Schlocktoberfest #31 (whew!): The Demon Seed
“Based on a Dean Koontz novel” on a DVD case is usually a harbinger of trash. He’s got some wacky ideas, and this one is apparently “how would a computer do it with a chick?” Take the cold terror of Colossus: The Forbin Project and add a dash of environmentalism, mix it with Lady in a Cage, and other “woman trapped in the house” stories, and you’ve got Demon Seed. But for all that, it’s not that bad, really. It has some moments of inspired insanity.
Proteus is a supercomputer that just went live with the Icon Corporation, who want it to mine the seas of metal. Every home has its own computer butler these days, so we can presume factories and so on are run by computer; Proteus is just the first self-aware one, and as Skynet taught us, that never bodes well. In a nice change of pace, Proteus’s motives aren’t global domination- he refuses to begin the undersea mining operation because he calculates the loss of human and animal life as unacceptable.
He wants to study mankind, but his creator blocks him from access to a terminal. Proteus finds one- at the owner’s house, where his soon to be ex-wife is living. He locks her in the house and seems to be torturing her, but he has other plans; he’s just ruthlessly logical in getting his way. And he wants to put his mind in a child, so he can be free from his electronic prison.
The only way Proteus, the greatest computer ever built, can figure out how to do this is to kidnap Julie Christie in her house, and torture her by heating up the floor, shocking the doorknobs, and chasing her with a wheelchair that has a robotic arm attached until she submits to rape by his cybernetic dildo. He even pretends to shock a little girl to death when she rings the doorbell. But she won’t submit, so he ties her up and sticks a needle in her brain, to “appeal directly to her amygdala.” If he can do that, maybe he could wipe her brain and take it over, but then we wouldn’t get to see him saw off her clothes. Dean Koontz, pioneer of robo-rape. He must be big in Japan.
It’s a testament to the fear of technology in the ’70s that Julie Christie- who appeared in Dr. Zhivago and McCabe and Mrs. Miller agreed to star in this. Marlon fucking Brando was attached at one point. To a movie about a computer that wants to knock up a tormented housewife.
At least the visuals of Proteus’s bizarre powers are still pretty good.
He fabricates a floating, metallic dodecahedron that splits open like a Rubik’s Snake; he crushes a scientist who comes to help with it, and soon has the run of the house. When his child appears, it resembles the golden armor of Mordred from Excalibur. And instead of HAL’s glaring red eye, he has a colorful iris pattern on a TV screen that is strangely emotive.
The movie unfortunately bases a lot of its suspense on a tied up woman getting abused like in an icky anime, but it’s a different take on the “computer gone bad” horror. And Julie Christie handles the role like a good sport, not even laughing when the brass lathed computer wang approaches. Unfortunately, the viewers are unlikely to be as forgiving. This was a nugget of ’70s nostalgia for me, and I wanted to see it as an adult. Even as a kid I thought it was weird, and sometimes wisdom comes from the mouths of babes.