Fantastic Fest 2019: Blood Machines
What do you get when you combine sentient spaceships, Metropolis-inspired AI, sexy (space) ghosts in the machine, and a pulsating Carpenter Brut soundtrack all dripping in a neon, retro-futuristic haze? You get Blood Machines. Fair warning: this was extremely my shit.
Blood Machines is the follow-up to Seth Ickerman’s (the combined name for duo Raphaël Hernandez and Savitri Joly-Gonfard) wildly successful music video, Turbo Killer—a synthy cyberpunk cosmic thrillfest that garnered over seven million views on YouTube and launched a new movement in today’s retrowave sensation. Featuring intergalactic car chases, upside down crosses, masked villains, and, of course, neon, Turbo Killer was the first collaboration between Ickerman and French synthwave artist, Carpenter Brut, that spawned a number of loyal followers. The music video was deemed an internet sensation and soon paved the way for the duo to launch a kickstarter campaign for their feature-length sequel. And thus, Blood Machines was born.
As a sequel, Blood Machines begins a bit where Turbo Killer left off: two space hunters set out to track down a machine, but instead witness the birth of a ghostly woman emerging as the “soul” of the ship itself. More intergalactic chasing ensues, but this time, there’s a clear winner—and a lesson to be had. God creates Man, Man creates machines. Machines eat man...Women inherit the Earth...er, world? Add some celestial ghost dancers and yeah, it’s something like that.
Though the scope is large, the cast is relatively small and limited to just the space hunters, a couple of priestesses, and a ghost(s) in the machine (previously seen in Turbo Killer), Mima. The Captain, a vile, repugnant “blade runner” who clearly has some unresolved issues with the machines, is paired with a kindly old mechanic who conversely possesses a warm relationship with them. After crashing their ship on an unexplored planet, the pair run into a leather-bound warrior priestess, Corey, who protects the machines and eventually helps the spaceship release its soul (and Mima).
As expected, the dialogue is sparse and minimal, but there are a couple of funny lines that allude to the fact that the creators know exactly what they’re doing: “Am I the only one that sees a naked girl in the sky?” It works, for the most part, because we’re not watching this for just the story itself. Blood Machines is an all-out sensory overload—an unrelenting, technicolor fever dream that speeds along at a sleek 50-minute runtime.
One doesn’t need to dig too deep to feel the number of influences painting the film—in fact, the space hunters themselves are even referred to as Blade Runners. However, this isn’t your average ‘80s-inspired Kung Fury kickstarter project: Blood Machines is more likened to the Heavy Metal era, the psychedelic yet sinister, R-rated fantasy animation that still remains singular in its vision by today’s standards. Like The Matrix, Blood Machines steals what’s best about ‘80s cyberpunk and horror while concocting an original recipe for today’s obsession with technology and nostalgia.
Overall, Blood Machines is a unique entry into the cyberpunk genre, a turbo-charged darkly hypnotic dreamscape that full-on assaults the senses on every possible level. It’s not just a movie, it’s a visual experience further enhanced by the synthwave stylings of Carpenter Brut. And it rules.