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Ghost Canyon

'Automation' [Blu-ray]
(Elissa Dowling, Sadie Katz, Graham Skipper, Parry Shen, Sarah French, et al / Blu-ray / NR / 2020 / Epic Features)

Overview: A workplace robot, "Auto" transforms into a killing machine when he discovers he will be replaced by a more efficient model.

"Auto" fears being terminated and will stop at nothing to prevent his own destruction. The human employees must band together to stop him before it's too late.

Blu-ray Verdict: In this deliciously wonderful, purposely tongue in cheek, low budget Sci-Fi comedy piece of cinematic gold, set in the near future in an unknown city, and just six months into an insulation manufacturing company's Automated Worker Program has been imputed, and aside from the slew of human worker lay-offs (in fact, 90% and just before Christmas too, so why don't we have a party to celebrate!) that came from it, everything seems to have gone rather smoothly for the company!!

Enter "Auto", a prototype humanoid robot half a year into his shift, and so boss and the old boss's daughter, Susan, have decided (well, moreover she has decided) not only to upgrade "Auto" but add en masse more (and newer model) robots to the automated team.

Their plan is to then retire the prototype known as "Auto" after transferring his internal data to the new models, but, of course, and only in these types of comedic-bent movies, "Auto" is outside the office door and happens upon the damning information (crushing a tea cup in his steel claw).

So, and aside from the usual grouping together of office workers, rightly disgruntled, and angry (and now ex-) employees, and, of course, the office harlot, "Auto" rises up and his previously issued commands (a twist I won't spoil here) come menacingly to the fore; bringing us a robot vs. humans battle for the (low budget) ages!

With one of the best lines in the movie being "He's firing a laser," spoken by a woman, albeit calmly, to Susan, adding "We don't need that for Shipping and Receiving!", the tone of the movie is set right there and then, for as much as this is a Sci-Fi movie at its heart, the comedic levels are most certainly always bubbling underneath.

"Auto"s only ally is Jenny, an independent contractor who stayed on despite a 32% pay cut, and yet is always distracted away from her actual job, due to working on her music video.

From the off she is friendly with "Auto, noticeably calming him, allowing herself to have a "friend" that doesn't want anything from her.

As for "Auto" himself, well much like those old Sci-Fi TV shows and films back in the '50s, you're not fooled at any time into thinking it's a real, or even a CGI robot!

I mean, it's obviously a man in a thinly disguised costume (voiced by VO Artists Jim Tasker), but knowing, and better yet, being at peace with that going in, is what will make this movie (a to-be much revered classic ten years from now!) the fine evenings entertainment you had hoped for.

Whilst most definitely showcasing a giant, slow wink to the gloriously cheesy horror days of companies such as Vestron and the mighty Troma, 'Automation' updates a lot of things, and also manages to strain the cheese long enough each time to bring forth some dedicated B-movie acting.

Looking through and beyond all that though, 'Automation's scripted core still manages to raise some rather pertinent questions, such as What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be automated? And to what genuine extent are any of us actually ever so-called "free agents"?

In closing, if you are a fan of all those '80s low budget horror and Sci-Fi movies, where actors go to rooms and places that no sane person ever would, and where the language is slightly fruity, but never overly coarse, and for no good reason simulated sex scenes abound, then 'Automation' is the movie for you!

As for the Special Features, well, my personal favorites are the immersive Behind The Scenes Featurette and the slew of Audio Commentaries (one with Director Garo Setian and Writer Rolfe Kanefsky, and one with Setian, Producer Anahit Setian, and Producer Dan Bowen).

Collectively they reveal how certain things were done, what scenes took the longest to get right and why, and how certain actors really stepped up their game on set.

Indeed, it is more than obvious that the filmmakers along with the cast had a genuine love and respect for one another, as you simply could not make such a low budget, so-called "indie" B-movie as this without a lot of care and attentive devotion from all parties concerned. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.35:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Extras of:

Audio Commentaries
Deleted Scenes
Alternate Scenes
Behind The Scenes Featurettes
Writing The Screenplay
Building "Auto" with 'Evil' Ted
"Auto's Voice" An Interview with VO Artist Jim Tasker
Bonus Interviews

A few words from the Director: "It seems every day there is another news story or article concerning the threat of machines replacing people in the workplace. We are also seeing stories about the development of robots that can learn to behave more human by observing human behavior."

"So what would happen when a robot with this ability to learn, replaces humans in the workplace, but then faces the prospect of being replaced by more advanced technology? Our movie AUTOMATION is a cheeky take on this concept."

"Our goal was to tell an interesting and timely story with characters the audience cares about. So despite the film being a satire of corporate cost cutting and planned obsolescence, there is a true heart to the movie in the relationship between Auto and Jenny." - Garo Setian (Writer /Director/Producer/Editor).

'Automation' [Blu-ray] is out now via Epic Pictures.

Official 'Automation' Trailer