Shudder continues to deliver up the bizarre and unusual, proving it’s well worth the price of admission for the streaming service. This last week saw the service bring the 1985 film The Stuff to the service.
It’s an unusual horror flick that combines elements of consumer protection advocacy, mass media advertising, consumerism, ruthless business tactics, and addiction into a blob of creamy terror.
Indeed, the film is something like The Blob (1958) and Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) rolled into one: a greedy corporation knowingly sells a dangerous product, which turns out to be a goopy white organism that entire consumes the very people consuming it.
So, essentially, the entire flick is a metaphor for consumerism and corporate greed run amok.
Binge-watching The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs has introduced me to some obscure and forgotten flicks. Several of the films the freedom-loving Texan screens are deservedly forgotten, and even hard to watch, with only Joe Bob’s off-the-cuff rants and film history knowledge keeping me going. Others, however, are real gems—rough-cut and a little sooty, but gems nonetheless.
One such film is Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988), a post-apocalyptic sci-fi action-comedy starring wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Piper is better known for his role in They Live (1988), the John Carpenter classic in which Piper’s character discovers a pair of sunglasses that show the world for how it truly is. They Live—with its infamous six-minute fistfight—is the better film, but Hell Comes to Frogtown is really delightful.
I discovered photog after he ran ads on The Drudge Report, back before Matt Drudge sold out to the Bidenistas (photog is now a WhatFinger News man). I’m still blown away that he had the cash on hand to buy ads on Drudge, which I think he told me was the result of having money to burn on his hobby. Hey, more power to you, photog.
Earlier this week I was having a conversation with someone on Milo’s rollicking Telegram chat, in which we were trying to figure out the name of a short story involving people living in underground cells, communicating only via the Internet. I had a feeling I had written about it before, but could not remember the name of the story.
Turns out it was E.M. Forster’s novella “The Machine Stops,” originally published in 1909, and I wrote about it in this catch-all post from the early days of The Age of The Virus (so early, in fact, I was not capitalizing the first “the” in that moniker, which I have texted so much, my last phone auto-predicted “The Age of The Virus”). I compared the story to Kipling’s “The Mother Hive”–a story that apparently is assigned regularly in India, because pageviews for it always seem to coincide with large numbers of site visitors from the subcontinent.
But I digress. The story sounded eerily like what our elites asked us to do during The Age of The Virus: stay home, get fat, consume mindless entertainment, and don’t socialize. Granted, some of us could go outside and plant gardens (I still got fat, though), but the messaging was not “become more self-sufficient so we can mitigate disaster” but “buy more stuff and don’t do anything fun.” It was depressing to me how many people embraced this line of reasoning, turning government-mandated sloth into some kind of perverted virtue.
I appreciated the break that The Age of The Virus afforded us, but it came with the severe curtailment of liberty—and Americans ate it up! Instead of people boldly throwing ravers and partying down, laughing at our elites, we instead retreated into our hovels, shuddering in the dark. When I did through a big Halloween bash, it was a massive success—because, I suppose, people had finally had it.
Ever since watching 2012’s Robot & Frank, The Great Algorithm at Hulu has been sending more artificial intelligence and robot flicks my way. Each of these movies grapple with the ethical and moral issues surrounding artificial intelligence, chiefly the idea of how human can it really become? Can robots develop souls, emotions, etc.?
In the case of Robot & Frank, Frank largely anthropomorphized the robot, the same way many pet owners attribute human characteristics, thought processes, and motivations to their dogs and cats. Just as a dog doesn’t think in the way we do, the titular Robot did not requite the emotional bond Frank had developed with the adorable tin can.
The featured film of this week’s review, Life Like (2019), explores those ideas further. Instead of a cute, rounded robot, the androids of Life Like are, indeed, life-like: designed to resemble perfect humans, and designed to make their owners happy—whatever that might require.
Apologies to readers for the slightly delayed post today. I returned late Sunday evening from a weekend trip, so I’m playing catch-up a bit this morning.
Robots: do we fear their ultimate takeover of humanity, or are they amusing, neurotic pals, like C-3PO? I remember receiving a LEGO R2-D2 with a programmable drivetrain early in high school, and in my doughy innocence, I imagined myself walking around with a three-foot droid serving drinks and quipping in 8-bit beeps and blips. Instead, it was a twelve-inch-high kit that could turn in circles and emit a few beeps on a pre-programmed path (there was a way to program him to do more, but I lacked the intelligence and/or technological capability to do so).
That’s all to say that I find the idea of robot buddies fascinating. One of my spoiled complaints about the modern world is that, while technology has certainly grown more useful—WiFi, for example, and thermostats that can be set remotely—it hasn’t gotten much cooler. The optimistic sci-fi worlds of the 1950s and early 1960s, with helpful droids and interplanetary exploration, have been replaced with the dystopian sci-fi worlds of the 1970s. The modern world feels less like Star Trek or Star Wars and more like Logan’s Run.
Needless to say, I was immediately drawn to the premise of Robot & Frank, a 2012 film that takes place in “the near future,” when friendly robot helpers are expensive but available, and smartphones have just become brighter and more transparent. It’s a comedy-drama, but heavier on the comedy side, albeit understated.
Lately Hulu’s algorithm—in the bleak future math problems determine our entertainment choices—has been suggesting tower-based movies to me. Yes, it is a genre: films that take place in the claustrophobic confines of apartment buildings, like the 1993 thriller Sliver, starring Sharon Stone and William Baldwin. That flick was so-so, and the character motivations didn’t really make sense, especially the dashing computer nerd Baldwin portrayed, but it was one of several Hulu has recommended lately that depends upon a high-rise for its setting.
So it was the Grand High Algorithm suggested 2015’s High-Rise, a film both set in and an homage to the 1970s, specifically the dark sci-fi flicks of the decade.