Blood Machines is kind of a textbook example to me of being “whelmed” where I am not overwhelmed by how good it is, nor am I underwhelmed by how lacking it is. It is a product of aesthetics and cobbles together themes and ideas from various sources. It’s a fun little distraction, but if you’re looking for the next big thing to draw you to Shudder, this ain’t it.
Directors Raphaël Hernandez and Savitri Joly-Gonfard, working under the pseudonym Seth Ickerman, developed Blood Machines as a follow-up to the Carpenter Brut music video Turbo Killer. The film stars Elisa Lasowski (Versailles), Anders Heinrichsen (Gold Coast), and Christian Erickson (Hitman).
Blood Machines is Shudder exclusive.
What Worked With Blood Machines?
Blood Machines is an entertaining enough way to kill about an hour. It’s an extended visual metaphor for women breaking the cycle of misogynistic male culture that has been done before set to a fantastic score and loaded with interesting visuals. The film seeks to be something more than it is, and while the messages within are not without merit, the delivery gives them no real importance.
The performances were fairly wooden, but this appropriate as this is not a film where characters are important. The film is so concerned with moving from set-piece to set-piece that actors are simply there to convey the barest amount of information to get us to the next visually stunning moment. Just about any shot in the film could easily be repurposed into a dorm-room poster or an album cover. It’s a mishmash of synth covers, 1980s grain, H. R. Giger’s mechanosexuality, and John Carpenter tunes.
Blood Machines feels like an epic music video, which is fitting given it is an expansion of a concept presented in an earlier Carpenter Brut video. The film attempts to deliver a message about the reliance of humankind on machines and the commodification of women and as a whole it works. It’s just nothing revolutionary.
What Didn’t Work With Blood Machines?
The plot is suitably weird but also very, very unfriendly for casual viewers. This is likely to put a damper on the film for a lot of people who watch it. The film’s narrative is cast into the background in favor of visual splendor. The problem with this is that for most viewers the film is just cool visuals connected to a cool score, with a threadbare plot linking it together. The story is not overly complex and can be pieced together fairly easily by paying close attention but the film doesn’t really go out of the way to encourage close attention either.
Visually, the film is stunning but doesn’t present a ton of new material that hasn’t been seen before in other sci-fi. Just about every image in the film has a precedent in popular culture. While evoking other works is a nice shorthand to evoke mood it rings hollow when the evocation is all that is there. The visuals were amazing, but none of it was new. None of it was iterative.
The nature of the Shudder release presenting Blood Machines across three “episodes” of 15-17 minutes doesn’t really help matters either. Each episode basically chops up the film into acts, but acts alone do not make for cohesive episodes. Essentially, what might have played better as a single continuous short-film is haphazardly split into three segments. The second segment in particular, comprising of a lengthy montage, smacks more of a music video than a satisfying chapter of a larger story.
I wanted to like Blood Machines more than I did. On paper it seems to hit all those buttons for me: casual nudity, blood, heavy synth score, and striking sci-fi visuals. Yet despite all of this the film just does not land for me. The plot is serviceable but offers nothing too memorable and the themes presented, while interesting, have been done better elsewhere. Some curious choices also mar what might have otherwise been a very interesting short film.(3 / 5)
This review of Blood Machines is part of our ongoing coverage of content on Shudder.