31 Days of Horror: “Lawnmower Man” (1992)



Title: The Lawnmower Man
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Posted October 6, 2016 by

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Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) is a powerful tool that moviemakers have been wielding for quite some time now, and It has come a long way since its humble beginnings back in the early 1980’s. From “Tron,” to “The “Abyss”, to “Toy Story”, to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, to “Avatar”, we have witnessed remarkable advancements in both the quality and scope of what can be achieved visually. Yet, with great power comes great responsibility, and alongside these success stories, there have been more than a few promising motion pictures ruined by overdone or poorly crafted computer-based effects. “Lawnmower Man”, the subject of today’s review, is largely dependent on this technology. How does it hold up? Stay tuned.

“Lawnmower Man” was written and directed by Brett Leonard, and is based upon a story entitled “Cyber God”, which frankly, would have been a more fitting title for the film. Growing up, I was under the impression that this was yet another Stephen King adaptation, but it turns out that apart from the title, the film bears almost no resemblance to his 1975 short story. Famously, King sued the studio to have his name disassociated from the picture.

The feature begins with well-meaning Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) taking a hiatus from his covert government research project. By using a combination of drugs and virtual reality devices designed to stimulate brain activity, he believes he can significantly enhance a person’s mental capabilities. The only problem is that the procedures have never been tested on a human. Angelo wants to continue his work from home, but who can he possibly use as the guinea pig for his experiments? Enter Jobe (Jeff Fahey), the doctor’s dim-witted gardener.


The experiments prove to be far more successful than originally anticipated, and that’s where the story really picks up speed. Initially, Jobe seems to be enjoying his new-found cognitive abilities, but there are complications, and before long, he is wreaking havoc all over town. Of course, nothing good ever happens without the government getting involved, and their interest in Jobe as a potential military weapon throws yet another amusing layer into this peculiar mix. In the end, Angelo realizes that he must destroy the very thing he had so painstakingly created, which proves to be anything but a routine task.

The film, which experienced modest success at the box office, was reasonably well-acted throughout. I especially enjoyed watching Angelo’s transformation from good doctor, to full-blown mad scientist, to hero. Somehow, both Brosnan and Fahey manage to deliver even the most preposterous of lines with admirable conviction, and the supporting cast was equally fine.

The movie plays well as a campy,’b-style’ horror flick, but it’s hard to escape the uncomfortable feeling that it was intending to be something much more. This bring me to my one major criticism; The visual effects, upon which the film so heavily relies, are actually rather disappointing. The virtual sex scene in particular just looks silly, as does the climactic cyber-duel near the end of the film. Both scenes are way too long, horribly contrived, and badly designed. Honestly, I’ve seen screen-savers that were more visually compelling. If all of this sounds a bit harsh, please bear in mind that this film was released one year after “Terminator 2″, and just one year prior to Jurassic Park”. Needless to say, the bar had already been set pretty high when it comes to  the world of CGI.

Lawnmower Man” is a film that never quite realizes its full potential. The building blocks are all in place, but at the end of the day, it simply fails to deliver the goods. Still, if you can get past the visually distracting graphics, it’s quite an enjoyable ride. Highly recommended for horror fans who aren’t afraid to mix pain medication with a little red wine.




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