Far be it from me to court a bit of controversy (snicker snicker) but can I just say that I think the picture has, largely been misunderstood? I’ve been wrong before – my wife occasionally insists I am to a fault – but could it be that the folks who don’t like Hardware base their opinions not so much on what the film says as they do their interpretation of the film? I say this because a lot of what I’ve heard them suggest the flick is about – anti-Americanism, misogyny, violent feminism, torture porn, etc. – I just don’t quite see in it. Oh, sure, there’s an undercurrent of nihilism one could argue – or maybe a preponderance about the destructive tendencies of mankind – but everything else I’ve heard I strongly think is subject to explanation. Honestly, if Stanley put it in there literally, then I missed it.
What I do see is a fabulous Horror shocker with a rather obvious – if not a tad bit predictable – Science Fiction edge. Thematically, I’ve often thought it similar to James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984), though I can understand why some folks blanch at that association more so than the comparison. What you have is a machine that’s been programmed to do what it does – kill, kill, kill – and it goes about its business once accidentally brought back to civilization by stars Dylan McDermott and Stacey Travis.
(Might I just add I’ve always loved Travis in this work … or does that make me a misogynist, too?)
Produced by Palace Pictures with a few other contributors, I’m well aware that the film’s origins and ownership issues are a bit of screen legend themselves (so I’ll leave that alone). Based on a story by Steve MacManus and Kevin O’Neill, Stanley adapted and shot it for the screen (with some other dialogue provided by Michael Fallon); and it’s a great and claustrophic bit of tech noir that’s chugged and chugged like the little engine that could. It slowly built itself a cult audience over the years and – based entirely on a fairly recent viewing – I think it holds up even decades later.
Here's the plot summary as provided by IMDB.com:
“The head of a cyborg reactivates, rebuilds itself, and goes on a violent rampage in a space marine’s girlfriend’s apartment.”
All of that aside, Hardware did enjoy a bit of praise in its day when it made the rounds of the film festival circuit; and that’s certainly no surprise. Its subversiveness – especially when paired up with the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror angles – is exactly the kind of thing that generally catches the attention of folks who attend those things. Indeed, one might make the case that Stanley’s work predates what audiences eventually came to love about the wider Saw franchise, wherein any number of good-looking talent were reduced to walking meat puppets in service to the theatrical bloodshed. Yeah, yeah, yeah: I know that those characters may’ve had it coming as the consequences from doing something bad in their fictional pasts, but my point remains the same, that being Stanley did it first … and maybe even did it better on a much smaller budget.
Whatever your predilection, I think a round of ‘Happy Birthday’ is the least we can give this killer cyborg. Keep the thing happy, folks … we know what happens once the programming kicks in.