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Scott Sigler – The Blue Screen of Death

Ah, the impenetrable mystique of those unblinking screens at which we stare all day. Just as the movie Talhotblond (out on DVD this week) does not, in fact, feature a tall hot blonde — it’s a documentary about a lethal love triangle whipped up in Internet chat rooms, complete with fake pics and duplicitous replies to the ubiquitous question “So what are you wearing?” — so, too, do the computers in many a horror flick lead to our eventual undoing.

Many writers have given in to the impulse to mine terror from the blue screen. So which do it best? Glad you asked.

10. fear dot com
Now, in general, the “critics” on RottenTomatoes.com have all the credibility of Cousin Gus, but, out of a 100 percent scale, they gave this one 3 percent. Which tells you something. Nonetheless, for creative use of computerized terror — Stephen Dorff plays a detective investigating a creepy death linked to a torture-porn Website that drives all who visit it crazy — it cracks this list, albeit way at the bottom.

9. Ghost in the Machine
This 1993 flick gives you the best of both worlds — a human serial killer (Ted Marcoux) who, in death, is transferred into a computer, where he continues his murderous ways. (You know, using the electrical grid and household appliances and stuff.) In a feat of ingenuity, he accesses a woman’s address book and begins killing off her contacts one by one. Gives new meaning to the word “virus,” doesn’t it?

8. Pulse
Sadly, not even Wes Craven can pull off Americanized Japanese horror. A remake of the 2001 Japanese film Kairo, this Kristen Bell flick features a computer virus that somehow unlocks a portal to the realm of the dead. Much tomfoolery ensues, a situation so bad not even a superpowered combo of McAfee and Norton could cure it. The movie flopped, but it does have the dubious distinction of featuring what’s arguably the first-ever suicide by Ethernet cable.

7. .com for Murder
This is the most rocking movie of all time, it would seem, because it stars both Roger Daltrey and Huey Lewis. Also, with some Nastassja Kinski and Nicollette Sheridan hotness in there, you’d think it would be a can’t miss. And you’d only be partially wrong. The action here kicks off when meetings in Internet chat rooms lead to dalliances with killers, which lead to virtual reality turned all-too-real reality. A cautionary tale!

6. Untraceable
This is actually a pretty sweet concept: a serial killer (Joseph Cross) sets up death machines that activate only when the Website www.killwithme.com gets enough hits. The victim is Web-cammed the whole time, so as the meme spreads and people take a break from FarmVille and World of Warcraft to see something that’s actually happening, home slice gets dusted. Diane Lane comes in, investigates, becomes a potential target, gets scared, eats some spinach, then whips some ass.

5. Evilspeak
First of all, this one has bitching Clint Howard in a starring role. That alone is enough for a repeat viewing. Another reason? Really early computer graphics that will make you simultaneously laugh your butt off and long for the day when the megapixel becomes a mere forest creature. Clint’s character is a much-maligned outcast (of course) and finds a way to contact the Devil through a computer. Clint’s enemies get some evil-powered CGE (that’s computer-generated evisceration). Also, killer pigs.

4. Brainscan
One of Edward Furlong’s more random starring roles found the Terminator 2 star playing a computer game that hypnotizes, so you truly experience a first-person shooter (or slasher, but you know what I’m saying). When Ed wakes up from this silicon acid trip, there’s real bodies, and he’s the one that’s been doing the killin’. Horror legend Frank Langella shows up to look evil as well.

3. The Lawnmower Man
If you’ve been watching Lost and you know you’ve seen that pilot (Jeff Fahey) somewhere but you don’t know where — he was the Lawnmower Man! Yes, this horrific take on Flowers for Algernon finds Fahey computerized, uploaded, and dishing out digital beat downs. One of the first movies to explore the world of virtual reality, The Lawnmower Man has some sick-ass killings that stand the test of time. It’s not the greatest movie in the world, but on this list? A masterpiece.

2. Hard Candy
Okay, listen, no matter how cute the girl is, if you’re 34 and she’s 14, and you meet her in an Internet chat room, you are just begging to be drugged, tied to a chair, and tortured. Oh, and castrated. And some other stuff, but after the castration, you might not really give a crap. This movie makes To Catch a Predator‘s Chris Hansen look like South Park‘s Officer Barbrady trying to reign in the Chickenlover.

1. Demon Seed
This computer killer ain’t just about whacking his enemies; he wants to get his swerve on, too! Based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name, the fancy-pants computer Proteus is in the mood to procreate. A highly respected movie in its day, Demon Seed is the forerunner of killer-computer flicks and to this day stands on top of the genre it helped found.

There you have it, dear reader, the top ten blue screens of death. It’s a mixed bag of killer computers and death via Internet liaison, but we wanted to go binary and get us a true top 01010 list. If we missed any, comment it up!

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