31 Days of Guilty Pleasures – ‘The Lawnmower Man’

Jason McDonald

A few years ago I did a daily countdown to Halloween that featured some of my favorite scares from 31 different horror movies. This year I’m bringing back the feature, but this time we’re taking a look at some of my favorite guilty pleasures.

There’s no rhyme or reason to how these movies are being listed, so the placement on the countdown doesn’t denote any sort of ranking. Also, my definition of guilty pleasure is a movie that ranges from either being not very good to outright bad, but there’s something about it that still makes it endearing to watch.

In “Lawnmower Man” Dr. Lawrence (Pierce Brosnan) is working on a way to expand the intelligence of living being through the use of drugs and virtual reality technology.  When his research hits a wall, Lawrence decides he needs to take things to the next level and recruits his kindly gardener Jobe (Jeff Fahey) into his testing. Unfortunately, the program works too well and when a secret organization meddles in the experiment Jobe is transformed into a cyber God.

The thing I love most about “Lawnmower Man”, especially looking back at it after all these years, is that it existed in that magical age where no one really understood what virtual reality (and to a larger sense computers) was or what it did.  It was just this magical future technology that could do anything and everything.  In the movie we get a look at some of the VR games that Dr. Lawrence has access too and they’re actually kind of impressive for the time.

About a year before “Lawnmower Man” was released I remember getting the chance to play Dactyl Nightmare which, at the time, was the big VR game circulating around malls and gaming centers. Look at how that game looked compared to what was in the movie.

However, the virtual reality only ramps up from there. Along with other normal VR shenanigans we get a taste of VR sex.

I can’t decide if that is better or worse than the VR sex scene in “Demolition Man.”  Eventually the power of VR unlocks Jobe’s mental abilities and he becomes telepathic and has all sorts of crazy mind powers like the ability to turn people into CGI effects.

And of course, how could we forget the scene where Jobe goes full on digital God in his virtual reality and cyber-crucifies e-Brosnan. It all looks so magnificently terrible.  Even by 1992 standards I don’t think anyone was looking at this scene like it was the future of computer effects.

“Lawnmower Man” is one of those unique films that fails to stand the test of time and, by doing so, that makes it a much more memorable film. With VR becoming a more commonplace device these days I really hope someone revisists this movie and does something crazy with it.  Imagine “Lawnmower Man” being the first all virtual reality movie that you can sit and experience? Or perhaps it would work best as some kind of crazy cyber game. I don’t know, but now seems like the perfect time to revisit this story.


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