3 out of 5
Directed by: Seth Ickerman
This is to the denigration of the undoubtedly massive efforts of the four or five (or more) effects team that worked on the short film Blood Machines – split into three 15-20ish minute episodes on streaming service Shudder – but it essentially just boils down to a Carpenter Brut music video at its best moments, with scattershot “cool” visuals elsewhere that the “story” is clearly built around achieving, and then uninspired – from a watchable movie standpoint – vista of influences that are all, individually, admirable, but rather boring when there’s not much behind them. Because Blood Machines is short, it’s definitely watchable, and those scattershot moments, while rather eye-rolly in their teenager’s-posters-on-the-wall mindset (i.e. here’s a giant naked chick with a neon cross on her pubis flying through space), they are distractingly neat, and if you can make it to the explosion of ideas that is the ending sequence (which is when it culminates into music video), it’s suddenly entertaining as well. So that’s enough “yeah, buts…” to merit a three star rating.
Carpenter Brut, in case you weren’t here specifically because of his involvement, is a big name in the “darkwave” scene of music. If “synthwave” is the logically synth-heavy 80s revival that came along with pixel art games and Stranger Things, darkwave marries that to some 70s psychedelia for a bit harder edge. Blend the neon pinks and blues of synth with the upside-down crosses and trippy 2001 light tunnel visuals and you’ve pretty much got the aesthetic for Blood Machines, which tosses in some film grain atop its otherwise CGI alien planetscapes and spaceship monstrosities, and then a dash of Cronenberg body horror to boot. This latter bit might seem intriguing, but, again, it’s all surface application, so, sure, “neat.”
We have: a spaceship with a jerky male pilot, a verbally abused “female” robot AI, and an old man mechanic, chasing an escaped ship of some type which has crashed on a planet. Jerky male de-ships, and aims his gun at the locals – all women – who tell him the “ship” is alive. Then they perform a ritual, and a naked girl is birthed from the ship while Carpenter Brut’s music plays. There’s a lot of naked space floating, and then there’s more music and that ending.
Watch it with your parents and with a group of teenagers to get the full spectrum of responses, maybe consider buying a Carpenter Brut album if you’re stirred by those sequences, acknowledge the hard work of the effects team, and then go back to whatever you were doing.