Pierce Brosnan is obsessed with a chimpanzee. If anything about that sentence is off-putting, you might not be prepared for the craziness surrounding this cyberpunk sci-fi horror movie. Released in 1992, this cult film was not only ahead of its time, but deserves to be revisited by more generous audiences, especially now that it’s leaving HBO Max on May 31.
What movie are we talking about? Nothing else than lawn mower man.
If you’re expecting any realism in this Stephen King adaptation, you’ll be disappointed. The motivations of the characters lawn mower man come fully formed from a plethora of snaps. But that doesn’t mean the choices are accidental. The characters here are all one-sided: someone is either frustrated, mean, or simple. But you might see something Stephen King-esque here, in that the whole movie is based on intentional hyperbole.
King was so frustrated with the connection between the film and his short story that he sued to ensure his name did not appear on any marketing material. Still, he paid the film’s director Brett Leonard a compliment), and there are several lines of dialogue in the film taken directly from the short story. If anything, the spirit of the film aligns with the short story in the same way blade runner aligns with the novel he adapted, while being extremely unfaithful.
In its most basic form, lawn mower man is the story of a cyberpunk monster Frankenstein fused with Of mice and Men. Jobe (Jeff Fahey) is a kind-hearted gardener who is often taken advantage of by others because of his disability. Enter Dr. Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) who, because his chimpanzee has escaped, needs a human test subject for his virtual reality experiments.
What happens next could compare favorably to David Cronenberg’s Fly, though most serious horror fans would probably find that comparison offensive. However, what lawn mower man has to do with Fly is a specific style of gradual surrealism. Brosnan and Fahey are each selling us a kind of heightened naturalistic world, a world in which their characters don’t behave like ordinary people at all.
This may sound like a bad thing. But the surreal nature of real-world performance in lawn mower man is key because when things start to turn into a kaleidoscope of upside-down virtual reality, the film gains that transition. And it’s scary because of that groundwork. Pay lawn mower man another backhanded compliment, imagine Heath Ledger in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, replace the magic with cyberpunk, then film the whole thing like a low-budget 90s horror flick.
Because it was technically an independent film with a low budget, lawn mower man was a moderate box office success in 1992. Combined with a brief moment in which New Line Cinema marketed it as “from the mind of Stephen King”, this likely contributed to the fact that even casual fans of science fiction and horror are vaguely aware of this.
A pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan in the title role doesn’t hurt the movie either, and it’s fun to imagine what Brosnan’s career might have looked like if he hadn’t become 007 three years later. in golden eye. Is there an alternate universe where Pierce Brosnan played tortured mad scientists in a variety of cult sci-fi movies? In lawn mower man, you almost feel like Brosnan has morphed into a more sultry version of angsty, establishment-hating scientist Sam Neill. In fact, you could say that Dr. Angelo de Brosnan is a mixture of the two Sam Neills. and Jeff Goldblum in jurassic park.
lawn mower man is primarily known as a failed horror sci-fi film that also made virtual reality mainstream. But focusing on those aesthetics does the film a disservice. Although the cyberpunk-run-amok storyline is pretty much the entire movie, the themes and plot aren’t too far removed from 1930s and 1940s sci-fi and horror. of lawn mower man the basic suburban setting still works, and the attempts it makes to ground VR horror in reality also succeed.
I would say that at least half of black mirror owes something to Lawn mower man. This movie had to move forward, at the pace of a gas-powered lawnmower, so The matrix and black mirror could bring cyberpunk into overdrive.
lawn mower man is streaming now on HBO Max. Check out the full oral history of the film at Reverse here.