big problem with the current crop of low-budget
filmmakers (and we're not talking about those faux "low-budget"
films ala Miramax here) is that they usually come in only two forms: fans of
simplistic genres or their more pretentious, ambitious colleagues. The genre
lovers make films that relies on their love for said genre, following
conventions to the letter, whereas the pretentious ones make films that make so
little sense, and offers so little entertainment value, that it's a wonder they
were able to convince anyone to invest in their movie in the first place. Joseph
Parda's "Machines of Love and Hate" fits into the latter category.
(And really, couldn't you just tell by that grandiose title alone?)
The movie stars David Runco as some sort of Jesus
personality (albeit one in a gas mask and trench coat) who appears out of the
ocean and finds himself in the home of the Bickersome Marks after their daughter
runs him over with her car. Patriarch Alexander Marks (Roland Johnson) is
wheelchair bound, but that doesn't stop him from acting like Vincent Price's
Evil Clone in every scene. On the other hand matriarch Cynthia Marks (Eileen
Daly) is channeling Joan Crawford from "Mommie
Dearest", mugging for the camera
almost as much as her impotent husband. The only normal member of the family is
Erika (Tina Krause), who in one scene strips down to have sex with Jesus Guy,
but takes the time to strap on Jesus Guy's gas mask first. Later, while having
sex with the crazy mom, Jesus Guy straps on his gas mask as the crazy mom rides
What is it with that gas mask, I wonder?
As mentioned, writer/director Joseph Parda has decided to
go the pretentious route with "Machines of Love and Hate". From its
opening title, which suggests that Jean-Charles (Runco) came out of the ocean,
to a rather pointless car ride with an "Old Man" played by Milton
Haynes where the duo delight us with philosophical garbage, the movie is 80
minutes of nonsensical nonsense. Unless, of course, you like that sort of stuff.
One gets the feeling Parda has seen too many Luis Bunuel and David Lynch movies
and simply wants to emulate his heroes. As a result, much of
"Machines" comes across as being weird for the sake of being weird.
It's not even surreal, it's just...weird.
As for the cast, they seem to be doing the most of what
they're given. To say that Johnson goes overboard with his Vincent Price
impersonation is an understatement; he couldn't have been any more unnatural if
he tried. Not that Johnson had any choice other than to go full blast with his
Evil Scientist From Some Unknown Era shtick, since co-star Daly was challenging
him for the title of goofiest character. The two courageously vie for the Odious
Oddball Character, and the winner is -- both of them!
As to story, "Machines" is a lot simpler than it
thinks it is. Oh sure, Parda approaches the film from the perspective of a film
school student with one too many classes in avant-garde cinema and experimental
narrative under his belt, but he still hasn't grasped good screenwriting.
"Machines" lumbers along, throwing in as much weirdness as Parda can
possibly think off along the way, but the payoff (such as it is) is simply not
up to the task. Who exactly was the black guy with the gas mask again? Oh wait,
I don't care. Nevermind.
Which isn't to say that "Machines of Love and
Hate" is completely without merit. It's reasonably well shot and the
cinematography avoids the biggest pitfall of low-budget moviemaking, which is
lousy cinematography. I'm also sure that Parda had all the symbolisms and motifs
figured out before he wrote the script and shot the movie. It's just that I
don't care. I wish I could make myself more interested in what Parda is doing,
but I can't. It's not as if the movie elicits any interest from me, either.
Aside from the soundtrack by MJ Mack and S. Gerard Mack of Function Zero, which is actually quite stimulating (and perhaps the only
thing stimulating about the movie), I'm afraid "Machines of Love and
Hate" will only "work" if you're looking for wacky junk.
The upshot? "Machines" could have been a lot
worst. The cinematography and music could have been awful, but they aren't.
Thank God. Or should I say, Thank Jesus Guy with gas mask.
FYI: I realize that the copy sent to me by the filmmakers
is a screener copy, but there's really no need to plaster a giant
"SCREENING COPY" caption at the bottom of the frame for the entire
length of the movie. Especially since the bloody caption takes up nearly 20% of
the screen, with the movie already coming in widescreen format to begin with.
It's bloody annoying, to be sure.