Sunday, May 11, 2014

Brainscan


  I recently saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and you know, more or less... it's exactly what I expected. So my review of it would be a rundown of a checklist of things it did right and wrong. Don't get me wrong, I really liked it. However, it's not something I feel like reviewing right now, god forbid I try to be relevant. So! With that in mind, I'd like to introduce you to a 90's sci-fi horror flick called Brainscan. Starring Edward Furlong, fresh off the heels of Terminator 2, and sharing top billing with him, is Frank Langella.

  Brainscan introduces us to our protagonist, Michael Brower, played by Edward Furlong. This character is into super violent movies, hardcore music, anything horror themed, computers and video games. Sounds like my kinda guy to be honest. Anyways, his buddy calls him up to tell him about a new video game being touted as the "ultimate experience in terror". So like a proper 'I've seen it all' skeptic (like me) Michael says, "yeah right..." but one thing leads to another, and he ends up trying out the game. Obviously, things get crazy- crazy bloody, and Michael starts freaking out. The game itself seems hellbent on turning Michael into a full blown real life serial killer.

  The strength of this movie isn't in the plot, or the acting, or the special effect- though to be clear, all of those elements are perfectly serviceable. The strength of this movie is in how it approaches it's material. Michael's Principal at school interrupts him and his friends watching a gory horror movie early on in the flick, and asks him "Tell me Michael, why do you watch these films?" and instead of a typical "You don't understand my generation..." eyeroll, Michael takes a stab at actually explaining it to him. Which actually kinda impressed me. "Well, it's kind of an escape..." I won't spoil the scene, but there's some wonderfully snappy dialog in that part which makes the movie worth watching by itself. However, to the point, the movie raises some serious questions about violence as entertainment, and moreover... why do we find it entertaining?

  I can't say it actually attempts to answer these questions, but kudos for raising them. At one point in the movie, Michael finds out that someone who he thought died in the video game, died for real. The antagonist muses something to the effect of 'unreal... real, what's the difference?'. Michael quickly retorts, "There's a difference! There's a big fucking difference!"  Michael is being faced with some heavy stuff. Real death being treated as a game, and the whole thing is placed on his shoulders. He's just a high school kid who's being prodded to analyze why violence is entertaining. Why he enjoys horror movies. Why blood and gore and depravity make for an escape.

  Michael can't answer these questions. He's not prepared to. He can only retort, that there is indeed a difference between fantasy and reality. He's appalled by real violence, yet attracted to it if he's sure it's not real. Why is that? Why are we like that as a people? Michael never really finds an answer, or even attempts to. He just knows what he knows. I feel like Michael is an easy character to relate to from the audience's standpoint, precisely because of this. Which is part of why the movie is so watchable. He's being forced to think about why blood and violence can be an escape, and here we are as an audience watching a bloody and violent movie. I don't think the movie is aware that it's that meta, but it adds a nice depth to it. Something to think about. The movie doesn't dwell on these ideas much longer than the plot necessitates, and the plot tends to override it's concepts and message in the third act.

  Yet, the cast is solid for the most part. Actors play their role, and well. Except for Frank Langella. He does nothing but brood and say "Go home, kid."

  ...It comes to mind, that I don't think I've ever seen Frank Langella in a legitimately all around good movie. Brainscan being a borderline exception. Lets see, Masters of the Universe, The Box, Superman Returns, Robot and Frank, and uh... I think those are the movies I've seen him in. Am I missing some epic movie or something? Granted, he voiced Archer in Small Soldiers, but there's a loophole there if you see what I'm talking about. My point is, I feel like this guy is a major league actor. He lends gravitas and an inherent sense of importance to any role he plays. So by god lets get him some good ones. He's entirely wasted in this movie as a brooding detective that has less screentime than Edward Furlong's painfully 90's interactive computer.

  Furlong is completely serviceable as this sort of character. You either want to see more of angst ridden John Connor, or you don't. Personally, I like it. It worked for the movie and he made the character fun pretty much. However, beyond all the 'serviceable' elements of the movie- you'll probably feel like you've seen a hundred movies just like this. There's nothing really about it to make it stand out. It's decent, but not exactly a hidden gem of the 90's. It's alright. I liked it. It was worth the 50 cents I paid, and I had a good time watching it. There's no reason to avoid it, and I even recommend it. If not as a horror movie (in which it works just fine) then as a piece of 90's nostalgia. People in this movie go apeshit for 'fully interactive CD-ROMs'. Rad.

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