To think that all of this began with a music video. Synthwave masters Carpenter Brut teamed up with Seth Ickerman, a nom de plume for directing duo Raphaël Hernandez and Savitri Joly-Gonfard to deliver one of my favorite music videos of the past decade for the song Turbo Killer. It has had such a great reception that the team of Ickerman and Carpenter Brut decided to expand upon the universe created within and began a Kickstarter to fund a full feature. Three years later and now here we are with Blood Machines. It’s about two salvagers named Lago played by Christian Erickson, and Vascan played by Anders Heinrichsen who shoot down a seemingly broken ship to scavenge for parts and they find that it’s not your usual salvage operation. When they land on the planet, they’re confronted by the crew of the ship comprised of women, their hair covered in blood and steadfastly attempting to save the ship by any means necessary. The story blooms from there, and to be entirely cliche, it’s a feast for the eyes and ears.
Blood Machines is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a mixture of sci-fi, retro futurism, body horror, cosmic terror, cyberpunk, and a music video all woven together in a fast paced 50 minute film. It’s entirely unique and vibrant. Chock full of amazing set pieces, and a wonderfully fantastic story.
This film is a great example of the old adage show don’t tell. A lot of the messages throughout are delivered through subtext and visual cues rather than characters standing around spouting exposition forever like the majority of science fiction and horror films. You’re immediately thrown into this world without much explanation. This might rub some people the wrong way but for me I really dug this approach to storytelling. There is no long and drawn out origin story to bog this down. The film gets to the meat of the subject matter right away. The pacing is so well done that it never lets up, I was engrossed the entire time. When you watch it you can’t take your eyes off the screen and you won’t want to.
There’s a lot to be said in the film about the relationship between humans and technology as well as the misogyny inherent within our society. The crew of women are shown to be the strong ones with seemingly primitive technology and some kind of magic at their disposal, they are arguably the protagonists. They take to the forefront quite quickly despite not being the main focus of the characters we have been following since the opening sequence. The ending is a spectacular performance piece of choreography paired with the Carpenter Brut score that is sure to please fans of Turbo Killer. It’s absolutely unforgettable.
The designs for the ships, weaponry, and robots are extremely unique and eye catching. I’ve never seen machines portrayed this way before. Thanks to the amazing sound design it’s as if you can feel the machines throughout. They’re alive and fully integrated within the fabric of the reality of the film. Even the space sequences you can feel thanks to the sound design. The last time I could really perceive the enormity and terror of space itself was when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek: The Motion Picture for the first time as a child. A lot of care was put into making everything feel just right. This is a movie not only to be seen but felt, it’s as if it’s a tangible thing like you can almost touch it. The Carpenter Brut score is a large part of what makes it the experience that it is, I’m not sure it would work so well without it.
So many filmmakers use CGI effects to make things look as real as possible creating an uncanny valley effect where you can just tell something is a little off like how they brought Peter Cushing back in Rogue One. He looked amazing and almost perfect, but still there was something there that’s not quite right. With Blood Machines the creative team took to making a very stylized version of the universe and leaned in to the use of CGI. So instead of being distracted by the CGI it pulls you in and takes you on an unimaginable journey full of every neon color your eyes can perceive. You can see that every penny from the Kickstarter campaign was used to its fullest extent.
Science Fiction filmmakers really should take note of this film, using any aspect of it will greatly improve whatever story you’re trying to tell. I cannot recommend this film enough. If you’re lucky enough to be close to a screening at a film festival, it’s worth the admission price ten times over. I feel very privileged to have seen it and am very excited to see the reaction of the public when it is released on Shudder in the very near future.