The Lawnmower Man

(Brett Leonard, USA, 1992)


My birth cry will be all the world's phones ringing at once!

The Lawnmower Man – inspired by a Stephen King story but disowned even by him – is a horror sci-fi fantasy about energy. All kinds of energy: electronic, mental, sexual, planetary.

It is as if we are back in the florid imagination of a distant century when philosophers divined the workings of all things in the music of the spheres, the comings and goings of spirits, and all the intangible but powerful energies residing in the enigmatic vault of the human body.

More specifically, the film speculates about what happens to energy when it is funnelled through, and enhanced by, new technologies like personal computers and virtual reality headsets.

Trashy by almost anybody's standards, The Lawnmower Man nonetheless forges (with neighbouring fantasias like Wes Craven's Shocker [1989]) a compelling link between coldly rational and wildly irrational perceptions of our technological age.

Why not imagine that heavy metal music is a dark energy exploding out of amplifiers or coursing insidiously through Walkman cables with the power to warp the mind and mutate the body – and why not portray the new Mephistopheles as pure, evil energy inside every domestic telephone?

MORE Leonard: Hideaway

© Adrian Martin January 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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