Brainscan (1994)
By: J.R. McNamara on April 19, 2014 | Comments
Optimum Home Entertainment | Region 2, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 92 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: John Flynn
Starring: Edward Furlong, Frank Langella, T. Ryder Smith, Amy Hargreaves
Screenplay: Andrew Kevin Walker
Country: USA
There was a time in the early 90s when the hay ride of horror that was the 80s had died off and not much was really happening in the genre… even to the point that Fangoria had things like Batman and Jurassic Park adorning its cover! The post 1989/pre-Scream era was a tough time for the horror fan: directors were struggling to repeat successes of the highly sequelised mass-market horror that emerged throughout the 80s, and every studio wanted to replicate the success that Freddy Krueger had enjoyed in a major degree, and Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers and Leatherface to a lesser one. It was only a matter of time before cinematic key performance indicators and pop culture references became the perceived keys to success rather than just good ol' creativity, and so films like Brainscan emerged. Scream did use those same ingredients a few years later, but adding self-referential elements made it work a whole lot better.

Brainscan was directed by John Flynn - who previously gave us Stallone's Lock Up and Steven Seagal's Out for Justice, not to mention the magnificent Rolling Thunder from the 70s - from a story by Brian Owens that was developed into a screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker, who gave us Se7en, 8mm and Sleepy Hollow. All that sounds like pretty good pedigree, but sometimes even a great pedigree can deliver the worst faults, and this one was the aforementioned pandering to what was thought to be the teen market.

Brainscan tells the story of Michael (Edward Furlong) who lost his mother at a young age in an accident which has given him an (occasionally) bad limp. His father is rarely at home, so 16 year old Michael spends a lot of time by himself playing videogames, reading Fangoria and listening to heavy metal music… and videotaping his cute next door neighbour, Kimberly (Amy Hargreaves) whilst she gets undressed. His only real friend, Kyle (Jamie Marsh) introduces him to a videogame advertised in Fangoria called Brainscan, which effects his brain and unleashes a demon called Trickster (T. Ryder Smith) into his life. Trickster uses the game to get Michael to commit murders, but very soon, police detective Hayden (Frank Langella) is hot on his tail… but what is real and what is fantasy… and is any of it even real at all?

Whilst Brainscan is directed well, it suffers from a load of problems, the main one being identity. The film combines so many pop culture references, from PC games and countless posters to T shirts of heavy metal bands (even though none of those bands actually appear on the soundtrack) that it dates itself almost immediately. It tries so desperately to be 'cool' that it rubs you the wrong way, like when a TV advertisement has a 50 year old white guy rapping.

The bad guy, 'Trickster' is awkward as well. Obviously a nod to Mr. Krueger's popularity, the cyber-demon is a wisecracking freak who attempts to convince teenagers to kill (others and themselves) but he also is dressed to a formula designed to make him unforgettable, and in doing so, he is also that old white guy. Actually, the whole film so desperately tries to be A Nightmare on Elm St that even some of the soundtrack stings and beats are taken directly from those films.

There are a few gore scenes, but nothing really that amazing or gory, and the early attempts at CGI are pretty terrible.

My last real gripe is Edward Furlong. When he scored his spectacular star turn in Terminator 2, his parents should have perhaps forced him to use some of his money to get into a few acting classes. The whiney, constantly yelling douchebag he played in that film is repeated here play for play, except for the fact that he has a limp that is occasionally better or worse, depending on the situation, or even forgotten all together.

The female lead, and Furlong's love interest, is problematic too, and this is an extension of my gripe with Furlong's casting (or maybe hers). She is clearly older than Furlong, according to research, about 7 years older, and this provides such uncomfortable scenes between the two as the gap is evident to any viewer. Obviously she was hired as they wanted to do a bit of side-boob nipple-age without getting busted for child pornography, but her and Furlong have all the mutual attraction of a Klu Klux Klansman and Marcia Hines. Thankfully Frank Langella's gravitas provides a bit of maturity in a film that is mainly manure, but he is pretty much the sole saving grace.

So as expected, a horror film from the early 90s disappoints yet again. I am constantly surprised to hear of horror fans that first starting watching horror films at that time, as horror cinema was a desert with few oasises. All I can assume is that they must have been rewatching stuff from the awesome 80s.
The Disc
The audio and video are per functionary at best. The film is presented in a sufficient stereo mix, accompanied by what appears to be a panned and scanned 4:3 transfer that seems cloudy at times, but is basically OK, visually. Unfortunately, as far as extras are concerned, the disc is as empty and the producer's idea-bank.
The Verdict
This is mass-marketeering at its very worst: find out what the kids love and bundle it all together in a package that proves nothing more than that some marketing departments realistically have no idea about what is really happening in pop culture.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
comments powered by Disqus

>SHARK WEEK (2012) DVD Review

>DANGEROUS MEN (2005) Blu-ray Review

>UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (1992) Blu-ray Review

>THE LAST WARRIOR (2000) Blu-ray Review

>DIAMOND DOGS (2007) DVD Review

>BONE TOMAHAWK (2015) Blu-ray Review

>LET US PREY (2014) Blu-ray Review

>MACHETE (2010) Blu-ray Review

>THE MECHANIK (2005) Blu-ray Review

>DIRECT ACTION (2004) DVD Review

>NIGHTCRAWLER (2014) Blu-ray Review

>MOSQUITOMAN (2005) DVD Review

>CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) Blu-ray Review

>POLTERGEIST (2015) Blu-ray Review

>DRIVEN TO KILL (2009) Blu-ray Review

Post Apocalypse Discussion Forum
Waxwork Records by MaxTheSilent
Phantasm V??? by McSTIFF
Inside (└ l'intÚrieur) by MaxTheSilent
Red Christmas - new local horror by brett garten
Zack Snyder's JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017) by Rip
BLAIR WITCH (2016) by Dr. Obrero
11 Guests, 0 Users
Latest Comments
Last 20 Comments
Most Read Articles
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) Blu-ray Review 1. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) Blu-ray Review
POLTERGEIST (2015) Blu-ray Review 2. POLTERGEIST (2015) Blu-ray Review
MOSQUITOMAN (2005) DVD Review 3. MOSQUITOMAN (2005) DVD Review
DRIVEN TO KILL (2009) Blu-ray Review 4. DRIVEN TO KILL (2009) Blu-ray Review
NIGHTCRAWLER (2014) Blu-ray Review 5. NIGHTCRAWLER (2014) Blu-ray Review
Contact Us
Australian Horror News and Reviews
Digital Retribution aims to bring you the latest news and reviews from the local genre scene. If you see or hear something that might be of interest to our readers, please get in touch!

For promotional and advertising inquiries, feedback, requests, threats or anything else, visit our Contact Page.