With its exceptional blend of imagery and music, there has never been anything like Seth Ickerman’s “Blood Machines” — a modern cyberpunk revelation.
From start to finish, every concept, frame, and visual of Blood Machines is a masterpiece. This short series manages to overload the viewer with staggering visual artistry, while still managing to harken back to its influences and to pave a pathway for cyberpunk science fiction’s future in cinema.
One of the most common critiques of Blood Machines relates to perceived problems regarding the story and plot. Some critics have found it overly simple; others classify it as a convoluted and overly-symbolic. There is evidence for both arguments.
In Blood Machines, a sentient ship ejects its soul into space in a display of interstellar mysticism. Two machine hunters, determined to find the truth behind the event, follow the being into the deepest reaches of the unknown. At its most basic, the series is an interstellar chase scene. It has one direction, and the audience follows that direction throughout the show’s few episodes.
That said, there is also something much deeper below the surface level plot.
The idea of a ghost in the machine or a soul beneath the metal is constantly explored in the cyberpunk genre. Blade Runner (1982) and Ghost in the Shell (2017) are built upon the idea that there could be something human in an android.
Blood Machines, though, pushes the theory further.
There are no replicants here. Instead, Blood Machines is populated by spaceships that seem to be both mechanical and organic. They are controlled by female-coded artificial intelligences and are adorned with feminine bodies in subservient or violent positions. We are not asked to consider if there is a soul in the machine. We are confronted by a consciousness and then led to understand that these beings have been forced into subservience by ruthless machine hunters.
Blood Machines breaks from cyberpunk in this portion of its story.
Cyberpunk tends to thrive on doubt or the potential for uncertainty. Is Deckard a replicant? Does the Major retain her humanity in her shell? Blood Machines is blatant in this way, and it may be this lack of nuance that makes the series feel superficial.
While the story may feel like a supporting character, it is clear that BLOOD MACHINES was made to be a visual and auditory spectacle. In that regard, it is second to none.
In its original Kickstarter campaign, the creators pitched Blood Machines as an ode to the films and music of the 1980s. From the moment that the film begins, you can feel the filmmakers’ deep love of the decade and the genre. It’s important to note, however, that Blood Machines is visually dictated by technology that never existed in the 80s.
Ickerman creates an homage that is true to a decade, which continues to have a massive influence over our current culture.
But he also surpasses it by crafting images that enhance the film’s world beyond the confines of 80’s technology. Not even the 80s could have spawned a neon woman floating through nebulae with a glowing upside-down cross on her body. In this way, Blood Machines feels wholly its own and not tied or limited by its influences.
It’s a disservice to the film to ignore Carpenter Brut’s soundtrack.
Horror has always been home to amazing scores. John Carpenter remains the true father of the horror soundtrack, but Disasterpeace with It Follows (2014) and Colin Stetson with Color Out of Space (2019) prove that horror continues to advance and innovate through music. And it’s clear that Carpenter Brut is a significant voice in synth wave. His music provides deep layers of nostalgia and wonder. It is cyberpunk evolved.
Blood Machines has flaws. There is no mistaking it. The acting at times feels wooden or amateur. And the plot and symbolism tend to range from simple to overly complicated, with little middle ground. However, Ickerman and Brut are brave filmmakers, and their vision is truly uncompromised. They deliver on everything they promise.
BLOOD MACHINES is an 80’s homage; you can feel it from the first frame. But it is also something much bigger and more elusive. It is an evolution of cyberpunk and a fearless journey into what genre films can be and, perhaps, what they will be in the future.