Triskaidekafiles

Triskaidekafiles is a love letter to cheesy cinema from the 80s and 90s, with the occasional dip into other eras.  if you're a fan of MST3K, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, or just bad horror movies in general, Trisk is the place for you.

M.A.R.K. 13 (1990)

M.A.R.K. 13/HARDWARE

WRITER: Richard Stanley

DIRECTOR: Richard Stanley

STARRING: Dylan McDermott as Mo
    Stacey Travis as Jill
    John Lynch as Shades
    William Hootkins as Lincoln
    Iggy Pop as Angry Bob

QUICK CUT: In a nuclear irradiated future where industry and war has used up much of the Earth, a scavenger brings some scrap home to his artist girlfriend, and she uses it in her sculptures.  Oh, and also, the scrap is parts of a homicidal self-repairing killbot that pulls itself back together.

THE MORGUE

    Mo - He's a pretty good guy, doing the best he can in a world that's falling apart.  He makes his way by working for whichever big corporation is willing to give him a job, and for some extra cash, he scavenges scrap metal to sell.  The only thing that really matters in his life is his girlfriend...

    Jill - She's an artist, who does a little tech work to support her apartment.  She's a shut in for various reasons from being pretty in a world going to shit and fearing predators, to concerns of radiation.  She loves Mo, but at the same time finds it hard to see any sort of future with him, since she doesn't know if the world itself has any sort of future.

    Shades - Mo's best friend, and pretty much does all the same things he does, forever at Mo's side.  He's a bit more into esoteric things, and looking for higher planes of mental existence, and is as loyal as they come.  When he's not high and seeking God.

    MARK 13 - A prototype killbot that has been developed for the endless wars going on in the world of the eponymous movie.  It doesn't really have a personality outside of killing.  It's self-repairing, has a weapon that incapacitates and kills its victims via drugs that send it off to the great beyond with a great, mostly painless trip.

 Hard there!

Hard there!

THE GUTS: Hello, Triskelions, and welcome to October 13th, Triskaidekafiles 6th, 6th! 6th!! anniversary, and we are smack dab in the middle of celebrating with three movies with 13 in their title.  But MARK 13 is a little extra special, because of the day the DVD came out, October 13, 2009.  The exact same day Trisk came online.  Yeah, I *really* will use any excuse...

But, to be fair, MARK 13 is more commonly known, pretty much everywhere, as Hardware.  But that fits the loose theme even worse.  This is another movie from the early 90s that was mashing genres together and uses the scifi, horror, and action genres fairly equally, very much like Split Second and to a lesser extent, Dark An...I Come in Peace.  But enough backstory, let's do this!!

Hardware gets the apocalyptic ball rolling in proper fashion, by showing us a blasted land, drenched in red, saturating the sky above and the sand below, as a lone figure uncovers shattered robotic pieces in the dunes, and collects them to sell for scrap.

 Uh oh, red skies.  It looks like there's another Crisis on Infinite Earths on the horizon...

Uh oh, red skies.  It looks like there's another Crisis on Infinite Earths on the horizon...

We jump back to the city, where Iggy Pop as a radio DJ sets up the terrible state of the world, and how everything has gone to shit in this industrial cyberpunk wasteland.  But there's still some semblance of civilisation, and cities, so it's gone to shit, but it's not so far from something familiar.

And so we meet our heroes, Mo and Shades, as they head to Jill's place, after a lengthy stretch out somewhere vulturing over stuff.

Shades talks about the goldmine just waiting to be plucked over in the abandoned city of New York, as our pair head in to Alvy's to sell their latest haul.  That's when our man in black comes in from wandering across the desert to do the same, and Mo buys the lot from him.

 We three kings.

We three kings.

Mo sells some of the junk, and keeps the helmet head and some other pieces as a gift for Jill to use in her art, and the nukenamic duo continue to head back to Jill's.  Oh, and add Hardware to the list of unexpected Christmas movies.  Yep, we're set in the post apocalyptic holidays, folks!

We cut to Jill's apartment, where she's working on a project, and getting ding dong ditched constantly.  We spend some time there with her watching the news that fills in more of the flavour of this world, with population control bills coming into effect, and wars, rampant radiation pretty much guaranteeing any kid born will be mutated in some way.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

After Mo gives Jill her Christmas present of a bag full of scrap, Shades heads out because he knows there's a sex scene coming.  In the midst of that, the robot head comes back online to watch the festivities.  But it isn't the only one being a voyeur, there's a wannabe Uatu across the way who's been spying on Jill for his own perverse pleasures.  And spoilers, he's the guy who's been lurking at Jill's door.

 Rear Window 2099

Rear Window 2099

Meanwhile, Alvy's doing some research into just what the heck he's purchased, and discovers that the Walking Dude, by way of Mo, has brought him a military killbot, the MARK 13, which actually hasn't gone into circulation yet.  Which begs the question how it got scrapped so quickly, and found, and brought around, but don't sweat such plot details.

Once Mo passes out, Jill wanders around her apartment, and takes another look at her junk stocking hanging by the Christmas trash heap.  She decides the head will make the perfect centerpiece to her latest sculpture, after giving it a stars and stripes paintjob.  I just do NOT understand modern art...

After having a chat about how terrible it would be to bring radioactive kids into their nuclear family, Mo gets a call from Alvy to come meet him and bring the bot back with him.  Uh huh, the radiation is the reason.  I know he just doesn't want to continue the legacy of Bloody Face into a third generation.

We get an infodump on the MARK 13, and learn all about it's problems with insulation and moisture, its ability to repair itself, its weapon systems, its special hallucinogenic drugs that induces visions and death in a painless, enjoyable manner, and it's nine or so limbs.  Because why not give a deathbot more arms than your average bear?

Before heading out for the meeting, Mo checks out the bible and reads from the Book of Mark, chapter 13, which is frighteningly appropriate to the world and situation.  And bonus points for the film makers discovering this AFTER work on the movie began.  I love happy perfect coincidences like that.

So while Mo leaves Jill all alone, her two watchers get back to work to keep their eyes on her.  Oh, and remember that bit about being self repairing?  Yeah, that starts to kick in as all the scrap laying about starts to pull itself back together like a good little Sentinel.

 Johnny Five not just killbot...Johnny Five is alive!!

Johnny Five not just killbot...Johnny Five is alive!!

By the time Mo reaches Alvy's, the scrap dealer is already dead at the hand of the MARK 13 parts he kept, and they're quickly scurrying off to rejoin the rest.  Mo can't reach Jill thanks to the deathbot in the apartment, and calls Shades back into the plot from his own drug induced vacation.

Jill wakes up after sleeping through all the metalwork the killbot was doing, and barely escapes her mattress's fate at the hands of the robot's buzzsaw.

With the power drained thanks to BB 13, Jill grabs a blowtorch as a light and wanders around her apartment looking for whatever's hiding in the shadows.

 Howabout a little fire, Tin Man??

Howabout a little fire, Tin Man??

That's when Lincoln, her pervy neighbour voyeur shows up to make his play.  Yeah, because THIS is the perfect time to introduce yourself.

Jill's having some door issues thanks to the deathbot lurking around, and the power fluctuations, and who knows what else Pervy McWatchalot has done to her system?  But fortunately Lincoln Logs installed the systems and can fix it!  Yep, he definitely broke it in the first place.

Before they leave though, Lincoln wants to get the blinds back opened up so he can resume his spying.  But oops, guess what's lurking on the other side of the window!  Oh well, Lincoln got what he deserved, quite frankly.

 ALL KILLBOT WANTS IS LOVE.

ALL KILLBOT WANTS IS LOVE.

Meanwhile, the building's security dudes are down playing chess rather than doing their jobs.  But to be fair, they don't know there's a murderbot having a blast in Jill's apartment.

Oh, they also sneak in some chess metaphors and how machines don't understand sacrifice, and that's how you beat 'em at chess!  Gee, I bet that won't be important later!

Jill's trying to get out of her apartment, but Lincoln failed to get the doors open before he had his guts opened.  She realises that Superpatriot is using infrared vision to see, and clears out her fridge to hide inside, in a nice nod to Predator.

 I'm not tooooouching yoooooou.

I'm not tooooouching yoooooou.

Shades actually shows up in the nick of time, and while he can't get in yet, his call up to the apartment does serve to distract MARK long enough for Jill to grab her buzzsaw and slice at the cyborg a bit.

A cannister of gas got broken open, and Jill tosses a lit box of burning cigarettes at the deathbot, causing it to grab the perceived weapon, and go boom.  And oh, if only it were that simple.  Blow it up all you want, but the MARK 13 absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

The robot is on fire, Jill's apartment is on fire, and Jill herself is on fire.  Well, her robe.  But whatever, there's flames aplenty, and the hellish symbolism is not lost on me.

Jill thinks it's over, but this robot clearly operates under typical horror monster rules, because of course it is Not Really Dead.

 I AM...THE MARK PHOENIX!!

I AM...THE MARK PHOENIX!!

She finally gets the doors opened just in time for Mo, Shades, and the building's security guards to show up guns blazing to try and kill the thing with bullets and defenestrate it with bullets .  Which works about as well as fire did.

But everyone else thinks the movie is over and tries to process their way through the shock.  Which is the perfect time for the MARK 13 to burst through the window and pull Jill outside.

Jill dangles down off a wire, and crashes into the downstairs apartment, as the robot climbs back upstairs to say hey to Mo.

And unfortunately for our hero, he gets jabbed with the robot's needles, and injected with the deadly hallucinogen.  Yep, that's right, the movie kills our hero with 20 minutes left to go.  

He suffers through a lengthy bad trip before he passes, but the clarity of death and the heightened awareness brought on by the drugs, give him an insight into how to stop the deathbot.

 Come on down to Bad Sector Mark's, our prices are iiiiiillogical!!

Come on down to Bad Sector Mark's, our prices are iiiiiillogical!!

Jill heads back to her apartment to help Mo, regardless of the fact that there's a murderous deathbot waiting for her.

The security guards follow her in, but one gets caught in the malfunctioning doors and sliced in half, which makes him spasm and kill the other one.  Wait an ignominious way to go out.

Jill finds Mo, and the bot attacks, while she somehow interfaces with its cybernetic brains.  She tries to communicate and reason with it, but the only thing the cyborg wants is a body count.  But she does make it play back recordings it made of everything it's heard, including Mo's dying confession to her about the robot's weakness.

With renewed purpose, she lures the MARK 13 into the bathroom, and gets it into the shower, where she decides to clean off all the soot and ash on the Mark 101 from its burnination.

 Remember kids, it's important to take a shower every day!

Remember kids, it's important to take a shower every day!

But a cleansing shower is not enough for Jill, so she goes all Goodfellas on the thing, and beats it to tiny scrap pieces again with her bat of righteous vengeance.

As the movie closes out, Iggy Pop returns over the radio to tell us that the new MARK 13 robot has been approved for mass production, creating jobs and solving the war!  Isn't that always the way?  Try to find the silver lining to the death and horror our military industrial complex throws at us?

So the movie ends, with our hero dead, our heroine battered, and the Man in Black walking off into the sunset...

 ...Where did I park?

...Where did I park?

AUTOPSY REPORT

Video: I'd say it looks pretty good, although it's maybe a little too dark and murky at times.  But that feels more by design than a bad transfer.

Audio: I thought this sounded pretty great.  The sound was nice and full, and I didn't have to struggle to hear things like some other recent movies.  It also had a great soundtrack that was helped by decent sound.

Sound Bite: "No one's gonna repopulate the Big Apple now, not with the rat count the way it is!"  Oh, Shades, you underestimate New Yorkers.  They've got plenty of rats NOW.  And that's not even the worst of it.

Body Count: It's way more scifi than horror, but having a monster stalking a few people is a pretty solid horror trope, and Hardware doesn't shy away from a few bodies.

1 - As the creature rebuilds itself, Alvy is its first victim about 44 minutes in
2 - Lincoln looks out the window for Santa Claus and gets a a gift of death from the robot.
3 - Mo gets injected with drugs and killed by the robot.
4 - One of the security guards gets sliced in half by a hydraulic door.
5 - Which makes him accidentally shoot the other guard dead.
6 - And the bot dies by shower

Best Corpse: Gotta be the double kill of the security guards.  It was sudden and bloody, and the movie needed more.

Sex Appeal: Quite a bit of sex and Jill wandering around, but most of it is seen through computerised lenses.

Drink Up! Every time the movie makes some sort of religious reference, like Mark 13, or Shades' religious iconography, or the frequent shots of people laying in a crucifixion pose.

Video Nasties: I love me some rebuilding, so that's the clip I went with this time.  Also, cool effects on that.

Movie Review: I wasn't expecting much from this, outside of a killer robot and fun times, but I was quite surprised at what I got.  I compared this early on to Split Second and I Come in Peace, and I quite easily stick it right up next to those examples of some of my favourite movies.  The pacing is maybe a little weak here, with a lot of wandering and talking to set things up for half the movie, but it does pick up in the latter half.  And that's fair enough, this is a new, scifi future to setup, especially with the killbot integral to the fabric of the world.  The plot does have a problem with limiting the robot to one, single apartment.  That's not exactly a thrilling chase.  It's right there, down the hall.  If it had been allowed to escape and wander the rest of the complex, now we're talking.  But again, due to budget and effects of the time, understandable.  Richard Stanley has strong vision, and creates a believable world very quickly, and with not much work.  He also draws a lot of inspiration from Italian horror, especially Dario Argento, with his single palette lighting in some scenes, and using strong reds and blues throughout the movie.  He uses shadows to good effect, and the MARK 13 is actually an interesting monster, even if we never quite get to enjoy it in all its glory.  It's a flawed movie, but still super enjoyable for what it is, and how it was made.  Four out of five charred baby dolls.

Entertainment Value: Easily the standout here is the weirder characters, like Alvy and Lincoln.  Alvy's a fun little barterer, even though we get very little from him, and Lincoln is super disturbing, and he plays the part perfectly.  The rest of the cast is solid, and you can see Dylan had a bright future starting from these early roots.  The kills are sparse, but nicely bloody, and fun.  Even if one or two aren't shown or aren't strictly bot related.  If the movie opened itself up a bit more, and really went to town, this would be great.  But it's still solidly entertaining, and I'm glad I found out.  Three out of five wibbledy wobbledy walks.