Reviews

Interface (1985)

When I was a kid, My cousin Brian had a Commodore 64 computer. This was the greatest thing in the world.

It wasn’t great because we could play games like Montezuma’s Revenge and Bard’s Tale — the 64 ruled because it talked. For real. Brian had a program that made the computer recite whatever we typed on the keyboard. The resulting “voice” sounded like a hobo yelling into a cave that was lined with aluminum siding. Being five years my senior, Brian used his thirteen-year-old savoir faire to make the 64 say stuff like “tits and boobs” and “pop a boner.” I didn’t know what any of that meant. But it was amazing. However, in the countless hours we spent listening to the computer say “Pee-Wee Herman” or “Spud Webb rules” it never got too complicated. Meaning, we never made it say: “How long will we hide behind our curtain of fantasy?”

If we had, we would have invented Interface.

Interface is not about kids typing stupid shit on a keyboard and listening to their 128k RAM computer repeating it out loud. It’s about adults wearing Halloween masks made out of tinfoil and saying stupid shit that is processed through their 128k RAM computer. As incredible as that sounds, the filmmakers weren’t impressed enough by their own idea to make it last through an entire movie. They were more interested in making a screwball action-comedy about hackers instead of a sci-fi slasher about prostitutes. Our loss.

A very large black man and a very small Mexican man sell cocaine to Lou Diamond Phillips. But look out! It’s The Prankster! He’s a vigilante who wears a black hooded sweatshirt and a plastic see-through mask. The Prankster throws white paint on villains and shoots L.D.P. in the face. He also says, “Oh shit!” in a Commodore 64 voice. Obviously, The Prankster is an endearing hook. That’s probably why he disappears until the end of the movie.

From there, we meet Manborn, Zardarn, Limpius, and four other masked vigilantes. They sit in a basement full of computers and argue in their own Commodore 64 voices (“We must obey the society of logic!”). They don’t do much, aside from hacking into mainframes and giving people fake rap sheets. One of the guys that they choose to harass is supposedly in college. He wears a letterman’s jacket, but he’s balder than The Beach Boys’ Mike Love circa 1964. They add ‘AGGRAVATED RAPE’ to this guy’s police records. Then they add it again. Meanwhile, a prostitute makes out with a TV set that blows up, a phone is used as a deadly killing machine, and the main character, Bobby Witherspoon, is murdered. No one tells us how or why he was killed. It just happens. Bobby Witherspoon’s college professor and Bobby Witherspoon’s wife get wrapped up in a not-so-dangerous game of espionage, moral politics, and Dirty Harry impressions. The movie still has an hour left.

The first 30 minutes of Interface were completely satisfying. I felt like I was watching Runaway Nightmare again, for the first time, but with a twenty-second cameo from Lou Diamond Phillips. There were lots of nice details (Bobby Witherspoon’s wife says, “Cut the bullstuff!”) and vector graphics of faces. Nothing made sense and no one involved cared about the plot. But there were computers! Huge synths! Telephones exploding! If it continued that way, you’d have a new favorite movie. But somewhere around the 40 minute mark, all of the A+ nonsense was exchanged for a conspiracy plot. And the professor running through the streets in a towel for at least ten minutes. And the movie ending with a dixieland blues jam.

From the Archives