Friday, November 12, 2010


Awesome!  I needed a new release for my Laserdisc player!
With violent video games being the subject of a Supreme Court hearing right now, I felt that this was a timely choice of viewing.  I mean, it's timely with its subject matter, not with its technology or special effects.  Still, as the Talking Heads said, it's "the same as it ever was."  1994 also saw a lot of controversy with violent video games, as Mortal Kombat II was released to home consoles and actually showed blood on the Super Nintendo!  Oh my sweet lord, Prince in Minneapolis, was that awesome in '94!
No wonder parents were upset.  It's so realistic!
Brainscan is the totally realistic story of Michael (Edward Furlong), a teen that likes to watch movies, play video games, and spends as much time as possible away from his father.  Michael lives in his attic, which sounds like it sucks, but is totally awesome; it's the size of a studio apartment, has its own refrigerator (with a life-sized Alice Cooper magnet), and Michael has hooked his phone into his computer so that his phone dials with voice commands.  The best part is that his only living parent spends a lot of time out of town and leaves Michael home alone (which is very illegal), so he can do whatever he wants!  As it turns out, "whatever he wants" is spending as much time as humanly possible in his room, avoiding all contact with others.  Risky Business, this ain't.  Actually, Michael would like to grow a pair and go talk to the girl across the street, Kimberly (Amy Hargreaves), who totally wants him even though he's obviously kind of a dork and she's inexplicably popular --- she's not that attractive, rich, or much of a personality.  My guess is that the script called for a girl and the writers decided that stating that she's "cool" is enough character development for a horror movie.  Oh, and Michael has one friend, Kyle (James Marsh) and some acquaintances in his high school Horror Club, which is a fantastic idea for an extracurricular club.

Anyway, Kyle comes over to Michael's house and practically begs him to buy this sweet new horror game, Brainscan, mainly because he wants to play it.  Cheapskate.  It's supposed to be, like, the sickest game ever!  Well, I guess the advertisers knew that their target audience was the Horror Club.  So, Michael orders the game, it arrives, and he plugs it into his computer.  And the game is AWESOME!  You get to play as a murderer, in the first-person perspective --- it's super-sweet virtual reality!  One problem, though...the murders that happened in the game?  Yeah, they happened in real life, too.  When Michael tries to quit the game, the voice from the game's hotline makes a personal appearance.  He is a magical/demonic creature known as the Trickster (T. Ryder Smith), and he looks like the Leprechaun and Freddy Kreuger had a hair metal baby.  Or maybe a blend of Frank Langella's Skeletor and the villain from Last of the Mohicans.
LepreFreddy, or Skelehican?  You decide.
The Trickster guarantees that the slightly unethical police officer (Frank Langella) investigating the murders (yes, he killed several during the "game") will bust Michael for murder, unless he continues the game.  This includes getting rid of the serial killer-esque trophies, like a severed foot, and killing witnesses, like Kyle (who knows he played the game) and Kimberly (who knows he's acting weird).  This movie boils down to whether self-preservation and a love for gaming are more important to Michael than doing the right thing and saving his friends.  Or, if you want it reduced to a tag line, does Michael win, or is over?

Shockingly (to me, anyway), the acting and directing in this movie aren't bad.  Eddie Furlong didn't exactly win any Oscars for this, but he's not bad; this just reminds me how promising he was back in Terminator 2 and what a waste his career has been since, aside from American History X.  Frank Langella adds a bit of class with his moderately intelligent detective; I don't get why his character, who seems pretty talented as a cop, stoops to illegal searches at one point, but the script is not his fault.  I was less impressed with T. Ryder Smith's flamboyant Trickster.  He's a cheap knock-off of the mid-90s wisecracking horror monster, and his awful hair and dress only made his goal ("Play this game!  MWA HA HA!") seem more ridiculous.  The rest of the cast was unimpressive, but not bad enough to specifically remember.  Director John Flynn handled the film moderately well, I think.  This isn't a great horror movie, but it was assembled in a competent fashion and it follows its own logic.

The same cannot be said about the script.  Apparently assembled by someone who was never a teenage boy (guys don't ask "Buds forever?", they scowl and drink whiskey), but was apparently very stupid, this movie is riddled with script problems.  Let's take the instance of Frank Langella illegally searching Michael's house; he finds that the fireplace has recently had a fire, which is suspicious in the summertime.  Good detective work, Frank.  Unless every single person in this movie is wearing layers, that is.  Kyle sports a flannel shirt, leather jacket, and another flannel tied around his waist; Michael never has less than three shirts on, and he lurks in his attic, which is probably the hottest room in his house.  There are more examples, like a high schooler hosting a party with alcohol that fills the block with street parking and occupies the front lawn.  Because that happens.  Or someone who, while digging a hole to bury a severed foot in, leaves their backpack with the foot inside unzipped.  Dumb stuff.

Honestly, this movie isn't bad for what it is.  The acting and directing are probably better than this concept deserves, and the special effects, while dated (think Lawnmower Man), fit the general video game theme.  Of course, "what it is" happens to be a crappy horror movie.  I'm sure this blew a few thirteen year-old minds back in the day, but it just blows now.


  1. You had a whole month dedicated to horror. How about some sci-fi?

  2. What, Splice isn't sci-fi enough for you? Actually, this was just a leftover from October. After I get the Nightmare on Elm Street remake from Netflix, I'm off horror for the foreseeable future, or until I hang out with the King of Men again.

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