Two centuries ago, in October of 2016, I had the pleasure of seeing Ex Machina. It’s great science fiction, but it’s also very much Gothic horror. I’d say Dracula in particular. But it’s not the complete story, the way, say, The Outer Limits would take Macbeth and give it a science-fiction “haircut.” I’ll explain.
Ava’s piecemeal appearance, and how she takes parts from her predecessors to create herself are kind of a red herring, suggesting Frankenstein (which is the parallel my movie-watching companions saw) rather than the king of the vampires, but look a little closer. The movie begins with a young man going to a weird house in the middle of nowhere ostensibly on business. There, he meets a creepy eccentric rich guy with mute, spooky “brides.” And Caleb, the Harker stand-in, can only go to so many rooms in the house, although he finds ways around that. There’s an intense scene involving a mirror and a cut. And finally, the visit accidentally sets a monster loose in the modern world. The computer is in New York, and people will suffer. The vampire was in London, and people suffered.
But it’s all subtle enough that you don’t notice at first. Or at least, I didn’t notice it at first. Something about the movie struck me as familiar, but then when Caleb is locked in Ava’s old room, the Dracula parallels hit me. And being the monster fanatic that I am, it made me very happy.
One notable difference, however, is who’s invading who. In Dracula, it’s the old country invading the modern world (draw whatever political parallels you please here). With Ex Machina, it’s modern society invading itself, basically, because the Internet created the monster. Whereas with vampires, humanity has to triumph eventually, because they belong in the past, with machines it’s more vague.
If Ex Machina were to get a sequel (which I really hope it does), well, they’ve still got Harker locked in the castle. He still has to escape and rejoin society.