Brainscan (1994)

So this was co-written by the guy who wrote Se7en. Think about that for a few minutes. I mean it, just take a moment or two to ponder that. Feel free to look again at the cast list and at the cover. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the movie is bad or anything, but Andrew Kevin Walker wrote this? It just seems alien to me. Seriously.

Brainscan is a neat little flick that stars Ed Furlong in the ‘Ed Furlong role‘. You know, the snotty, rebellious kid with a leather jacket and no respect for authority. Remember John Connor? Well, that guy, except this time he goes by the name of Michael Bowen. He also has tonnes of material possessions and virtually no parents to speak of. And his friend is really fucking annoying. Ed Furlong is a bad dude, and also a video game obsessive as well as dabbling in being a stalker. He periodically spies on his schoolmate and neighbour through binoculars, and even goes as far as to take endless amounts of photos with his brand new telephoto lens. The kid seems like such a spoilt brat, he has everything a kid could want and the one thing that he probably shouldn’t have, he takes without his neighbours consent. It’s just not really cool, you know?

The plot follows Michael as he orders a new game, pitched as the ultimate in interactive technology, in which you have to murder people and then cover your tracks. After Furlong plays for a while, he hears about some deaths in his town that exactly mirror his game. Obviously pretty freaked out, he soon figures out that it isn’t just a game at all. Its kind of a cool premise that has a lot of potential for it’s viewers to discuss video game violence and whether people can mislay their ability to distinguish between reality and fiction. Unfortunately it eschews most of that pretty early on in favour of the standard lack of subtext that only 90s horror films can offer. It also allowed them to create some of the most ridiculous computer visuals this side of Hackers, which is always great to see in any movie.

The primary antagonist, played here by a Cenobite version of Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, comes in the form of ‘The Trickster’. He is the games main character and pops up from time to time to convince Michael to go and kill more people. ‘The Trickster’ would probably be a heck of a lot creepier if not for his prancing around and dandy costume. The make up effects are pretty neat, very similar to that of Hellraiser or Nightbreed. I do believe the artist responsible for ‘The Trickster’ also did a lot of the work on anarcho-side show classic, Freaked, which is interesting as the effects are almost nothing alike.

It does get pretty gory for it’s 15 certificate, and some of the kill scenes are expertly crafted. My favourite being the knife in the sleeping dude with foot removal, that was a neat scene. The movie has flashes of decent direction but too many clunky zooms, poor camera work and some awful framing make it difficult to fully enjoy the visuals despite some of the classy effects on display. It is a film that seems to have been saved by the editing room, the pace zips along so efficiently that you may only glance at the timer once or twice. There are a few saggy moments, but nothing that lingers well passed its due.

Performances are a bit of a mixed bag: Furlong is the same as he was in everything back them, T. Ryder Smith over eggs it a touch as ‘The Trickster‘, and Frank Langella seems to be having a riot as the cop chasing Furlong’s rebel. The only poor performances come from the other teen actors, in particular Amy Hargreaves as the girl next door. She ambled around like a barely re-animated corpse in a vest top, virtually yawning her way through all her scenes of peril.

Brainscan ends up being quite a fun flick. It isn’t anything special but it has a quality that definitely reminds me of that horror heyday when all movies seemed to be about people younger than the classification age as hero but everybody loved them anyway. It’s got tonnes of 90s charm, nifty murders, and fun one liners. Sure, its riddled with plot holes and the ending may well make you say “Really?! That’s they ending they decided to go for?” but it is an interesting and enjoyable way to pass 96 minutes.

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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