Drones Review: When Horror Movies And History Meet

It’s possible that the best choice for director of a movie about the horrors of history may actually be a horror movie maven. Which is precisely the case of Halloween series filmmaker Rick Rosenthal, at the helm of the moral thriller submerged in the muck of the present day horrors of history in progress, in Drones.

Provocatively displaying equal parts conviction, courage and conscience, Rosenthal unmasks the misleading antiseptic spin of drone warfare, in targeting the minds of those manipulated into carrying out these macabre hi-tech, remote control joy stick judge, jury and executioner assassinations. The setting for this tense, claustrophobic execution chamber workspace is a trailer somewhere on a secret Air Force base located in the remote Nevada desert. Disgruntled officer Sue Lawson (Eloise Mumford) arrives at this drone steering station to replace an African American kid from Compton, who recently committed suicide under mysterious circumstances.

Lawson joins young hotshot airman Jack Bowles (Matt O’Leary) at the command kill station. Who is as clearly and eerily into real life target assassinations over in Afghanistan via his computer screen on the base, as he is into the recreational video game thrill of it all while dialing up instant pizza deliveries with the works on down time.

But there is evidently much more going on than simply stalking officially designated bad guys halfway around the world while up close and personal on screen, as dubious military ‘perception management’ posters planted around the asphyxiating premises relentlessly urge the cyber-executioners on. And while an impatient, irritated commander berates the pair via online hookup, whenever moral misgivings surface. Concerning not only a dismissive attitude toward wives and children in the vicinity of the drone homicide, but questions arising as well about whether a target for elimination is a terrorist or inconvenient human rights activist instead.

Drones, with its disturbing and discomforting persistent dread is in no way conventional entertainment, nor should it be. Or as Rosenthal’s master of metaphorically laden cringe cinema colleague, Night Of The Living Dead’s George Romero once conveyed with such piercing wit – if you want comfort, there’s always the popcorn stand. And sadly to the point as well is Dirty Wars documentary director Jeremy Scahill’s solemn observation, ‘You can’t surrender to a drone.’

Phase 4 Films


3 out of 4 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.