Director: John Flynn
Stars: Edward Furlong, Frank Langella, T. Ryder Smith
By Brian M. Sammons
There are certain time capsule films, movies so much of their time that they can be used by future generations as an accurate glimpse back at times gone. For the 1990s, one of those film is Brainscan, a cyber horror thriller dipped in Grunge staring a young actor who could only have thrived (if but a short time) in that decade: Edward Furlong, complete with very early, and very rough looking, even at the time, CGI effects. Add a would-be horror icon/mascot and a good dose of humor and you’ve got 1994’s cautionary tale of video games gone bad. But now 24 years later how does this cult film hold up? Well, grab your VR goggles, don’t forget the Cheetos and the Mountain Dew, and let’s find out.
Edward Furlong is a lonely and isolated kid with a pretty crappy outlook on life. To be fair, he’s had some hard knocks against him, like a mother dying in a car accident that also left him with a very noticeable limp, and a father, that while wealthy, is nowhere in the kid’s life. He has one good friend, a stereotypical stoner dude, he likes to spy on his cute neighbor when she gets undressed, and he liked playing video games. When reading the latest copy of Fangoria (yay for fan service) he hears about the next amazing thing in early 90s gaming, the most terrifying game of all time, something called Brainscan, He orders a copy and when it shows up the next day, he gives the CD Rom (ohhh, how futuristic) a spin.
Brainscan is a first-person murder simulator. No really, this is one time that twit Jack Thompson would have been right. In it you, or in this case Eddie Furlong, has to commit the perfect crime with the help of an ever-present narrator called Trickster. It all looks, sounds, and even feels real and Ed commits the dirty deed and loved it. Until he learns that one of his neighbors was killed in the exact way as in the game he just played. Then the game reaches out to him and tells him that he messed up – he left clues behind and that he has to play more or else the police will catch him. Then he leaves a witness that he will have to kill or else get busted. Then he has to…you get the idea. When things start getting a little too real for the kid, the realism-o-meter red lines and Trickster manifests out of the game and into real life in all his crazy, neon-colored, punk rock meets grunge glory. The ghostly, demonic, joking apparition tells Furlong that he has to keep on killing, or else…
Brainscan is not a serious horror movie, but it never tries to be. It is the bubble gum pop flavor of horror that wants to be cool and edgy, like just about EVERYTHING in the 90s, but it falls far short of the mark. Also like most 90s things. But it is fun and funny, intentionally or not, with a decent enough whiny teen portrayal by Furlong, solid, if not inspired direction by John Flynn, and an awesomely over the top and goofy performance by T. Ryder Smith as Trickster.
Let’s get to the extras that Scream Factory has given us on this new Blu-ray release. First there is something I’ve never seen before: an assistant to the director’s commentary track by Tara Georges Flynn. Done out of necessity since the director, John Flynn passed away in 2007, I think it’s great they got his assistant and widow to speak for him so there’s at least someone talking about this movie. So good on her and good on Scream Factory for that. Next there is an interview with screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker that’s 14 minutes long, and interview with Trickster himself, T. Ryder Smith that’s over 13 minutes long, an interview with the composer George S. Clinton that runs for 11 minutes, and then a 19-minute interview with members of the makeup special effects team. There is a vintage behind the scenes featurette that is 5 minutes long, a deleted scene that had a cool looking The Thing-like effects shot, extra behind the scenes footage, a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, a regular still gallery, a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, and a TV spot. That’s a hell of a lot of goodies for a mostly forgotten film.
Brainscan is a silly slice of 90s horror that is a lot of fun. No, it is not scary and its overall quality could use some, okay a lot, of work, but if you are nostalgic for the extreme nineties then this will scratch that itch. If you want to see a horror icon that never took off, this is that. If you want to see what people 25 years ago thought computers would be like in the future and some great examples of so-bad-its-bad CGI effects, yep, this is your flick. And if you just want some fun then yes, I do recommend this one for you.