BRAINSCAN is the 1994 horror sci-fi film from John Flynn (Lock Up, Rolling Thunder) that has cemented itself as a cult classic for fans of the genre. The film stars Edward Furlong (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), Frank Langella (The Americans), Amy Hargreaves (Homeland), and T. Ryder Smith (Birth), as “The Trickster.”
Michael (Edward Furlong) is a lonely teenager who finds most of his joy through video games. Surrounded by high-tech gadgets and becoming bored with the current state of games coming out, his interest becomes piqued when he learns about a new game that promises to be unlike anything he’s ever experienced. However, when he learns that the murders in his games are real, he finds himself being pursued by a homicide detective (Frank Langella) while simultaneously being deceived and mocked by “The Trickster” (T. Ryder Smith), the figurehead in the game Brainscan, who continues to push him to play the game to its bloody end.
Before a few weeks ago I had never heard of BRAINSCAN, so prior to putting it on, I had no idea what to expect. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement because I absolutely loved this film. As someone who is involved in the haunt and immersive community, BRAINSCANreminded me a lot of those people who want to continue pushing the envelope of immersive experience, so much so that they ride a fine line of becoming dangerous. Though this film is filled to the brim with cheesy ’90s tropes, there was enough meat on its bones to keep me thoroughly entertained throughout its 96 minute runtime.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times in my reviews, practical effects are important to me, especially when done right, and I felt that BRAINSCAN really delivered on that front. I especially loved our antagonist “The Trickster” as he reminded me a lot of Howie Mandel’s portrayal of Maurice in Little Monsters. Though creepy in his overall appearance, the character as a whole wasn’t actually terrifying, but more deceptive and sly in getting what he wanted out of Michael – hence the name, The Trickster. As for the practical effects in the film, those were done wonderfully, with the exception of a chopped off foot that looked like a rubber chew toy for a dog. Other than that, I was impressed with the work that the makeup artists and prosthetic designers were able to execute.
In terms of the acting, it was just as one would expect from a low-budget horror film from the ’90s. Something that I realized, that I never took notice of before, was the copious amount of yelling that Edward Furlong does when he’s upset. The first couple of times in the film, it was funny, but it began to grate on me as the movie went on. I’m not saying that Furlong is a bad actor, I think he’s just fine, but in terms of this movie he focused way too much time on yelling words than actually acting. I did like Michael’s story arc and the guilt he feels over his mom’s death (which we find out early on in the movie) as well as his struggles with his father never being around, so it’s easy to see why he has thrown himself into video games as a means of escapism. I actually found myself feeling sad for his character, mainly because he felt so lost at a pivotal point in his life. Then there is Frank Langella who was an added surprise to the film. He embodied the character of Detective Hayden easily and with a realistic believability. I’ve always thought that Frank Langella exuded a persona of “Don’t fuck with me” so it didn’t take much for me to believe him as a hard-headed detective.
Overall, as I mentioned above, I really enjoyed BRAINSCAN. I loved the use of The Trickster as a villain, as well as the dangers that come along with the constant need for pushing the envelope in terms of entertainment. Even in 2018, I could see how that theme is ever present in the activities that I am part of. Though I felt like this wasn’t Furlong strongest role, I still enjoyed seeing him and it made me even look into seeing if he has anything new coming out soon (he does). I can only hope that he’s fighting his demons and that we will see more of him in the future. In the meantime, I highly suggest picking up BRAINSCAN from Scream Factory no matter if you are a fan of the film or just looking for something new. There’s a lot to enjoy and as always there are a ton of special features to dive into. So don’t waste any more time and pick up BRAINSCAN now!