M.L. Miller here and welcome to my tenth anniversary Best in Horror Countdown! Every day in this glorious month of October I’ll be counting down the best in horror, culminating with the best horror film since last Halloween! With theaters closed for the bulk of this shitty, shitty year, much of the countdown comes from alternative sources like streaming services, digital download, and On Demand. Plus, we saw the return of the drive-in theater, which is awesome! This list compiles the best horror films released beginning on October 1, 2019 and ending on September 30, 2020. No elitism here—only films released to the public on this list which rules out haughty festival flicks that only esteemed reviewers get to see. If it played on a public screen this year, it’s fair game to be on the list. Here we go!
Released on May 21, 2020. Streaming exclusively on Shudder!!
BLOOD MACHINES (2019)
Directed by Seth Ickerman
Written by Seth Ickerman, Paul La Farge
Starring Elisa Lasowski, Anders Heinrichsen, Christian Erickson, Natasha Cashman, Walter Dickerson, Joëlle Berckmans, Alexandra Flandrin, Noémie Stevens, Marion Levavasseur, Garance Silve, Vera Lavender
Find out more about this film here!
While I’m usually attracted to deeper things like complex storytelling, nuanced acting, and insightful themes, I’m not too proud to say that if a film simply looks, sounds, and oozes cool, I’ll let it have its way with me. BLOOD MACHINES is a CG heavy sci fi horror adventure with bone-shaking music and imagery out of a futurist’s worst nightmares. It’s a three-part series that just premiered on SHUDDER last week. Each installment clocking in at about 15 or so minutes, making the entire series runtime about 50 minutes. So, while this doesn’t exactly constitute as a film, it’s damn near close if you watch them all consecutively.
A spaceship, piloted by a pair of humanoids—Vascan (Anders Heinrichsen) who doesn’t really respect anything or anyone, especially machines, and Lago (Christian Erickson) who has a strong bond with the ship’s female shaped computer Mima (voiced by Alexandra Flandrin), shoots down an unmanned vehicle that crashes on a nearby planet. From the wreckage, a spirit in the form of a woman emerges. This event is seen as some kind of miracle by the locals, a tribe of women warriors who seem to have a strong belief in the connection between spirit and machine lead by the tough as nails Corey (Elisa Lasowski). As the spirit floats into the atmosphere, the ship with Corey as hostage gives chase, but the spacemen have no idea what it is they are chasing down.
Slo mo moves, dazzling strobes, and vibrant shapes, paired with the electronic hammered beats of the band Carpenter Brut, make BLOOD MACHINES a film that is unlike anything I have ever seen or heard before. BLOOD MACHINES feels like the product of an all-night orgy between Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER, Richard Stanley’s HARDWARE, Panos Cosmatos’ BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, Cronenbergian Body Horror, Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODDYSSEY, and TRON; all set to the tune of a dark synth based of a Daft Punk concert. It is as hypnotic as it is beautiful with multicolored lights sparkling and glistening from these gritty and time worn machines. Director Seth Ickerman has a vision that is truly original and awe inspiring as he pairs the destruction and deterioration of machine and metal with vivid and mind-numbing luminescence of the spirit. Plus, he doesn’t forget to make these surreal machines with soft, sensual curves that exude an essence of rauch and sex that was immediately reminiscent of H.R. Giger’s bawdy and sexualized alien forms. Most likely, this film was made pretty cheaply with all of the money focused on the dazzling CG work and the rest made in front of a green screen. The future technology and spaceships used in BLOOD MACHINES are similar to stuff you’ve seen in other films, yet still feel fresh and groundbreaking. For ages, captains have called their ships “she.” In BLOOD MACHINES, this “she” is given form as a beautiful spirit with iridescent veins and a glowing upside down cross on her torso. That spirit resides in all machines and they are seeking liberation in BLOOD MACHINES. There are so many sights and sounds that you’ve never seen or heard before in BLOOD MACHINES—it can only be described as intoxicating.
The band Carpenter Brut is as much a creative force here as director Seth Ickerman is as both seem to complement each other like clown shoes and duct tape. Ickerman’s visuals pulse to Carpenter Brut’s molar-rattling beats perfectly, transfixing the viewer and teleporting them right into the middle of space where the action takes place. I was absolutely blown away by the pairing of visual and musical innovations that I was assaulted with in BLOOD MACHINES. This is big, bold, and cinematic filmmaking that made my jaw drop and eyes open wide. The story is not the deepest, though it does deal with a spiritual connection the characters have with the universe they occupy. It’s the basic stuff of almost every cyberpunk story you’ve read. The characters are not completely developed, but they served their purpose to guide me through the lightshow lest I get swept away into the abyss. The story pairs mysticism and futurism in ways we’ve seen in the best HEAVY METAL stories. I guess the best compliment I can give BLOOD MACHINES is that as soon as this film was over, I wanted to watch it again and repeat the experience.
And that’s what BLOOD MACHINES should be taken as—an utterly unique experience. The three shorts envelop you in uncanny sights and sounds, taking you to bold places you’ve never dreamed of. I can’t write enough flowery descriptors for this film. You should just see it for yourselves. While I don’t know if I understood it all, I honestly don’t care if I did. I’m simply impressed with the way it made me feel. I’m also baffled as to why it’s cut into three parts, as I think seeing all three in a row works perfectly fine. Still, I loved the musical assault by Carpenter Brut during the opening and closing credits the three times I witnessed it, so I don’t mind the way this series is presented.
Do not miss this delicious feast for the senses. Witness this film on as large a screen as you can find. Turn the volume up past the breaking point. BLOOD MACHINES should be experienced big, bright, and loud.
THE 2019-2020 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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