Starring: Edward Furlong, T. Ryder Smith, Frank Langella, Amy Hargreaves
Written by: Andrew Kevin Walker
Directed by: John Flynn
Original Year of Release: 1994
Distributor: Scream Factory, Shout! Factory
Run Time: 96 Minutes
Brainscan came highly recommend to me via a friend with an unusual taste in cinema. He stated that the film wasn't perfect, but interesting for 1994 as to where it saw gaming going. That's part of the appeal of Brainscan now, the tech, the game (a CD-Rom), and the monster that comes into our world.
Michael (Edward Furlong) loves horror movies and video games. When his best friend tells him about this new CD-Rom called "Brainscan", it appears to be a cocktail of the two. Immediately you laugh and check the release date of this film because, in 1994, Michael is talking to his computer, it responds, and dials numbers for him. This is, of course, all pre-Siri but "cutting edge" nonetheless, as screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en) saw where things were really going. Michael is a smart kid and has a pretty strong bullshit detector. So when the game tells him to prepare for the ultimate experience, he, just like you would, rolls his eyes. Before Michael can blink again, he is deep into a highly interactive first-person game, where the Trickster (T. Ryder Smith) prompts Michael to do certain things. Michael only has so much time to complete what turns out to be a murder. Hooked, Michael attempts to play again, but the game malfunctions. The next day Michael finds out that one of his neighbors was brutally murdered and the crime matches what Michael did in the game.
Scary, I know, especially with the state of the world we are in. However, Michael, whose teachers and fellow students believe to be deranged and "sick", destroys the second level disc when it arrives in the mail. This prompts the Trickster to come into the real world and offer Michael his own life over the ones he must kill in the game. Michael believes he can play his way out of it, but can he? To stop the Trickster becomes the realm game but as those who are closest to Michael die, he falls deeper into the shadow of the Trickster.
So why have you never heard of or watched this movie before? Well, Edward Furlong's career never really took off. Outside of watching him in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, he isn't really an actor that stayed on the radar. The overall plot of the film also contains numerous subplots and character developing scenes that really don't go anywhere. Michael's relationship with Kimberly (Amy Hargreaves) is simply the love story and the anchor to the third act. Michael's estranged father and dead mother are quick one-liners that the Trickster character uses to establish how much he really does know about Michael. The Trickster himself, albeit an interesting character, never goes too far or is completely explained. T. Ryder Smith walks a fine line between a deranged clown and Freddy Kruger, without ever crossing over it. However, you have to wonder why the Trickster was using the Brainscan game and what he was hoping to do with Michael. I didn't need every detail on his backstory (was he the devil or an imp?), just something. The final and most contrived subplot is with the detective (Frank Langella) investigating the murders. He's no real threat because the Trickster is the real terror.
Brainscan does keep you guessing. Is Michael in the real world or is he in the game? Director John Flynn never tips the scales one way or the other. Never do we get a digitized piece of cinema to say we are in the gamer universe. It's very reality-based once the game starts. This enables the ending to have a Carrie moment (when her hand emerges from her own grave). Sadly, the filmmakers embrace the lame-duck version of it and then decide to go against everything that just happened. This could be why horror fans didn't embrace it. My suggestion is that when the credits appear, shut it off.
Shout! Factory delivered another stellar presentation. The 2K scan was gorgeous and outside of how young Furlong appeared and the tech in the film, it looks like it was shot yesterday. Does Frank Langella age? I don't think so after watching this 24-year-old movie. I think Brainscan is ripe for an update. A lot of things worked here. Sadly, with the state of the world we are in, would a studio even want to produce a movie where a video game forces you to commit murder? No.
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