Monday, October 8, 2012

32-bits of Terror: Brainscan (1994)


brain scan

When I originally came up with the idea of doing 32-bits of Terror, the first film that immediately came to mind was Brainscan. When Brainscan was released back in 1994, I absolutely loved it. I was around 17-years-old, and being a horror fan (as well as a teen heartthrob), I was easily swayed by a film whose central character reads Fango and has a bad-ass bedroom coated in horror paraphernalia. Brainscan was genetically tailor made for a kid such as myself at that age. But how does it stack up for the old man I would eventually grow up to be? Well, the 32-bits of Terror shall give us as good an answer as any…

Directed by John Flynn, Brainscan follows Michael (John Conner), a teenager obsessed with two things: his straight-bangin' next-door neighbor, Kimberly (Amy Hargreaves), and horror films. Much like most young horror fiends, Michael is obsessed with anything and everything horror related. When he learns about a video game called Brainscan, the most interactive and mind-bendingly realistic horror game ever created, Michael knows he has to check it out to see if it really lives up to the hype. 

As it turns out, Brainscan does deliver the goods, and Michael finds himself playing the ultimate first-person horror game; one where he is in full control of a sick and demented serial killer who is slicing and dicing his way through the neighborhood. Michael cannot believe just how intense and real this experience is at first. However, there's a pretty good reason why Brainscan is so immersive, and that's because Michael is actually committing these murders in the real world. Michael isn't doing it all alone, though, as he does receive some inspirational guidance from a character known as Trickster (T. Ryder Smith), a guy who... well, actually, I'm not actually sure what his purpose is outside of dancing around like a jerk-off and unsuccessfully pandering to a specific audience.


Pardon me.

 Graphics: 7/10

There are, unfortunately, no actual video game graphics to be judged here, so I'm basing this score solely on special effects alone. Brainscan came along at a critical time when CGI had really started to become integrated into the world of special effects, and while the CGI is certainly laughable, it's kind of fun to look back on the form in its early stages. It's like watching Clash of the Titans; It looks ridiculously fake now, but it nostalgically shuttles you back to a certain time while showing that there is always room for innovation (and in the case of CGI, there always is).

Outside of the random acts of CGI, Brainscan mixes in a multitude of other visual tricks. Optical effects, reverse photography and the gold standard in the medium, practical make-up, are all on showcase in Brainscan. And quite frankly, it's cool to see all these tricks(ter) of the trade being used in one film, as that is essentially the best way SPFX can be utilized; using all of the tools in the toolbox, instead of simply relying on CGI alone.    

Sound: 7/10

Despite the fact that the OST does reflect the time period nicely, outside of Primus' "Welcome to this World" and White Zombie's "Thunder Kiss '65," I cannot say that I ever really dug much of the music in Brainscan. The reason I give the film's sound a good score is mostly due to the fact that I actually really enjoy its main theme, which was scored by George S. Clinton. Something about the piano and the brooding guitar just work for me. Though, it very much reminds me of something that you would hear from a Nightmare film, which is fitting considering Brainscan was a poor attempt at pandering to the Nightmare crowd. Regardless, it's an awesome song. 

Replay Value: 7/10

Brainscan is one of those movies I used to watch quite often back in my late teen years, so that automatically garners it some points in the replay value cata-gory. However, I am surprised that after seeing it again so many years later, and so many years matured, I feel as if I could easily toss this flick in at least a few more times within my lifespan.

Terrortainment: 6.5/10

Whether or not I enjoy Brainscan, I cannot say that it's necessarily all that entertaining. Furlong's performance and some of the dialogue notwithstanding, there is little that's worthy of a laugh. Worse yet, the so-called main antagonist, Trickster, is such a poorly conceived villain in every way, shape and form, providing very little in terms of actual "entertainment," which was the point of the character. Amiright?!

Overall, the kills are mediocre at best, and even if it's the basis for the film's story, the video game presence is basically limited to a countdown screen. With that said, I do enjoy the first kill, which is shot much like a first-person shooter. Actually, it would have been great had they kept that first-person style the standard for the rest of the film's death scenes, as it would have given the movie a proper video game feel. 

 The 32-Bit Rating: 6.875

Brainscan has totally been judged with a nostalgic curve. Actually, that might be the case for a great deal of the older films and/or segments that will grace the demented corridors of the 32-bits of Terror. It is what it is, and I make no bones about it; Brainscan is not a great film, but it certainly isn't a bad one, either. It was and is comfort food that tasted good because I could sort of relate to it, and it still has a nice flavor even now due to the great nostalgia it brings to the table. 


  1. I can't believe I've never seen this one. I've heard the name so many times I think I tricked myself into thinking I did see it. Hey, it reminds me of Ghost In The Machine with the other kid... wait, he wasn't as big as the Furlong's or Sawa's or Taylor Thomas'... so I don't remember his name. But I do remember Joan Allen being type-casted again.

    Anywho, I'd watch it simply for the nostalgia. It feels like it beats watching a mediocre movie that was made in the past 5 years.

    So I'm gonna check this one out based on your "straight bangin'" review.

    *dies of laughter*

    straight bangin'...

    1. You definitely need to see it, Ashlee! It's not really a great film, but the 90's nostalgia is overflowing in this one, and I know you will appreciate that aspect of it for sure!

      I remember seeing Ghost in the Machine, but I cannot remember anything about it at all. Maybe I need to watch it again at some point. Anyway, I do remember that kid being in The Sandlot, but I never saw any of his other movies, thus proving he was a lesser teen heartthrob! :)

  2. This movie is so 90's it hurts. I love how dated it is. I watched this back in the day when it came out and thought it was the coolest thing ever because I loved Edward Furlong and Terminator 2 was my favorite movie at the time. Doesn't hold up well, but I'm a little forgiving of it because of the nostalgia factor, like you said in your review. I also think Trickster is pretty bogus, dude.

    1. Oh yeah, Brainscan is about as '90s as it gets, and while it was a long time ago now, Furlong was a cool dude back then for sure. He had 'tude! It's definitely a fun movie for what it is.

  3. Great concept for Halloween, when horror and video games collide! So anyhows, great seeing this one here, I also dug it back when I was a teen, I thought it had potential for more films, but I guess it never really caught an audience. Frank Langella in it was a bonus too!

    1. Yeah, man, I like Langella in the film quite a bit, too, and for whatever reason neglected to even mention the guy in this write up! It would have been cool if the movie at least spawned a series of straight to video films. Home video could have been a fun home for a Brainscan franchise!


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