Blood Machine’s logline is beautiful in its simplicity.
A female ghost challenges two space hunters into a galactic chase…
These eleven words open the door to infinite possibilities, each one of them mind-blowing. Part Ghostbusters and part Battlestar Galactica, Blood Machines has one hell of a set-up.
The compelling premise is only part of the allure. Writer-director Seth Ickerman has crafted a visually dazzling sci-fi musical that looks like no other film. It’s a neon-soaked psychedelic fever-dream where starships emit waves of candy-coloured lights as they blaze through the cosmos. And naked women glide across the frame with brightly pulsating crosses splashed across their genitals. It’s quite a sight to behold.
You may have noticed that this review is light on plot points. That’s because Blood Machines plays it loose with narrative structure. The story examines themes about sentience, subjugation, and toxic masculinity, but fails to develop intriguing characters or satisfying emotional arcs. The film looks stunning, but beneath the fluorescent sheen, it’s messy and tough to follow.
Ickerman’s feature works better as an experience than as a movie. It clocks in at well under an hour (still too long), though it is divided into three episodes. If the whole endeavour feels like a hallucinatory music video, it’s because the seeds of this production were planted in Ickerman’s collaboration with synthwave artist Carpenter Bru (who provides the film’s brilliant score).
Ickerman and Carpenter Bru’s music video, Turbo Killer, is Blood Machines version 1.0. (Imagine the intro to Stranger Things re-imagined as a four-minute music video, and you’ll get the picture). While I have much respect for the incredible craft and artistry that went into realizing Blood Machines, it’s clear their style works better in the realm of music videos.
Blood Machines is way too long to maintain its threadbare plot. As cool as it is watching space hunters rip through the galaxy chasing a naked ghost lady, I need something more than a sizzle-reel to keep me engaged.
But here’s the thing; movies can’t be all things to all people. Some movies are like great basketball players that excel in every facet of the game. LeBron James can shoot, post-up, rebound, pass, and defend at an elite level. Goodfellas is the cinematic version of James, a film that entertains on every level. Goodfellas features memorable characters, world-class performances, striking cinematography, and a thrilling soundtrack. Blood Machines isn’t operating on all those levels, but it does thrive in one area. It creates an incredible vibe. And if you are the type of viewer who wants to sitback and vibe-out, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Movies are about sight, sound, colour, movement, and emotion. Blood Machines takes full advantage of each of these primal elements. Even though the overall experience doesn’t quite work, it still affected me on a visceral level. It’s moody and atmospheric with a kick-ass score. Love it or hate it, Ickerman creates an audio-visual tsunami that obliterates your senses.
I went into the film super-pumped and left disappointed. Something so aesthetically vibrant shouldn’t feel so dull; it’s like a rainbow-colour macaw with the spirit of a three-toed sloth. I give Ickerman props for what he achieved, he made a low-budget sci-fi indie flick look like a summer blockbuster. The filmmaker’s passion comes through in every single frame. But that’s not enough to sustain a 50-minute experience. Even though Blood Machines is full of heart, this trippy sci-fi adventure lacks soul.
Blood Machines is currently available to stream on Shudder.
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