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Brainscan

Brainscan

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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).

brainscan4Reportedly, 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.

brainscan3Brainscan 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.

brainscan2Overall, 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.

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Bargain Bin(ge): Replays Gameware (Tuscaloosa/Northport, AL)

Tuscaloosa, AL isn’t a particularly big or interesting place. Unless you’re there for football, school, or the unimaginable combination of the two, there isn’t a whole lot to soak in. I would know, because I lived there for a while.

That said, there are a surprising number of used media stores in the area for how modest the population is. I’ve already covered the MovieStop chain quite a bit, which has a prominent location in Tuscaloosa. However, the real gems in the area are two sites of the small franchise Replays Gameware & DVDs, which you will seldom see outside of small towns and modest cities like Tuscaloosa.

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While the selection isn’t outstanding, these shops aren’t afraid to hold blowout sales to clear out their stock, particularly for their DVDs (as they are primarily vintage gaming shops).  If you catch them during one of those (as I did), the deals are very solid. There is also something to be said about the atmosphere at these shops: they are far less sterile than many of the larger buy/sell/trade chains, and hold on to the intimate and casual ambiance that a lot of people miss from the days of video rental. For people who are into that, Replays has never failed to deliver that for me.

Getting on to the actual haul, let’s start with the central Tuscaloosa location:

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Evolver

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Holy shit! It’s my favorite William H. Macy-voiced killer robot: Evolver! I covered this particular flick as part of Killer Robot Week, but this is actually the first time I had come across a DVD copy of it. Of course, I had to pick it up. Why wouldn’t I? If you want to know more, go check out my earlier review of it. Or, better yet, just dig it up on Netflix without any primer.

Action Jackson

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Action Jackson is a movie where Carl Weathers (Predator, Rocky, Arrested Development) plays a super-cop, which is all I need to know about it. Also, Vanity of Never Too Young To Die and The Last Dragon co-stars alongside him, in case I needed extra incentive to pick this up (I didn’t). This is another one of those movies that I have just never gotten around to, so when I spotted it on sale, I decided that it should come home with me. I have a feeling that if I throw that movie in my DVD player, I’ll have a mean stew going.

The Thing With Two Heads

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Gosh, where can I possibly start with this bizarre b-movie? It is about a racist white man whose (functioning) head is grafted onto a black guy, which results in a movie’s worth of hilarious, action-filled hi-jinks. Academy Award winner Ray Milland did this flick in 1972, the same year in which he featured prominently in the outlandish horror movie Frogs, which I covered here previously. I first heard about this flick when Stuart Gordon did a spotlight on it for Trailers From Hell, and it has been on my to-watch list ever since.  Keep your eyes peeled, because this sounds like a lock for me to cover at some point in the future.

While the Tuscaloosa location did yield me those three much-appreciated finds, the Northport location just outside of town really gave me some fuel for the bad movie fire:

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The Crippled Avengers

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Martial Arts films definitely aren’t my strong suit, and my knowledge base is admittedly pretty lacking in this department. However, this is a flick that I heard about recently via The Cinema Snob, and I was a little surprised to see it with a DVD release at all given how obscure most of his picks are. I hear that this is actually a pretty decent action flick, but I may just cover it anyway for its cult appeal.

Children of the Corn II / Children of the Corn III

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This is a franchise that I have no experience with outside of the original. However, I do know that people hate these two movies with a burning passion, and that I have never seen them. Thus, this was an obvious pickup for me.

The Substitute / The Substitute II / The Substitute III / The Substitute IV

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There are three sequels to The Substitute? And they all star the zombie-cop  Treat Williams? There is absolutely no way that these movies are good, and the fact that I had no idea they existed makes me absolutely giddy. I can’t wait to dig into these, and I hope they yield something worth covering here on the blog.

The original The Substitute was featured on the We Hate Movies podcast not too long ago, which made me give consideration to picking it up at some point. I vaguely remember seeing it as a kid, but it was really easy to get confused with The Principal, one of the finest films in the history of cinema. Regardless, I am baffled that this flick managed to spawn so many sequels, which has me deathly curious as to how the story continuity works between them.

Fright Night / Monster High / The Craft / Brainscan

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It is hard to resist the allure of a cheap compilation DVD. In this case, cult classics Fright Night and The Craft anchor a couple of lesser-known flicks that leech onto their sides like barnacles. The one that initially caught my eye was Brainscan, which was on my shortlist to cover back during Killer Robot Week. However, I have a hunch that Monster High is going to be the highlight of the bunch, because it sounds absolutely wretched, and holds an unenviable IMDB rating of 3.3.