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Ghost in the Machine

Rated R, 95 min. Directed by Rachel Talalay. Starring Karen Allen, Chris Mulkey, Ted Marcoux, Wil Horneff.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 31, 1993

Exploring new realms of unoriginality, Ghost in the Machine begs, borrows and steals bits and pieces from other, not-all-that-much-better films (The Lawnmower Man and Wes Craven's Shocker, just to name two) to cobble together a low-rent cyberpunk horror flick that might have been more aptly titled Max Headroom: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Karen Allen is a working widow with a teenage son and no romantic future who has her Dayrunner stolen by the imaginatively-monikered “Address Book Killer,” a serial killer/computer genius intently going down the list and wiping out everyone in the book. Before he gets a chance to ply his trade, however, he's nearly killed in a bizarre bit of reckless driving and carted off to the nearest pseudo-scientific hospital, where, thanks to a powerful electric storm, his soul is sucked out of his still-warm corpse and spirited away into the nearest powerline. Freed from the tiresome constraints of this mortal coil, the killer is now able to pop up in anything from phone lines to microwave ovens (!?), bringing new meaning to the term “Jiffy Pop” and slaughtering innocents with the gleeful, wisecracking abandon of Freddy Krueger (no surprise there: Director Talalay's debut was on Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare). What's a poor, widowed heroine to do? In this case, it seems the best course of action is to flirt with an ex-hacker-turned-security analyst and create a giant magnet, or something to that effect. You get the picture (or maybe you don't. Does it matter?). Jumbled, messy, and inconsistent with its in-film logic, Ghost in the Machine's cardinal sin is in its complete lack of back story. To wit, who are these people and why should we care? No answers are ever given (or even attempted), with the predictable result being one hour and 45 minutes of unappealing characters running around and, occasionally, dying. With token computer graphics thrown in to pad an already overlong script, Ghost In the Machine gamely tries to hop aboard the Virtual Reality bandwagon and only succeeds in crashing the Net.
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