Skyggen, aka Webmaster (1998)

“We will soon fix the programming error in the super semantic subset of your linguistic structure.
— JB

Remember how, when Neil Marshall’s Doomsday came out 2008 and Luc Beeson’s Lockdown came out in 2012, we all groaned at the absurd Escape from New York/L.A. ripoffness of it all? Well, this Danish sci-thriller copies that absurdity-of-it-all rip with Bladerunner. Only this shot-on-a-low-budget-with-Digital Betacams thriller gives us — not a Ridley Scott rip — but an ersatz-sequel to the (dopey-to-crappy) Lawnmower Man franchise (when you see the graphics, you’ll see the analogy): a “Part III” that’s cyber-adrift between 1995’s William Gibson-based Johnny Mnemonic and the Wachowskis’ 1998 cyber-standard, The Matrix.

The 2000 U.S-English-market reissue.

And you know what?

Regardless of its student film ambition-over-budget production design, character-arcs and plotting that’s even more tech-ludicrous than the cyber non-realities of Disclosure, Hackers, and The Net (all reviewed this week, look for them) writer and director Thomas Borch Nielsens produced a debut feature film with a heartfelt, Tommy Wiseau-commitment to the film (and I dig Nielsens’s convincing tech jargon). Courtesy of rescuing a copy of the dubbed-and-retitled U.S.-version of Skyggen (Danish for “Shadow”) from a Blockbuster cut-out barrel for $2.00 bucks — and having the ability to revisit it a few times over the years — Webmaster grew on me in an enjoyable, Circuitry Man kind-of-way. It’s a film where your individual “love to plug” into it may vary; however, it’s a hell of a lot better than the assembly-line glut of Asylum when-hybrid-animals-and-environments-attack romps backing up the direct-to-streaming rivers. The film’s only negative: its arthouse-vibe would have been better served in an English-subtitled form, as the dubbing is a poorly-done distraction.

As with Bladerunner, the world of Skyggen is a dark, atmospheric world where computers are available at every corner and everyone is a VR-addict clad in black leather and vinyl because, well, in the “ancient future,” all clothing stores only sell S&M gear (and you have your comparisons to The Matrix), everyone is mainlining something into their veins, ’90-era tech music perpetually throbs, and you have two hair-color choices: blonde or one of the rainbow’s seven spectrums.

The 1998 Danish-Euro version. No, that’s not Juliette Lewis in the upper left corner.

JB is a reformed hacker — who wears VR goggles and hangs upside down as he hacks and codes — hired as the webmaster of a cyber-domain (foreshadowing Bitcoin) that specializes in the illegal transfers of digital currency (and the only way for users to log on is with a VR-headset, natch). When a cyber-intruder hacks the domain and steals the site’s funds, Stoiss, the site’s web-mogul founder, pulls a “Bob Hauk”: but instead of injecting JB with a set of carotid-artery severing micro-explosives, he installs a heart-explosive that runs out in 35 hours (and you have your comparisons to Escape from New York, but due to budget, more 2019: After the Fall of New York; a film which we love, so all is well). At that point, JB is off the net and thrust into the underbelly of a tech-noir detective thriller — with a hacker instead of a detective — navigating the usual double crosses and murders rife with bounty hunters, femme fatales, and cyberpunk gangs.

There’s no deying Jean-Luc Godard’s neo-noir Alphaville, Elio Petri’s pop-art romp The 10th Victim (1965), and Francois Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 (1967) are the prefect combinations of film noir and dystopian fiction. The same holds true for the later tech-noirs spun in the frames of Wolf Gremm’s Kamikaze ’89 and Claude Chabrol’s Docteur M. While Webmaster may not be up to the cinematic level of those regarded films, Thomas Borch Nielsens has, none the less, dreamed up a very creative and enjoyable, low-budget gem that’s worthy of you seeking out a copy of the VHS or DVD in the online marketplace.

Sadly, there’s no online streams to share. The best we have to expose you to the film is a trailer and the film’s opening title sequence that sets up the cyber-verse. Yes. This film has fans . . . and deserves the love!

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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