Friday, January 29, 2010

Be Careful What You Shop For...

Everybody is abuzz with the news about Apple’s newest creation, a pretty techno do-wappy that does stuff (I didn’t watch the press conference, but people are really excited so I’m going to assume it’s a flat screen cheese griller). Clearly, the world hasn’t been watching enough horror movies or they’d know the torture and torment that come with every warranty. A few examples with a cost benefit analysis:


Gadget: Satanic verse translating computer
It’s Babblefish for the Video Nasty generation when Clint Howard’s orphaned military academy cadet discovers a devil worshipping handbook in the oddly located basement computer lab. Before you can say google, the awkward teen--yes, imagine a time when Clint Howard was awkward!--uses his 1981 desktop to translate ancient rituals as written by an evil-eyed Richard Moll. Why bother? Well, how else is a 98 lb. weakling to get vengeance on the Hitler youth bullies who mess with his uniform, unplug his alarm clock, and slaughter his insanely adorable puppy?
Minuses: Impaling priests and sicking man-eating pigs on your classmates has a few sour effects, such as catatonia and a stay in the familiarly named Sunnydale Asylum. Also, your chances of scoring at the next kegger are next to nil now that you’ve killed the entire graduating class.
Worth the Price? There is no more noble cause than avenging one’s puppy. So yes. 


Gadget:The disembodied head of M.A.R.K.-13, a cyborg originally designed as a government killing machine.
Leaping in time to land in the depressingly barren future, Richard Stanley’s 1990 sci-fi horror details a finders/keepers society where the unhealthy civilians choose a life of scavenging in a nuclear hued desert or a closed up existence in dimly lit apartment complexes. Technology is moving slowly. Video doorbells are a mainstay and running water remains usefully in abundance, but the life expectancy has seemingly plummeted, a course of actions in any society where people leave their killer robots laying around where any old Dylan McDermott can pick it up. And naturally, give it to his artist girlfriend as a Christmas gift.
Downside Believe it or now, secret government projects abandoned due to their unpredictability are, much like mogwais, not necessarily made for the holidays. Sometimes, they do what homicidal cyborgs do and regenerate with the aide of household appliances. To kill you and any perverted neighbors/good-intentioned boyfriends that might stop by.
Worth the Price? Technically, anything free is an automatic purchase and if one were to pick up M.A.R.K.-13 quickly enough, it could indeed fetch a fair price at the local trading post. And who knows? Maybe the only reason it went Terminator was due to a paint allergy. Perhaps there’s a WALL-E buried somewhere underneath that cold killer exterior. 


Gadget: The Internet
If Strangeland and FeardotCom taught us to be careful with the path we take in the virtual world, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 horror demonstrated a far more valuable lesson: the world wide web could actually inspire a good film. It all begins as some college students/penthouse gardeners slowly drift into lonely and isolated states of empty depression only to find that phishing and pop-up ads are the least of the Internet’s evils.
DownsideGhostly apparitions driving you to suicide, and/or your body disappearing into a moldy clump of ash that will never come out of that wallpaper. 
Worth the Price? If you’re reading this column in a pulsified world of interwebbery, there’s a 99% chance that you’re already dead or worse, trapped in some sort of empty limbo due to an unforeseen run on red masking tape. So how’s that working out for you?


Gadget: Defibrillator
Joel Schumacher’s star-studded sci-fi is less about a new product than old technology given a new spin, but it still illustrates a theme shared by many of the films in this list. When several insanely attractive med students (Julia Roberts, Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, pre-pastries William Baldwin and who-invited-that-guy Oliver Platt) decide to toy with the afterlife by stopping their heartbeats then bringing each other back with a few chest pumps, the results are not surprisingly not good. 
Downside: Being taunted by the ghosts of your past know...dying.
Worth the Price?: The final solution turns out to be fairly easy and conveniently karma cleansing, but the whole teasing death thing seems hardly worth the time and stress involved. Why not just go bungee jumping or start a fight club?

The Fly

GadgetHuman teleport
Whether you watched Star Trek or used to beat up its fans with your model Millennium Falcon, it’s a sure bet that you once dreamed of going to the dollar store without climbing into your recalled Toyota. Teleportation is something I wishfully think of just about every day that I find myself scrunched underneath the armpit of a fellow commuter. It’s a pipe dream and perhaps I should be thankful for George Langelaan’s 1957 short story “The Fly.” This Playboy published science fiction yarn follows a brilliant but slightly careless-where-it-counts scientist taking a maiden voyage in his own innovative invention with a fellow pest of a passenger. You’re probably more familiar with the two fine film adaptations that showed, in all its insecticide glory, the true effects of picking up hitchhikers in the new wave of transportation.
Downside: Depends. If you’re spending too much time with David Cronenberg, you might find yourself slowly shedding your skin as your body morphs into gooey, brown, and limb-burning acid shooting tongued superfly with some Electric Boogaloo-esque wall-crawling abilities and the minor problem of leprocy. If you’re living in the ‘50s, you get the honor of simultaneously embodying a high-pitched housefly from the neck down and a seriously uncomfortable insect-headed man harnessing ill-will towards your lovely (if a bit daft) young wife. Both are not fun (and the Kurt Neumann’s original doubles the pain) and offer very little in the way of benefits. Although I still hope someone perfects the teleport by the time I die. Deodorant doesn’t seem to be advancing. 

The Lawnmower Man

Gadget Who doesn’t want to spin on an American Gladiators-meets-Event Horizon style high tech wheelie thing, particularly when the ride ends with bonus points added to your IQ (and, it should be noted, yours is currently hovering near Forrest Gump levels)? 
Downside Being the smartest one in the room can be lonely. So then you invite your girlfriend into your virtual reality existence for some simulated loving and she ends up a total drag. And brain dead. Plus, you get pre-Bond Pierce Bronsnan hunting you down and Stephen King suing your creator to remove his name from the mediocre film you head.
Worth the Price? Totally. Your body may not last, but your cyber energy proceeds to haunt all the telephones of the universe AND star in a straight-to-video sequel now led by Matt “Trashcanman” Frewer. Still not sold? How about using your prowess as the title role to springboard into a guest arc on Lost? Jeff Fahey, you’ve made a fine purchase.

So what kind of wacky adventures will the new iPad bring to a generation hopefully well-versed in these kinds of horrors? Let’s hope for the best and save our library cards. Unless it has computers. Or teleports. Or Clint Howard...

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