Brainscan (Mill Creek) Blu-ray Review


A Killer Video Game Takes On Edward Furlong

Still coasting off his fame as a young John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day from earlier in the decade, Edward Furlong starred in the techno-horror Brainscan. The 1994 teen horror flick sees its teenage protagonist face off against the malevolent Trickster, an entity born of a mysterious CD-ROM computer game that ensnares its users. Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker must have decided at some point he was going to mix the antics of Freddy Krueger with the broad appeal of video games when formulating his slick screenplay.

Frank Langella, Amy Hargreaves, and T. Ryder Smith star alongside a young Edward Furlong in the enjoyable, if lightweight, horror film. Langella plays a gritty detective hunting the killer, while Amy Hargreaves is Furlong’s fetching love interest, the proverbial girl next door. The R-rated thriller has its share of sexy fun and surprisingly violent scenes.

Michael (Furlong) is a lonely, brooding teen that lives mostly on his own. With a dead mother and an absentee father constantly away on business, the 16-year-old loves playing the latest computer games. His one claim to fame is starting a horror movie club at his high school, which gets shut down by a stuffy teacher.

When his only close friend sees an ad for a new interactive game on CD-Rom called Brainscan promising complete immersion and thrills, Michael orders it. Soon after beginning to play Brainscan, Michael meets the game’s guide. The nefarious Trickster appears out of thin air. Designed to be a sinister yet oddly friendly horror icon, the Trickster explains the game interacts with your subconscious mind and produces gameplay that feels like reality. The Trickster’s odd wardrobe is more funny than frightening, a strange tribute to rock costumes. If there is one thing Brainscan could have done better, the Trickster could have looked more intimidating.

… a sleek, original hybrid of horror and technology from the 1990s

Michael takes the plunge and finds himself tasked with his first mission in the game. The teen is goaded to kill a sleeping man in his bedroom. Thinking it’s just a game, Michael goes ahead with the bloody deed. The virtual reality becomes all too real when Michael discovers the murder in fact did take place and that he was the killer. The Trickster has lived up to his name and entrapped the teenager in an escalating cycle of violence. Michael is forced to keep playing as the Trickster blackmails him into doing more missions to save himself from jail.

Brainscan is a sleek, original hybrid of horror and technology from the 1990s. Even the dated FX still work effectively, if antiquated by today’s standards. Furlong’s Michael is a compelling protagonist, going up against a devilish Trickster that always seems one step ahead of the teenager.

Video

Mill Creek has licensed Brainscan from Sony, likely using Sony’s own HD transfer for this disc. Interestingly enough, the 1.85:1 presentation mirrors the aspect ratio found on Sony’s original DVD. Scream Factory also licensed Brainscan last year for their own Blu-ray edition, utilizing a different 1.78:1 transfer that was slightly opened up. Without access to the Scream Factory disc, I can’t say one way or the other which disc has better picture quality. It’s possible both are using the same raw film transfer with minor tweaks being the only difference.

Mill Creek has made this a double-feature, placing both Brainscan and Mindwarp on a single BD-50. While that isn’t ideal in terms of compression, the AVC encode holds up fairly well with only a few hints of artifacts. The 1080P video has capable definition but a rather timid contrast. Clarity is nice enough for the somewhat dark and muddy cinematography. The largely flat color palette doesn’t jump off the screen.

The film elements are in solid condition, largely absent of dirt and debris outside of a few sketchy optical effects. This isn’t a pristine presentation with flawless grain reproduction, but serviceable picture quality for a mid-budget horror movie made in the 1990s. It’s hard pegging an exact age for this HD transfer. Enough detail and visible resolution appears for it to have been struck during the Blu-ray era, but mostly resembles older Sony transfers made during the late 2000s. I doubt this is a recent film scan.

Audio

Composer George Clinton’s score and a litany of tunes from hot-at-the-time bands like White Zombie, Primus, Mudhoney and others sound great in the 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The original stereo mix here is highly atmospheric and lively. Crisp fidelity and fine dynamics propel the spacious soundstage towards an engaging audio experience. There’s real punch and kick to the sound effects for the video game scenes.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in white for both movies.

Extras

Brainscan didn’t hit Blu-ray until 2018, courtesy of Scream Factory’s collector’s edition. Now the largely-forgotten horror flick gets its second release in less than a year, this time courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment’s double-feature disc. Mill Creek pairs Brainscan with a similarly-themed 90s movie combining tech with horror, Mindwarp.

Outside of Mindwarp itself, Mill Creek provides no special features for either movie. If you want to delve into Brainscan’s production, get the loaded Scream Factory release which has a commentary and more.

Mindwarp (95:26 in HD; 2.0 DTS-HD MA) – Starring genre icon Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man from Phantasm, the 1992 movie is a gory post-apocalyptic thriller. Makes for an entertaining double-bill with Brainscan.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Brainscan
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

An underrated, enjoyable 90s horror movie that sees video game murder become reality.

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User Review
5 (1 vote)

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