While virtual reality technology is enjoying a huge upswing in popularity in recent years, as with most entertainment technology, this isn’t the first time VR has made an impact. In the 1990s, there was a brief cultural fascination with virtual reality, albeit a much more primitive type. Multiple movies and TV shows of the time would end up exploring the possibilities of VR tech in a fictional setting, but perhaps none were more laser focused on the idea than 1992 sci-fi/horror film, The Lawnmower Man.
For those unaware, The Lawnmower Man was directed and co-written by Brett Leonard, who also went on to helm the 1995 VR thriller Virtuosity, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. The film’s plot centered on Dr. Lawrence Angelo (Pierce Brosnan), a scientist conducting pioneering research into a virtual reality technology theoretically capable of increasing the intelligence level of its subjects. Angelo initially experiments on chimps, but eventually enlists the titular character; an intellectually disabled local greenskeeper by the name of Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey). Needless to say, the experiments end up going horribly right, with Jobe developing supernatural mental abilities, and descending into homicidal madness. It’s then up to Angelo to stop Jobe’s reign of terror.
According to IGN, The Lawnmower Man is about to experience a modern rebirth, as a scripted virtual reality series. VR company Jaunt is behind the project, alongside rights holders Jim Howell and Rupert Harvey. A release date for the series has yet to be determined, although production is expected to begin sometime in 2017. Unsurprisingly, original stars Brosnan and Fahey aren’t expected to return in any capacity.
While now a minor cult classic, The Lawnmower Man was hardly a runaway smash at the time of its release, earning mostly bad reviews from critics. The film only even did moderately well financially, earning $32 million at the box office on a budget of $10 million; a respectable but not that impressive return. Still, Lawnmower Man performed well enough to earn a sequel, 1996’s Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace. Matt Frewer took over the Jobe role, with the sequel absolutely tanking in theaters, earning $2 million on a $15 million budget.
Oddly enough, one reason The Lawnmower Man initially drew attention back in 1992 was its perceived connection to Stephen King, with the film promoted as being an adaptation of the author’s short story of the same name. Upon discovering that the script was absolutely nothing like his story, King sued, getting his name subsequently removed from all promotion. One assumes such confusion won’t be a problem this time out, as Lawnmower Man the movie is today generally much more well-known to the masses than Lawnmower Man the short story.
The Lawnmower Man VR series begins production sometime in 2017.