Are there wrecked cars on every street corner? Is it always dark and cloudy, no matter the time of day? Are big evil corporations hiring their own private legions of armored soldiers? It must be the dreaded NEAR-FUTURE! Most direct-to-video sci-fi extravaganzas are set here, but how many can make techno-anarchy look so ridiculous? Only one, as far as I can tell: Death Machine. The teaser says it feeds on my fear. Too bad it didn’t feed on my anything else, or it might’ve been a better movie.

CHAANK headquarters

You’ve probably seen this before, probably multiple times. The world’s descended into corporate anarchy, led by giant defense contractor CHAANK Industries. Their top designer is Jack Dante (Brad Dourif, the voice of Chucky), a Dave Pirner-looking guy who’s illegally developing cyborg soldiers or some other dumb cliche, and CHAANK’s new CEO, Hayden Kale (Ely Pouget), wants to shut him down. Dante, being a futuristic Evil Genius, decides instead to unleash his brilliant, unstoppable and extremely futuristic weapon, random executives are butchered in a futuristically futuristic fashion, Oh, and Dante has a crush on Kale, cause that’s just so clever and original, coming up next, Mission: Genesis.

Jack Dante

Well, almost. Enter three dumber-than-dirt stoner eco-terrorists, who break into CHAANK HQ to blow it up and wind up teaming with Kale and a chubby CHAANK executive nicknamed “Ho Ho” against Dante’s “psycho death bot,” which tracks its prey by sensing fear. The guitar-playing eco-dude is afraid of the 60s being over, so he gets offed first. The machine mistakes Ho Ho’s appetite for fear and sucks him down an elevator shaft.

So we’re left with a dumb guy, a small, goofy guy and Kale. They stumble upon a cyborg weapon, which turns out to be their saving grace – remember, robots don’t get scared, so the Death Machine can’t track them! So the dumb hippie suits up, forgetting that they did the same exact thing in Universal Soldier and it broke the guy’s brain, and they head toward an escape elevator other that leads outside, forgetting that they did the exact same thing in The Towering Inferno and half the people got killed anyway. Along they way they wander around CHAANK’s high-tech, futuristic futureized future-style building forever and ever, with the dumb cyborg dude shooting things, Kale kicking Dante in the loins, and the small, uber-serious dude getting shot about every twelve seconds. After yelling “Sho-ruken” for no reason, he sacrifices himself so Kale and the dumb guy can get outside, they’re safe, coming up next, TekWar III: Why The Hell Not.

The death machine attacks some guy

No, not yet. For reasons I can’t even remember, much less explain, they have to go back inside and get chased around some more. They set off some explosives, run around, get chased, and eventually wind up in Dante’s workshop, where the evil genius gets killed in an ironic fashion, coming up next, Tim Thomerson guests hosts Sci-Fi Scinema Scaturday. The End for real, finally.

Even with the interminable ending, Death Machine is wonderfully bad and highly recommended, though I wonder why so many reviewers gave Brad Dourif so many accolades for his role as Dante. I guess he did a slightly better than average job at playing a tepid, stereotypical evil technonerd. Whatever.

Coming up next, Babylon 5 Meets The Harlem Globetrotters.
If only, man. If only.

“I suck like an Electrolux.” – Hayden

“Holy donuts!” – cop

“I showed him my thing, and it killed him.” – Dante

“F**k you, HoHo!” – serious dude

“Sho-ruken!” – serious dude