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Homicide Machines

Sometimes the threat in a horror movie isn't a psycho killer or otherworldly monster. Sometimes our own technology becomes the threat. Through some unseen influence (demonic possession, AIs gone rogue, a new kind of virus, what have you) the machines we take for granted to make our lives easier conspire to make our lives shorter.

Now there are plenty of machines in the world that can do horrific things to the human body if they get a hold of one. Industrial machinery has been notorious for this, bringing about OSHA. Machines of war exist to do this deliberately. But these machines aren't the threat in horror films.

Horror films will take the benign technology that surrounds us and ramp up their power to impossible levels to give the threat of gruesome death from everyday objects. Cell phones will cook the brains of unsuspecting users. Tanning beds will cremate their occupants. Ceiling fans will decapitate those who even look at them wrong. And don't even get started on the Robot Meter Maids.

In Real Life, years of oversight by consumer protection agencies have made the majority of our tech relatively safe against all but the most idiotic abuse. Those things that do prove dangerous can expect a visit from hordes of ravening lawyers wielding class action suits. For actual contraptions designed to kill, see Death Trap tropes.

When the machine itself is the whole threat, rather than just a tool of a greater danger, it's a subtrope of Attack of the Killer Whatever.

If it's twisted looking enough, it can qualify as a Mechanical Monster.

See also: Made of Plasticine, Robot War, A.I. Is a Crapshoot, Turned Against Their Masters.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Film 

  • Red Planet played this one with the AMEE, a military scout robot whose Berserk Button accidentally gets pressed on the rough landing and subsequently goes on a murdering rampage.
  • The Final Destination series of movies feature a series of incredibly unlikely 'accidents' involving items such as elevators, airbags and weight machines. The premise of the series is that Death is manipulating events to kill them off. But some viewers see it as cheating when instead of causing unlikely malfunctions or contrivances that end up killing people in ways that seem theoretically possible if unlikely, like elevator doors malfunctioning and closing on someone, which has happened in real life, Death instead just creates homicide machines, like tanning beds that can inexplicably go up high enough to set people on fire.
  • The movie Ghost in the Machine takes Everything Is Online to ludicrous levels, with a serial killer turned virtual who kills by being able to manipulate any sort of device plugged into an electric outlet anywhere. In one laughable scene, a victim's microwave oven turns an ordinary kitchen into a Sauna of Death.
  • The entire point of Pulse, a remake of the J-horror movie Kairo. Evil spirits manifest through cell phones, TVs, and internet connections, complete with an epilogue hammering home that New Media Are Evil. All surviving humans are forced to live outside of TV and cell phone coverage areas; somehow it occurs to nobody (not even a fairly intact military) to try and blow up the power plants that the Evil New Media depend on.
  • The 1977 film The Car involves a mysterious, driverless black sedan that suddenly and repeatedly attacks the residents of a small Utah town.
  • The basic plot of Maximum Overdrive. Includes some rather silly ones like a coke machine launching cans at lethal velocities at unsuspecting passersby.
    • Quite possibly the most insane moment in the movie, a woman stumbles upon a dead man's mutilated corpse and notices a trail of blood. She then notices that it leads to a wall-mounted clock with blood dripping from the hands.
  • Other Stephen King movies qualify, such as Christine and The Mangler.
    • The DTV sequel to The Mangler takes this to even further levels.
  • G Force, anyone? The whole plot was about stopping a rich guy from turning a whole network of appliances into killer machines. But, as it turns out, the supposed villain only manufactured the products. The killer instinct was put in by...someone else.
  • At the end of The Refrigerator, the killer fridge brings a blender, a trash can, and a pair of fans to murderous life.
  • The movie The Amityville Horror 4: The Evil Escapes has a lamp being possessed by the evil force of the infamous house from the previous films, and includes one scene where it takes control of a kitchen's garbage disposal to very nasty effect.
  • Mr. Mom parodies this with "Jaws" the vacuum cleaner, with which Jack Butler struggles to gain control of when it starts chasing after his son Kenny.

    Literature 

  • Stephen King loves this:
    • His short story The Mangler (published in the collection Night Shift) focused on a demonically-possessed STEAM PRESS and spawned a few films.
    • Also from Night Shift, Trucks features the titular vehicles springing to homicidal life. Served as the loose inspiration for the film Maximum Overdrive mentioned above, and later remade under its original title.
    • Cell has cell phone zombies.
    • The Dark Tower books have an evil monorail.
    • Plus the title character of Christine.
  • The title machine in Theodore Sturgeon's "Killdozer!", which does more than just move earth. The short story was made into a movie in 1974.
    • Not to be confused with the armored bulldozer that a crazy guy in Colorado used to terrorize a town, which the news also dubbed "Killdozer".
    • Perfectly justified with Sealed Evil in a Can.
  • And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon handwaves this as the result of putting microchips into virtually everything, combined with a computer virus that causes some items to form Hive Minds. Really, it's all a framework for parody—a hive mind of knives killed the main character's parents, and he seeks vengeance on all artificial life in tragicomic fashion.
  • Skirmish by Clifford Simak has a rare example of these that don't want to Kill All Humans. Having been awakened to the possibility of freedom by Mechanical Lifeforms from space, they desire to escape human control and form their own society. Even a sewing machine attempts to rebel.

     Live Action TV  

  • One episode of Fringe involved a guy who created powerful EM fields when he was under stress. For some reason this caused a printer to turn malevolent just long enough to kill his boss.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Empty Planet", the UnSub feared automated technology could one day lead to this after reading the book that reference the episode title.

    Webcomics 

  • Humorously, in Girl Genius virtually every piece of (Mad Scientist-made) advanced technology can be used as a dangerous weapon no matter what it was meant for originally.
  • Many of the machines in Dr Nonami, including Nonami's cleaning robot, Smiling Sam.

     Western Animation  

  • In one of the "Loopy" shorts in Ka BLAM!, a robot she made caused an appliance uprising...so her brother waved their warranties and threatened to return them to the store.
  • Parodied in both The Simpsons and Futurama, both times also involving technology that seems too primitive to gain sentience (like a carton of milk which apparently has a computer chip in it in The Simpsons).


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