cast: Josh Walitt
director: Michael P. Murphy
90 minutes (15) 2004
Scream House DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Geeky Max (Josh Walitt) is determined to win the high school science fair prize, get one over on the jocks that torment him, and capture the heart of the prettiest girl in school. Unfortunately, his experiment involves raising the dead, courtesy of the corpses prepared by his father’s funeral business, a home computer, and a lawnmower engine. You don’t have to be Doctor Frankenstein to know this isn’t going to end well, and soon Max’s enemies are disappearing, the police are involved, his dad is furious, and there’s a monstrous creature walking the streets with a lawnmower engine strapped to its head…
Brought to DVD by Scream House, distributor of movies made by horror fans, Machine Head is not a big budget movie, and yes, it does show. The acting is pretty hokey, the gory effects faintly unconvincing, and the script could have done with some more work. However, you could say that about a lot of Hollywood horror movies, and Machine Head does a pretty decent job with what it has available. The funeral home setting lends an air of menace, and lifting the plot directly from Frankenstein at least gives it an emotional core. The relationship between Max and his monster is convincing, and the final scenes, predictable as they are, are surprisingly effective.
It certainly isn’t the most polished film ever made, and strictly speaking, it’s not a very good one, but it seems churlish to just dismiss anyone with the determination to get such a low-budget movie made. (And the DVD wins points for including a rather better short film about a wannabe filmmaker who apprentices herself to the horror director she hero-worships, only to find out his big secret…) If you’re a horror aficionado or a Frankenstein fan, this simple but heartfelt re-imagining could be right up your street.