A Cyberpunk Sci-Fi Film From 2018 Is Making A Comeback On Netflix

After "Madame Web" somehow became an unlikely hit on Netflix despite being a bad movie and a horrible box office misfire, it seems audiences remained hungry for Spider-Man movies that don't really feature Spider-Man – because they just made an excellent 2018 movie, one that is essentially a much better "Venom" than the one we got, a hit once again.

That movie is "Upgrade," the 2018 sci-fi horror film that premiered at SXSW to great acclaim and has spent the past few days among the top five most-streamed films on Netflix in the U.S. (via FlixPatrol). That's a good thing, too; "Upgrade" is a fantastic and underseen movie with an interesting world, inventive cinematography, and some pretty gnarly action. Despite positive reviews, the movie wasn't a flop, but it wasn't a huge hit either, making $17 million on a $3 million budget. At the least, it led to more Leigh Whannell movies, as the writer-director went on to make 2020's excellent "The Invisible Man" and is now helming "Wolf Man" for Blumhouse and Universal.

"Upgrade" casts Logan Marshall-Green as Grey Trace, an old-school "analog" mechanic who spends his time tinkering with classic muscle cars while his girlfriend works for a company that makes augmentations. Things seem happy until a seemingly random incident crashes their car outside of town, where a group of assassins is waiting. Now paralyzed, Grey receives an offer from his reclusive tech billionaire friend to implant a very illegal "Stem" chip that will allow him to walk again. The problem is that the chip has an artificial intelligence (an actual one, not an algorithm that steals other people's work) with a mind of its own, and it happens to be very prone to violence.

Upgrade is a sci-fi horror film worth watching

Once the AI "Stem" activates, the movie gains a "Venom"-like dynamic, with the two personalities struggling to maintain control of the same body and bickering, leading to some effective body horror. Indeed, the moment Stem overrides his restrains and takes over Grey's physical form (with his permission at first), he starts moving with coldly calculated robotic movements. This leads to the film's unique action, with Whannell using a phone attached to Marshall-Green, the gyroscope of which the camera then tracks, to create an eerie sensation where the camera feels much like Grey, trapped and involuntarily following Stem's movements as it goes on a fit of rage. The fights become a mixture of "John Wick" kineticism and "Saw" gnarliness.

Seeing Grey go from enjoying having this incredible power to feeling like a prisoner in his own body is highly reminiscent of a Venom-conquered Eddie Brock, but with less romantic comedy and more horrifying techno horror. There is also a terrific cat-and-mouse game between Grey and Stem, with each trying to outmaneuver the other in a way that results in some delightfully twisted turns (which are best not spoiled here).

"Upgrade" also opens the door to a vast world ripe for follow-ups, which makes the proposed TV sequel welcomed news — even if there's been four years and no updates since then.