May 1, 2015

13 Technology Gone Wrong Movies

Article By: Sean Abley

It's really daunting to think of all of the ways in which modern technology has shaped our lives. The Internet, Facebook, smartphones, Netflix... these things and more have become so commonplace it's troubling to imagine getting by without them. And yet, technology may not always be for the better. As we become more attached to our tablets and phones, some worry that we're isolating ourselves from each other as well. Naturally, horror has interacted with the pros and cons (mostly cons) of technology in a number of ways. Here are 13 Technology Gone Wrong Movies!

1. Ringu (1998)

If someone handed you a VHS tape and told you everyone who watched it died seven days later, what would you do? Well, if you’re a group of Japanese schoolgirls, you all immediately watch the tape...and then die horribly seven days later. Although a Japanese TV adaptation of the bestselling manga of the same name was first, the Ringu feature film caught the international horror world’s attention and spread like a virus. Now with multiple TV series, sequels, books, video games and international remakes (including an American version, The Ring, proving PG-13 horror can actually be scary), Ringu is a cottage industry of terror. Check out the cursed video…if you dare!

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2. Brainscan (1994)

Once upon a time there was a new technology, a disc onto which could you could put music and data. Can you imagine? It was called a “CD-ROM,” and filmmakers in the mid-90s decided horror could be had at 700 MB of storage. The Trickster, a deceitful being with a love of video games, convinces Michael (Edward Furlong) to start playing a CD-ROM game called “Brainscan.” Problem is, the first taste is free and Michael has to pay the Trickster’s high price for the second disc – murder. Three years after Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Furlong starred in what surely was hoped to be the beginning of a tent pole franchise with a Freddy Krueger-esque villain. Sadly, much like physical media, Brainscan wasn’t made to last.

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3. Pulse (2001, 2006)

Japanese horror is a genre where pat explanations are often ignored for more important stuff like style, mood, and the emotional journey of the audience. Thus films like Ju-on: The GrudgeRinguTomie and dozens of others where questions aren’t answered, but the viewer doesn’t care because they’ve just taken an awesome ride. Sadly, U.S. movie studios hate stories without quantifiable explanations despite the fact that J-horror is a huge import. So we end up with films like Pulse (2001), a brooding film about ghosts entering our world via the internet that was a major hit in Japan (and among J-horror fans), and Pulse (2006), a polished product that tidies up the original just enough to make the ride kinda boring and a big flop here in the U.S.

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4. One Missed Call (2003, 2008)

J-horror had picked up considerable steam by 2003, and the original One Missed Call was one of many glutting the market upon its release (and being snapped up for U.S. remakes). Cell phone calls from the future warn soon-to-be victims about their upcoming demise. Some sleuthing leads our heroine to the dead mother of an abused child…or does it? The U.S. remake is largely the same, but as noted above, the edges have been filed down a bit for our delicate constitutions.

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5. Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

Written by Lucille Fletcher first as a radio play, then a film, Sorry, Wrong Number is built on pure coincidence and improbability—a murder plot overheard courtesy of crossed telephone lines. The too-convenient premise is elevated by Fletcher’s writing, Anatole Litvak’s direction and Barbara Stanwyck’s Oscar-nominated performance. One of the most revered suspense films of all time that can’t be remade (thankfully) now that cell phones have ruined everything.

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6. The Fly (1958, 1986)

Part of the Those Who Play God Will Be Punished genre. A rare instance of a remake being just a good as the original, The Fly’s plots (both original flavor and Jeff Goldblum’s X-treme X-tra Wet version) are essentially identical—scientist discovers teleportation with disastrous results. While Al Hedison spends most of his insect abomination phase covered, Goldblum’s slow transformation is lovingly, excruciatingly played out in full view. The various followups – Return of the Fly (1959), Curse of the Fly (1965), and The Fly 2 (1989) all have their charms, but none match the power of the original, especially the ending.

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7. Deadly Friend (1986)

It’s hard to imagine Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street follow-up without the awesome graphic kill scenes, but that was the intention before the studio forced rewrites and reshoots on the final film. Little House on the Prairie’s Matthew Labyorteaux (remember him?) creates a Disney-worthy robot trained to work as a paperboy. But after his friend is injured to the point of brain death by her abusive father (Kristy Swanson in her first leading role), Labyorteaux has the genius idea to implant the robot paperboy’s microchip into her brain. Problem solved, right? What follows is a string of murders and improbable plot twists (and a ridiculous ending) that are all totally fun. Check out the most notorious death scene above.

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8. Event Horizon (1997)

Playing out like “Alien + Hellraiser” (not to be confused with the outer space section of Hellraiser: Bloodline), Event Horizon is a gory, violent “whatdunnit” featuring a great cast including Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan and Joely Richardson. Fishburne’s space vessel responds to a distress call from the Event Horizon, a science ship sent out seven years earlier to test wormhole technology. The bloody mess left behind, plus video logs of crew members going insane, tells us things didn’t go exactly as planned. Hellish hallucinations among Fishburne’s crew abound, as do exquisitely torturous death set pieces. Definitely worth a look for those that like their sci-fi horror wet and painful.

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9. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Although witchcraft is implied in the title, this third installment of the Halloween franchise is more about Stonehenge-related technology (yes, that’s right) than magic. (There are also robots.) For reasons that remain murky even after a super downbeat ending, the bad guys running the Silver Shamrock Novelties company have decided to kick it old school and bring back Samhain, which is basically meaner Irish Halloween. Their plan – distribute masks with computer chip/Stonehenge combos attached, then summon the evil via a cursed TV commercial on All Hallow’s Eve. The commercial plays, the chips activate, the masks melt to the wearers’ faces, and then snakes, bugs and spiders explode out of the tricked treater’s mouths. (Plus robots.) A fan favorite that promised better things to come in the franchise, but alas. 

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10. They Live (1988)

During his San Diego Comic-Con appearance to promote Ghosts of Mars in 2001, writer/director John Carpenter told the crowd that he “just keep(s) making the same three movies over and over again.” (I’m paraphrasing). Certainly the argument could be made They Live shares similar themes with The Thing, In the Mouth of Madness and possibly even The Ward. Regardless of the similarities, They Live is a fun sci-fi/horror flick. Roddy Piper gives 110% commitment to the role of a homeless vet who stumbles upon an alien plot to drain the Earth of its resources. The technology at work here is two-fold; alien mind control, disguising their appearance and the subliminal advertising they’ve spread across the world; and sunglasses that allow the human wearer to see who is really behind those Foster Grants. (“Obey,” “Marry and reproduce,” “Consume,” command billboards when viewed with the glasses.) Definitely worthy of its cult following, if for no other reason than the wrestling scene between Piper and Keith David.

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11. Maximum Overdrive (1986)

First-time director Stephen King is a talented writer, and you can see his touches all over this endlessly entertaining disaster of a film. Emilio Estevez, Yeardley “Lisa Simpson” Smith, Pat Hingle and a diner full of character actors take on trucks, cars, machines of any kind that mysteriously come to life. To blame the failure of Maximum Overdrive, based on his short story “Trucks,” solely on King’s direction would be unfair, as it takes a village to make a movie this ridiculous. The major flaw in this film is the premise--what works in King’s short stories frequently requires more suspension of disbelief than possible when translated to the screen. (Let’s be honest, the other adaptation of this story, Trucks with Timothy Busfield, wasn’t much better, probably because it took itself way too seriously.) But there is action aplenty, including this notorious attack on a little league team.

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12. Existenz (1999)

David Cronenberg’s early work explored both technological and biological horrors, and Existenz is both the culmination of these themes and his last film to include them to date. Before taking a turn toward reality (Cronenberg reality to be sure, but still reality) in films from 2002’s Spider to his latest release, Maps to the Stars, Cronenberg created this multilayered, virtual reality thriller about a video game surgically implanted into one’s body. 

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13. Stay Alive (2006)

Much like Brainscan, Stay Alive is a deadly video game where if you lose, you really, really lose. This time the unlucky gamers are playing a console game based on the life of Elizabeth Bathory, Guinness Book of World Records holder for “Most Murders.” (Around 600 virgins. Step up your game, male murderers!) The catch is, if your character dies in the game, you die in exactly the same way. On top of that, the game doesn’t stop playing just because you put down the controller, so now you have to play the game or you will definitely die. Sounds like the perfect excuse to never leave your parents’ rec room…

Sean Abley is a playwright, screenwriter and horror film journalist. His latest book of interviews is Out in the Dark: Interviews with Gay Horror Filmmakers, Actors and Authors.

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