Director – John Flynn
Cast – Edward Furlong, Frank Langella, T. Ryder Smith, Amy Hargreaves, James Marsh, Victor Ertmanis, David Hemblen
Release Year – 1994
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I’ve seen Brainscan adorning my local video rental shops for over 15 years now, bringing back memories of seeing it displayed on VHS and then DVD, but despite my lifelong love for horror I had never once given this flick a chance. After finally checking out a trailer I thought “Hey, this looks fun and as if it were from the 80s, not the 90s”, and then went into this piece with expectations of a cheesy genre film that would give me favorable results, and thankfully Brainscan failed to let me down.
Edward Furlong (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) stars as Michael, a lonely teenage horror fanatic who accepts the offer to try out a new game promising a mind-bending and terrifying experience via hypnosis – that game is Brainscan. Michael takes the plunge and plays the game, and upon awakening from the hypnosis learns that the murder committed in the game occurred in real life, and he is the killer.
If you enjoy “fun” horror films that bring back memories from your youth as a horror fan then Brainscan is sure to appease you. Most of us can relate to Michael given we were young horror fans ourselves, and some more than others can relate to him on further levels if you were a loser with no game for the ladies (which I know applies most of you even to this day). Throw in the video game element and you have an experience that should keep you engaged due to how well we can relate to this film, and the horror isn’t bad either. I enjoy the idea of a protagonist making a seemingly harmless decision and then suffering numerous alleviating consequences that force them to make even more bad decisions to fix that original bad decision. In this story from Brian Owens(story) and Andrew Kevin Walker (screenplay) we are given just that as Michael murders a man in the “game”, and after awakening learns of the murder of a man nearby matching the same details as those in the game. When the Trickster, the man behind Brainscan, informs Michael that there was a witness who has evidence that will lead the police to him, Michael must once again play the game in order to murder the witness, which only results in even more troubles for the young teen. It is because of this that we get some fair tension throughout the film, and the colorful Trickster adds to the level of “fun” provided as well. We are given several other prominent characters, Det. Hayden (Frank Lengella), Michael’s crush Kimberly, and his best friend Kyle. While each of these three characters adds their own influence on the film, none of them were used to full potential, which happens to be the biggest fault in the film. They each came and went in a moment’s notice throughout the film, with none of them really coming off as a main character despite the credits telling you otherwise. Aside from that I would have really liked to see better kills written into the story, especially given this is a film with an R-rating.
John Flynn did a mostly-positive job with this piece, giving us fun atmosphere that also came with positive cinematography in making for a gloomy feel despite the fun antics going on. He gets positive performances from all involved, especially T. Ryder Smith as the Trickster, and his execution of the horror is positive as well. Granted the kill sequences are fairly low in scare-quality, although the first one was enjoyable, but the conflict after that is where the horror transforms from tangible to conflict-oriented as we watch Michael crumble from the innocent teen boy he was into the forced killer he must become if he wishes to cover his tracks. The musical score is great and reminiscent of the time frame this film debuted (mid-90s), and in the end John Flynn managed to give me a fun horror film that managed to barely scrape by with a positive rating besides a few faults I was not very fond of.
Overall, Brainscan is a fun mid-90s horror film that gives us many elements we horror fans can relate to due to its take on enjoying horror as a youngster, and the horror provided is enjoyable although not in a full-frontal manner. The conflict is high and the level of fun is as well, and in the end Brainscan makes for an experience I recommend not to everyone, but to those who grew up loving this genre.