Rachel Talalay’s Ghost In The Machine

What if like, a serial killer committed suicide, but not before making sure that his soul would be uploaded into a computer server through some pseudo hacker wizardry, leaving his essence free to roam throughout entire systems of data and machine control, manipulating everyday household items into deadly weapons of murder? It sounds ridiculous and it is but it’s also a lot of fun, an old forgotten cyber horror flick called Ghost In The Machine. Now, obvious comparisons might be made to another 90’s cyberpunk SciFi/horror called Virtuosity with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe but besides having a way lower budget, scrappy feel to it, this film is about a serial killer who was already human and then died and went into cyberspace vs the other way round. The killer here (played by Ted Marcoux) is just a nondescript, nasty piece of work dubbed the “address book killer” for his arbitrary, imagination deficient mode of picking victims. One night he deliberately totals his car off a cliff and kicks the bucket, only to resurface in cyberspace to hunt a young mother (Karen Allen) and her kid using everything from toasters, home entertainment systems, crash test dummy courses and basically anything electronic he can posses using his weird supernatural hacker magic. Their only hope is a super hacker of their own, (played by Chris Mulkey aka Hank from Twin Peaks) a good natured dude who once embezzled a million bucks from the IRS and gave it back to the people. This is fairly lowbrow, schlocker type entertainment with really, really cheesy 90’s virtual reality effects in the vein of something like The Lawnmower Man, but it has a certain viciousness and violent edge that I appreciated. Several murder scenes are pretty jaw dropping including one where the killer turns the entire interior living room of a dude’s house into an irradiated microwave zone and lets him literally fry to death, or an instance of electricity induced spontaneous combustion that is genuinely jarring in its sudden gruesomeness. Rachel Talalay the director also did the criminally underrated cult classic Tank Girl so she has a flair for the bizarre punk sensibilities that come across here. If you like retro SciFi goofiness, grisly slasher aesthetics and just a cheesy, lovably VHS feel, you’ll get a kick here.

-Nate Hill