh throughout the facility, Bram works at getting the computers booted up.
As Terry gets ambushed by the killer, Bram turns the device on. The killer dissipates, but then Bram has an accident and falls. The magnet, meanwhile, continues to increase in strength. pulling anything magnetic toward it. Josh tries to turn it down, and inadvertantly brings the killer back to life.
He begins to murder Josh by trying to absorb him, and Terry shows up with a gun. She shoots a few times at the killer, but the bullets just pass through him. She changes tactics, and aims her last shot at the room containing all of the magnetic superconductor-type machines. The killer then just tries to strangle them both.
Then Bram comes to his senses and turns the magnet back on. Karl gets torn apart, and drawn into the magetic device, where he seemingly is destroyed. There's a final scene at the hospital, where Terry and Josh watch over Bram. A lifesigns monitor annoys them, so they shut it off. THE END
Well, that was a slow experience. It had a good cast, but the script needed a few revisions. And the many generic victims didn't help matters any. Nor did the lousy effects. All in all, a wasted opportunity was experienced about every 2 minutes or so.Terrible. I'm giving this movie a 1.
And what did I learn from watching Ghost In the Machine?
-Computer monsters can kill you with ANY technology, computerized or not. VCR tapes, pool covers, hand warmers...and it never has to make sense.
-Microwaves are just nuclear bombs waiting to go off.
-Instant messages and E-mail are the exact same thing, there is no difference between them. Now excuse me, while I go watch a BluRay on a record player from 1977.
My next film looks just as bad, perhaps worse. It's called Red Hook. Let's hope that maybe it'll be a diamond in the rough...