Wednesday 20 October 2010

Rise of the Appliances (2010)

Director: Rob Sprackling
Stars: Steven Elliott, John-Paul Macleod and Sue Vincent
This film was an official selection at the 6th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Tempe in 2010. Here's an index to my reviews of 2010 films.

No, this isn't the latest entry in the increasingly ignorable Terminator franchise, it's a short Welsh horror comedy from Rob Sprackling, writer of such intriguing upcoming titles as Gnomeo and Juliet and Why I Did (Not) Eat My Father. Here the focus is on Daz Thomas, who lives in Cwmbran and is leaving his legacy on videotape because he doesn't have much time left. Last night there was a huge electrical storm and now all his household appliances have apparently come to life and are seeking bloody vengeance on their former masters, namely him and his family. Given that the tagline for this film is 'Dyson with Death!' you can imagine how serious this isn't, but I should point out that the potentially risqué title has nothing to do with sex aids. These are family friendly killing machines, the sort that are so prevalent in our households that we hardly even notice that they're there. They've faded into the background and that makes them pissed.
While this is hardly a serious story, there is a clever subtext in the way that the film is told. Daz's wife Linda won the first attacking appliance, a Breville sandwich press, on The Price is Right and it's that level of consumerism that Sprackling and his co-writer John Smith poke fun at. There's more product placement ('Drink Dr Pepper') in this nine minute short ('Switch to Geico') than any corporate sponsored, brand name drenched eighties film I can remember ('Read Apocalypse Later'), as each succeeding mechanical monster is referred to at least by manufacturer and often by model number or list of features too. It's as if the Thomases were hypnotised by commercials and I wonder what I'd have seen on the screen had I swiped Nada's sunglasses from They Live. This leads to a great moment of irony as when the machines attack, Daz turns to a machine to record his last words for posterity. It's automatic! And it's shiny! With all new features!
As befits what is really a monster movie, there are plenty of monsters to attack and plenty of effects to set up. Nigel Booth's gore effects are solid from the Breville clamping onto Daz's arm on out, though there's one poor digital effect later in the street, as the Thomases realise that it isn't just their Dysons and Nintendos on the march. Somewhere amongst these appliances of death are actors, Steven Elliott leading a capable cast with a good sense of comedic timing and a decent golf swing. He's actually the least experienced actor involved, Sue Vincent having lots of experience on TV and John-Paul Macleod an ambitious lead role in 2000's Taliesin Jones, at the ripe old age of fourteen. All three are decent but they can't steal the film from the CD players and electric toothbrushes. Sprackling shot an award-winning short called Green Monkey in 1998 but this seems to have sparked an intriguing burst of creativity. I'm interested in what's next.

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