Film review: Ghost in the Machine

Published: Saturday, Jan. 8 1994 12:00 a.m. MST

It's a dark and stormy Cleveland night when an automobile accident almost claims the life of the "Address Book Killer" (Ted Marcoux) — so named because he steals your address book and kills all of your friends before coming after you.

He is rushed to the hospital and while he is the subject of a CAT scan, the local power station is hit by lightning, which causes his soul to be sucked into the information highway. He becomes the ultimate computer geek — quite literally a human computer virus.

That's the bizarre premise of "Ghost in the Machine," a sci-fi horror yarn with dark comic aspirations, though it's more tasteless and disgusting than funny.

Oh, and there's one more important plot point here. The guy just happens to be a computer genius.

That's important because if he was high-tech ignorant like so many of us, he'd probably blow a fuse and become just another particulate in the ozone.

But since he already knows his way around the inside of a computer, he goes after his next victim — innocent single-mother Karen Allen — via computer, telephone and electrical lines.

Once he gets into her house — and the homes of those listed in her address book — he uses household appliances as tools of murder. A co-worker is zapped by a microwave oven. A teenage baby sitter is killed by a dishwasher.

You get the idea.

Fortunately, Allen's computer-friendly son Josh (Wil Horneff) comes to the rescue, along with his hero, a former renegade hacker (Chris Mulkey). There's even a moment when Josh and a buddy play a hologram-helmet computer game and the killer appears inside with them, which brings both "Tron" and "The Lawnmower Man" to mind. But not for long.

Just so there's something to offend everyone, there is also a moment when the aforementioned baby sitter accepts $35 to open her blouse for Josh and his friend. It happens just before her demise-by-dishwasher, apparently designed to make us feel the character deserves to die.

Perhaps, but the actress doesn't deserve to be in this film.

Speaking of that, from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" to "Ghost in the Machine" is a long, sad drop for Allen, a talented actress who deserves better. And there are other familiar faces here — including Jessica Walter! — all of them looking slightly embarrassed.

As for director Rachel Talalay . . . well, I should have known what to expect when I found out she also gave us "Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare."

Let's hope this is "Ghost in the Machine: Her Final Movie."

It's rated R for violence, gore, profanity and vulgarity.

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