Today’s feature is Brainscan, a 1994 horror film about a killer video game.
Brainscan was written by the combination of Brian Owens (Happy Hell Night) and Andrew Kevin Walker, who is best known for the notable films Sleepy Hollow, 8MM, and Se7en.
The director on Brainscan was John Flynn, who was also behind the movies Best Seller, Out For Justice, and Lock Up, among others.
The cinematographer for the film was Francois Protat, who most famously shot the sci-fi film Johnny Mnemonic and the morbid comedy Weekend at Bernie’s,
Brainscan had two credited editors: Jay Cassidy, known for cutting films like Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, Foxcatcher, and Fright Night Part 2, and Phillip Linson Deadfall, who worked on Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Tombstone.
The team of producers on the film included Bob Hayward (Step Up, Step Up 2: The Streets), Joe Nicolo (Shade, Tooth and Nail), Michel Roy (Loaded Weapon I), and Jeffrey Sudzin (Idle Hands, Fright Night Part 2, Hamburger: The Motion Picture).
The musical score for Brainscan was composed by George S. Clinton, who also provided music for such films as The Love Guru, Austin Powers, Mortal Kombat, Beverly Hills Ninja, American Ninja 2, and American Ninja 3.
The special effects team for the film included Evan Brainard (Mortal Kombat, Space Truckers), Gary Coates (Trailer Park Boys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ryal Cosgrove (Scanners II), Jacques Godbout (Scanners, Vigilante), and Steve Wright (Eastern Promises, The World’s End).
The makeup effects were provided by a unit that was made up by Steve Johnson (Dead Heat, Species, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Videodrome, Humanoids From The Deep, Suburban Commando, Leviathan), Adrien Morot (Death Race, Battlefield Earth), Joel Harlow (Battlefield Earth, Suburban Commando, The Langoliers), Loren Gitthens (Darkman, Fright Night Part 2), Joe Fordham (Evolver, Species II), Norman Cabrera (Wolf, Spawn, The Cell), and Mike Smithson (Dollman, Dead Heat, Teen Wolf Too).
The visual effects on Brainscan were done in part by Art Durinski (TRON), Lisa Foster (Wolf, Virtuosity), Aristomenis Tsirbas (Titanic, Star Trek: Enterprise), Teddy Yang (Shark Tale, Mission To Mars), Cosmas Bolger Jr. (Swordfish, Red Planet, The Core, Club Dread), Chris Casady (Tank Girl, Children of the Corn II), Lisa Adamson (Wolf), Michael Rivero (Stargate, Coneheads), Karen Skouras (From Dusk Till Dawn, Tank Girl), and Steve Wright (Superman III, Blade: Trinity).
The cast of Brainscan was made up of Edward Furlong (American History X, Terminator 2), Frank Langella (Masters of the Universe, Small Soldiers, The Ninth Gate, The Twelve Chairs), T. Ryder Smith (The Venture Brothers), Amy Hargreaves (Homeland), and Jamie Marsh (Evolver).
Reportedly, Edward Furlong and director John Flynn didn’t get along throughout the production of the film. Furlong was apparently in the midst of his teenage rebellious phase, and was under-performing his role on top of that (in the opinion of Flynn).
Brainscan managed to pull in a $4.3 million gross in its total theatrical run, but I wasn’t able to dig up any budget information. My guess is that it was profitable on what was likely a low budget, but not enough so to justify a sequel.
The reception to the movie was mixed. Critics landed on the negative end of the spectrum from what I have seen, giving it a metascore of 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences, on the other hand, have been a good deal kinder, earning it a 6.1 on IMDb and a 61% Rotten Tomatoes audience score.
Furlong’s lead character is introduced to the audience as a voyeur, spying on the girl who lives across the street from him with an advanced camera and computer system. This doesn’t seem to be played by the film as intentionally creepy, and comes off more as a way to establish that he is a socially inept geek. That really started me off on the wrong foot with both the character and the movie in general, because that kind of behavior is pretty blatantly creepy and wrong, and doesn’t inspire any positive feelings from me.
The background of the movie features a lot of pseudo-advanced technology, like a voice-activated personal computer and what seems to be a form of online telephone system. While these are very much real things now, they were pretty far off in 1994. I’m not sure if these are more examples of a cheesy misunderstanding of contemporaneous technology on the part of the production or surprisingly successful futurism by the writing, but either way they are pretty entertaining to see.
Brainscan has a pretty serious case of tone confusion if you ask me. The first few minutes build up a surreal and uneasy-feeling setting, which are followed by some impressive gore effects and menacing sequences. However, it turns a bit jokey and lighthearted at times, thanks to the excessively flamboyant villain (which I assume was designed with Freddy Kruger in mind) and some mostly unnecessary gags. What comes out isn’t quite a dark comedy, as much as it is a straight horror movie with poorly integrated humor that mixes like oil and water.
That said, the makeup effects are effectively bizarre, and not just in terms of gore. The Trickster, the Freddy-esque villian, has some of the most ridiculous hair I have ever seen outside of a 1980s music video, and is heavily made up to look vaguely inhuman. The computer generated visual effects, however, have aged very poorly, making the climax sequence almost laugh-out-loud hilariously dated.
Overall, Brainscan isn’t an awful horror movie, and does showcase some interesting ideas here and there. However, the execution leaves a bit to be desired, like the idea wasn’t quite percolated on long enough. The practical effects generally do look good though, making it easy enough to watch, but the writing and acting aren’t quite on par. For horror fans, I think it is worth checking out. As a bad movie watch, it has enough cheesy moments, bad acting, and weird plot bits to make it worth digging up, though it definitely isn’t a top-tier choice for me. That said, the tail end of the movie showcases some memorably terrible visual effects that are bound to stick with you.