My notes on The Drone (2018)Though the drone technology on offer is up-to-the-minute, this cheerfully ridiculous horror movie has a very 1990s direct-to-VHS vibe about it – underlined by the music score, the copping of a plot lick from Child’s Play and the fusion of the runaway smart home/robot sub-genre with the insidious home infiltrator scenario. Director Jordan Rubin – who co-wrote with Jon and Al Kaplan – made the more obviously parodic Zombeavers, but here reins in the excess (until the last act) and goes for a more straight-faced approach to the ridiculous, with Alex Essoe (of Fashionista and Starry Eyes) giving a more nuanced, affecting performance than the film really needs as the imperilled heroine while John Brotherton and Anita Briem play amusingly cartoonish, one-note horny idiot supporting roles as the dimwit husband who does everything wrong and the milf next door who gets upstaged (and zotzed) by a wasplike flying robot helpmeet.
In the opening sequence, a sleazy tech-head peeper-cum-serial-killer known as the Violator (Neil Sandilands) is cornered by the cops and struck by lightning as he chants binary code that transmits his soul into the drone he uses to scope out victims before abduction. The gadget turns up seemingly discarded in the driveway of new home-owners Rachel (Essoe) and Chris (Brotherton), and Chris makes the ethically dubious decision to buy a matching remote control and take the drone into the house, where it co-opts all the security systems and computers. On the model of all those films about perfect nannies or houseguests or relations who break up happy homes and turn homicidally vicious – you know the ones, Shannon Tweed was in a ton of them in the ‘90s – the drone starts playing tricks that fracture the couple’s marriage. It films the sexy neighbour (Briem) sunbathing and downloads the images onto Chris’ computer where Rachel will find them, keeps turning itself on and off and lurking about, gets the heroine’s much-loved (therefore doomed) dog expelled to the yard, frames Chris for serious crimes so the cops get involved, and hovers over Rachel like an embittered stalker.
There are some backstory revelations (including a dead-pan hilarious reason for the heroine hating remote control tech) and a hell of a lot of plot holes (do none of these people watch the news?) but the film whizzes along capably. It switches to full-on loon mode in the last act (‘I hate upgrades’) which brings on an Arbogast-type PI (Rex Linn) whose death scene harks back to the gross-out comedy of Zombeavers, then has the drone up its killing game and turn from a plasticky-looking doodad into a mini-killbot which could do with being a more over-the-top design. It seesaws between being a film you laugh with to being a film you laugh at, but at least you’re laughing.