The great thing about the Toronto After Dark Film Festival is its eclectic mix of genre and horror films. There are movies of all shapes, sizes and colours. They range from standard horror and sci-fi fare to avant-garde ventures that challenge the mind. Blood Machines, which plays Friday at 7PM, falls somewhere in between.
Directed by Seth Ickerman (with an epic score by Carpenter Brut), Blood Machines is a retro-future space opera that follows space hunters Vascan and Lago (played by Anders Heinrichsen and Christian Erickson) as they look to salvage a damaged ship for its parts. After shooting it down and seeing it crash on a nearby planet, the pair witness a mystical phenomenon: the ghost of a young woman (Joelle Berchmans) emerges from the ship. Uncertain of what they have seen, the space hunters chase the woman through the cosmos in an attempt to capture it.
Simply put, Blood Machines is a technical masterpiece. The aesthetic, sound design, cinematography and score all pay great homage to 80s cyberpunk and grind house cinema. Ickerman fills the screen with fantastical imagery that dance between exploitation and fine art. Carpenter Brut elevates the piece even further with a sythwave soundtrack that envelopes the viewer in a wall of sound. The film is a near hour long music video that satisfies all the senses. It takes a very thin plot and builds a spectacle upon it that’s worth the price of admission.
The plot of Blood Machines is not as important as the experience of the film. The viewer is presented with an A to Z story that’s almost an afterthought in the grand scheme of things. The characters of the space hunters are there to experience the film’s surprises along with the audience. To be honest, the space hunters are dicks, especially Vascan. Vascan is a grade-A misogynist. This is by design because he’s not the hero of the story. It’s the mysterious priestesses and the “ghost” we’re rooting for. It’s their journey we invest in. Elisa Lasowski gives an inspired performance as Corey, the priestess of the machines. She’s the true star of the film.
One can watch Blood Machines and gather that it is a metaphor for women escaping the shackles of a patriarchal society. Or they can take in the massive amounts of visual and audio stimuli and just enjoy the ride. It’s your choice. With a running time of 50 minutes, the film avoids becoming self indulgent or causing sensory overload for the viewer.
Blood Machines needs to be experienced on the big screen. The film plays this Friday at 7PM at the Scotiabank Theatre as part of Toronto After Dark 2019. As a special bonus, the film will screen with a prequel music video, the acclaimed viral sensation Turbo Killer, as well as short films Far Horizon by Sara Martins, Furnace of The Birds by Arsen Arzumanyan, and Flip by Jessica Grace Smith. Get your tickets HERE!
And keep checking back for more coverage of TADFF19.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!