Sunday, March 14, 2010

BRAINSCAN (1994) Movie Review


Michael (Edward Fulong) is the high school weirdo, a horror and video game fanatic who spend his time dwelling in his bedroom reading Fangoria and spying on the girl next door. When he receives a new video game in the mail, Brainscan, he is dubious of the game's claim that it is the ultimate in fear. The game, and interactive CD-Rom that you play in your subconscious while hypnotized, forces you to act and think like a killer. After Michael plays the game, in which he murders a strange for no apparent reason, he discovers that someone in his neighborhood was killed in the exact same way.

It is then that Trickster, a punked-out digital demon, literally emerges from the monitor to explain to Michael just what he has gotten himself into. Trickster acts as mentor, tormentor, and guide for Michael, as he pushes him to continue to play the game, and thus commit more murders. An out of town detective, Hayden (Frank Langella), is on the case of the murders though, and his intuition is pointing straight at Michael. To survive, Michael must play, but at what cost to his humanity and sanity?

It is 1994. Freddy is dead, Jason is in Hell, Michael hasn't been seen in Haddonfield in over five years. The corporate world of horror needs a new gimmick-driven character. Enter Trickster, brought to the screen by complete unknown and eager-to-please T. Ryder Smith. This glammed-out, video game playing, alternative rock loving, quick-witted fiend is the perfect boardroom created hybrid for the early teen crowd to champion as their new hero. And in a time when interactive gaming and virtual reality was just getting off the ground, what better way to win his way into the hearts of the youth than as some demented master of ceremonies to a deadly digital game of life and death? I guess someone forgot to mention that movies based on games (SUPER MARIO BROS) don't do so well, and movies about people playing games (THE WIZARD) fare even worse! And as for video game playing bad guys (Freddy's "power glove" antics), well lets not speak ill of the departed.

Eddie Furlong, sorry Edward Furlong, once again glooms and dooms across the screen hoping to keep some form of name recognition. After becoming the idol of many as the master of a Terminator, he quickly tried the patience of his fans with PET SEMATARY 2, and used up what little he had left as he voice-cracks along here. Granted, he has the perfect appearance for a character such as Michael, which is the best thing he has going for this flick. Frank Langella, who brings an air of professional acting to the otherwise fairly inexperienced and young cast, uses his steely gaze and distinct voice to command each scene he is in. Even when he is supposed to be playing a good guy, Langella's unique screen presence still slants him toward evil. His omnipresent force against Michael, as well as being one of the few adult characters of importance, also sets up an underlying rebel-against-authority undertone.

Director John Flynn, whose multi-decade career has skirted along creating the lesser known flicks of Hollywood's action mainstays, brings a professional eye to the production, but whose age serves as a detractor against the youth/pop-culture oriented script with a specific target audience in mind. His camera pans constantly across Michael's stuff, including Fangoria, comic books, and horror posters. Every bedroom in the movie has multiple Aerosmith and Metallica posters. Trickster energetically blasts Primus during his introduction scene. Flynn is just trying way to hard here to say "look, these characters like what you like! Associate with them!" And sadly, his coup-de-grace being his loving homage to the giallo genre during Michael's POV murder using a knife while wearing black gloves, probably went over everyone's head during the film's theatrical run. The script also treads into some "thinking" territory as it attempts to make a half-hearted discussion about how horror movies are just entertainment and escapism, which for a flick like this is just preaching to the choir, and again serves to only make the viewer associate with the character through like-minded beliefs.

BRAINSCAN has not aged well since its release. The laughably ludicrous and impossible gaming set-up still stings real gamers today as much as it did then, the infantile computer generated images are blatantly obvious and offer a glimpse of a latex-less horror future to come, the insulting ending is a slap in the face cop-out, and the "I hope this makes money so there can be a sequel" coda reeks of marketing influence. Like flannel and tribal heavy metal necklaces, some movies are better left in the early nineties, where a fuzzy recollection can remember a one-time cable TV viewing of this movie in a much more favorable light.


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David said...

I have never heard of some of these movies you are reviewing. Thanks for the good infomation.

noerul said...

I’ve been looking through your site. You’ve got some nice posts on here, especially this one, I enjoyed it…nice post. Consider yourself bookmarked :) .

jeff said...

Dude! I am glad I found this site. I like these reviews of older movies. Now this is an old timer movie I got a kick out of.

BMX PIZZA said...

Brainscan could have been awesome, but sadly it was an epic fail in my book!

Eighties horror was so much cooler than most 90's stuff


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