Showing posts with label computers run!. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computers run!. Show all posts

Mar 25, 2020


Filmmakers, especially horror ones, were sort of obsessed with the idea of computers and artificial intelligence during the 1990s. Lawnmower Man comes to mind, as does Ghost in the Machine and Brainscan. None of these films are of any particular merit, but it's not really the fault of the horror genre per se. For fun, we can throw The Net into the mix for proof that big-budget Hollywood projects could be equally ludicrous. Hell, perhaps you remember the sexually charged Disclosure from 1995, a serviceable thriller starring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore that features, by today's standards, a frankly hilarious virtual reality third-act climax whose special effects were on par with South Park. No one was really making any pro-computer films because they were still considered a new technology (at least at the consumer level), and, as with all "new" things, people didn't know enough about them, and hence were terrified of them.

Mindwarp, released in other parts of the world with the higher-stakes title of Brain Slasher, is something of a different beast. It has more in common with 2001 than any of the above films, and also includes a dash of Mad Max and Total Recall. It presents on a philosophical level the danger not of computers in general but of our dependence on them. On this wasteland formerly Earth following nuclear fallout, human civilization was divided into two groups of people: The first group consisted of those who escaped the blast into a permanent indoor environment where they can plug into computers all day and pretend to be anyone, anywhere, at any time in history. (These plugs go into the back of the neck, by the way, so suck it, The Matrix. Mindwarp was here first.)

One of these hiders is a young woman named Judy, confined alongside her mother, who has grown tired of the artificiality of it all and demands to SysOp (the Systems Operator) to free her and allow her entry to the outside world so that she may see for herself what the "real" world is like. Well, its exactly there where Judy meets the other group of people: scavengers destined to hunting rodents to survive, covering themselves head to toe in furs and burlap to shield themselves from the sun (and those who don't turn into drippy gooey mutants). As you can imagine, some of these outsiders are really really mean and it causes all sorts of havoc. Along the way, Judy meets Bruce Campbell, one of these scavengers just trying to survive. Things go fairly well, and each begins to learn about how the other half lives, but then things go badly pretty quickly and Judy is kidnapped by these mutants where she meets Lord of the Mutants, Angus Scrimm. Only one person will save the day - guess who!

Fucking Mindwarp. What a quirky, well-meaning film. At times both philosophical and entirely stupid, well made and...not so well made, it's the kind of harmless Blockbuster horror shelf fodder that I frankly miss. Regardless of the success that Mindwarp obtained, it's easy to tell that everyone involved in this - from director Steve Barnett, co-writer John D. Brancato (hey, he wrote The Net!) to its cast of Campbell, Scrimm, and Marta Martin - believed in the film they were making, because it shows. Everyone's on board, even for the silliest of aspects, so for that alone Mindwarp deserves at the very least a round of mutant applause. 

Mindwarp is goofy, corny, and was destined for late-night Sci Fi Channel. But there's also an undeniable charm about the whole thing. A film with a rather pessimistic view of the future that features philosophical conversations about God, love, "what is real?" mixed with mutant cannibals, swords and leather, scary women with green gooey syringes. Take Bruce Campbell, add some Angus Scrimm, remember that this film is "presented" by Fangoria, and just enjoy it for what it is: an early '90s cheese plate.

Nov 20, 2019


You can tell just from watching Brainscan that its makers were desperate to create their own money-printing Freddy Krueger slasher villain. Considering that Brainscan ultimately comes off sillier than Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, the nadir of that series and ultimately the end result of a softening/sillying of its lead boogeyman that eventually killed the franchise, it’s no surprise audiences weren’t eager to see Brainscan’s lead techno-monster come back for additional installments.

Besides, it’s difficult to generate any real fear when your villain, called Trickster, resembles the lead singer of ‘80s Eurodisco band Silent Circle:

The ‘90s were a ripe time for film exploring mega-overblown concerns about computers. Just ask Brainscan lead boy Edward Furlong, who put himself on the map as the very first John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. But for every major title like that, there are dozens of B-movies that were begging audiences, “Be afraid of your personal computer!” The Ghost in the Machine explored similar tactics, as did an outlandish sequence in the otherwise sex thriller Disclosure, during which Michael Douglas, while VR-ing into a private network, is pursued by a Michael Myers-like 2D avatar of Demi Moore. Then there was Hackers, The Lawnmower Man, Johnny Mnemonic, Virtuosity, and more than one episode of The X-Files. And let’s not forget The Net, which, to its credit, started out as unbelievable tripe but eventually became sadly prophetic in our new age of rampant identity theft.

Brainscan stands head and shoulders above these titles as being the absolute stupidest, but I’ll be — the filmmakers seem to be taking this concept seriously. I don’t know what’s stranger: that a humanoid manifestation of a murderous video game begins stalking an underage boy while simultaneously eating all his bananas, or that Frank Langella is in this at all.

If Brainscan has anything going for it, besides how hilariously dated it already is, it’s the grisly violence, which can come off at-odds when juxtaposed against a silly concept (and sillier villain). I almost wish it had been a box office hit because I’m dying to know what a Brainscan 6: Virtual Mortality would look like.

If you yearn for ‘90s horror cinema, you’re weird, but you’re also in luck, because Brainscan is the most ‘90s horror title there is: the computers are just blocky enough, the soundtrack just Butthole Surfers enough, and the visual effects just terrible enough to make you stand up and scream, “the ‘90s are back! Someone get me my cordless phone!”