Some jackass hack named Andrew Kevin Walker has been hounding me in the comment section to review BRAINSCAN, “his 1994 mind-bending masterpiece starring Eddie Furlong”. I’d never heard of it until old Andy poked his persistent finger in my side again and again and again, so of course I looked it up and added it to the top of my Netflix queue and re-activated my hibernating account just for it. Netflix conspired against me, however, and the first flick mailed out was not a straight to video (right?) tale of the most terror inducing game ever invented. But at this point I was too intrigued, so I turned my back on Netflix and grabbed it elsewhere. After all, my lax attitude towards obtaining it thus far was met with death threats. I had better get on this shit or AWK is going to put my head in a box.
While it may have taken me months to finally make movement, it only took one night of boredom due to Christine being out of town for me to actually put it on. It then took only 96 minutes for my mind to be blown.
Okay, well, blown is an exaggeration. Let’s settle on thoroughly entertained. BRAINSCAN is great stuff, a vintage line of offbeat ’90s horror. The kind in constant flux between showing mutual love for the trailblazing films that sired it in while carving its own niche path later films would owe their parental debt to. The kind of VHS tape I imagine has known the inside of many a Jansport. Unfortunately, I wasn’t into horror in ’94. I wasn’t into anything in ’94. I was 9 in ’94. So no one was handing off a copy of BRAINSCAN to shove into my backpack between classes.
I wish someone had. BRAINSCAN is awesome.
Edward Furlong plays Michael Bower, a horror obsessed high school outsider with the kind of bedroom and house reign that all teens wish they had. His best friend Kyle reads an ad for a new game experience called Brainscan in Fangoria, so Bower calls the 1-800 number. Within a day Bower is giving the CD-ROM a spin (which he inserts into his computer, but plays on his TV with a remote…). He is instructed to stare at the screen and complete his goal within the time limit. Cut to a nice POV sequence (retroactively reminiscent of several STRANGE DAYS sequences) showing gloved hands on the move, guided by an unseen voice towards a sleeping murder victim in waiting.
After dispatching the man and cutting off his foot, Bower wakes in a cold sweat, shaken by the reality of the game experience. Of course at this point viewer is ahead of the film, knowing full well that Brainscan is no simulation, that Bower is a real murderer. However, the script doesn’t stay so complacent for long, introducing (much to my surprise at least, since I had no clue what the movie was about) the inexplicable demonic murder-guide Trickster. Suddenly BRAINSCAN becomes much more than a sleepwalking murderer flick. Trickster is an infectious presence, a functional fusion of Cenobites with the television swallowing unrealities of VIDEODROME and an all too obvious, though no less entertaining for it, sprinkle of Freddy Kruger.
Trickster isn’t the only good side character, either. Frank Langella plays a Detective investigating the neighborhood murders. His role is a minimal one, but Langella is such an enjoyable face that he can fill any role beyond its writing. Edward Furlong is alright, no better or no worse than his T2 work.
The whole thing has a wonderful ’90s aura to it. The soundtrack is packed with great early rock. It isn’t often that you hear or see a virtual demon put Primus into a CD player. Oh, and the score is done by George S. Clinton, as if there was ever an alternative, so there is a non-stop hint of late night Showtime/Cinemax to activate boyhood nostalgia. I’m having a hard time finding things to complain about, actually. Because it is so fantasy (unlike some crap I’ve seen lately), the technology inconsistencies aren’t even bothersome. There are characters like Furglong’s girl next door who aren’t too interesting, but the rest of the script never lets the flag touch the ground. The effects are perfect in the same sense all ’90s effects work is perfect; which is to say the imperfections are precious.
I’m glad a fake Andrew Kevin Walker issued a very real threat of death towards me should I further dally on reviewing BRAINSCAN. It isn’t exactly good enough to lose my life over, but flicks like this fit quite snug with me. Other people are probably well versed on John Flynn’s film, so recommending a 14 year old movie that was unknown seemingly only to me feels a touch redundant, but oh well. If you’ve seen it, find it and pop it in. I assure it is just as much fun as you remember. If you haven’t, remedy that.