As much as we hope for a mystical hell-mouth or cosmic creature to swallow us all, deep down we all know that technology will be responsible for the downfall of humanity. But until that day comes here are 8 great techno-horror flicks that show us a few ways we could be murdered by killer computers, renegade robots or haunted holograms.
1.) Unfriended (2014)
Unfriended kicks off the “inside-the-computer” style of techno-horror when it unfolds over a teenager’s laptop screen (including Skype, YouTube, LiveLeak and other actual websites), where she and her friends are gruesomely dispatched in the group chat by an unknown entity who’s out for vengeance. Endlessly re-watchable exploitation film fun, Unfriended is hardly high-brow but delivers equal parts gore and guffaws as it’s Swiss-cheese plot careens from screen to screen.
2.) Evilspeak (1981)
in ‘Evilspeak‘ Iconic weirdo Clint Howard plays a tormented military-school nerd (apparently in his mid-thirties!) whose fascination with the occult leads him to feed an arcane tome into his personal computer, translating the writings into actual working spells he uses to exact sweet revenge against his cruel classmates and teachers. Before long, he is able to summon an army of snarling devil-pigs to do his evil bidding and everything goes to hell, literally. An incredibly early techno-horror flick, this one is essentially a gender-bent rip-off of Carrie, but the goofy 80s graphics, hair-metal motifs and a genuinely hilarious turn by Clint Horward make Evilspeak one of the better old-school killer computer movies.
3.) Brainscan (1994)
A pre-rehab Edward Furlong helms this amazingly 90s take on techno-horror where the evil half-goblin half-chicken (?) ‘Trickster’ emerges from the totally radical CD-ROM game ‘Brainscan‘ and forces players to commit mayhem and murder in the real world. Half ‘Lawnmower Man’ half ‘Nightmare on Elm Street” Brainscan holds a special place in our guilty pleasures, as the wildly dated graphics, music and ideas of what constitutes stalking make it a time capsule of grunge goodness.
4.) Demon Seed (1977)
In 70’s techno-horror classic ‘Demon Seed‘ a brilliant scientist’s marriage is strained by his devotion to his latest projection, the creation of an AI supercomputer (has this even been a good idea?). When this tension drives the scientist to move out, the computer, naturally, goes totally fucking nuts. It takes over the house, imprisoning and impregnating the scientist’s wife with a giant polygonal robot tentacle…penis, growing a monstrous mutant baby in the basement before it tries to take over the world. When it comes to ‘Demon Seed’, weird is an understatement.
5.) Pulse (Kairo) (2001)
A sinister spine-tingling techno-horror from Japan whose artistry lies in the power of suggestion rather than a barrage of blood and guts or digital special effects, 2001’s Pulse (Kairo) slipped under the radar in North America during it’s release before an unfortunate American remake buried the superior original in the wake of bigger hits like ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Grudge’. In the film, a website which at first appears to be merely a scary hoax with an irresistible marketing ploy, turns out to be run by a sinister and deadly force. As people repeatedly tap into the site’s frightening images of the dead, the supernatural force begins destroying their lives.
6.) Chopping Mall (1987)
One of our all time 80’s B-movie favourites, ‘Chopping Mall‘ sees group of teenagers (including the incomparable Barbara Crampton!) fighting for their lives overnight against renegade robots programmed to patrol a high-end shopping mall. Completely bonkers, ‘Chopping Mall’ puts everything great (and no so great) about the 80s in one high-energy, logic-free techno-horror blender for a side-splitting midnight movie.
7.) Ghost In The Machine (1993)
in 1993’s ‘Ghost In The Machine’, computer nerd / serial killer Karl is undergoing a CAT scan at the hospital when a surge of lightning courses through the building and Karl’s soul is transformed into electrical energy, freeing him to continue his killing spree by using the power of electricity itself. In this techno-horror rip-off of ‘Lawnmower Man’, Karl offs his victims in increasingly hilarious and unexplainable ways including a flame-throwing hair dryer and an unforgettable ‘final-destination’ style microwave murder all while deliciously dated “VR” graphics swirl across the screen.
8.) Virus (1999)
John Bruno, special effects supervisor on Terminator 2 tried to reinvent the haunted house sub-genre with a techno-horror twist in his directorial debut with 1999’s ‘VIRUS‘, much as Ridley Scott did in Alien, but sadly missed the mark. However ‘VIRUS’ still holds it’s own for sheer gross-out, practical effect insanity, as Jaime Lee Curtis, Donald Sutherland and a Baldwin battle mutant robot-human hybrids infected with an alien computer virus on-board a sinking ship. It’s a lot to digest but well worth a weekend watch when you want to see gears, guts and gore galore.