|Brainscan VHS scan courtesy of MorbidlyBeautifl.com
A 90's Misfire For All Involved
On the surface, I should love Brainscan. The behind-the-scenes team on this thing is pretty damn remarkable, and it's this fact that forced me to finally sit through this from beginning to end....finally. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker (Se7en, 8mm, Sleepy Hallow), makeup by the great Steve Johnson, a catchy score by George S. Clinton, and directed by a truly underrated filmmaker John Flynn, who's given us some classics such as Rolling Thunder, Best Seller (a personal favorite), Lock Up and to this day, directing one of Steven Seagal's best, most gritty films with Out for Justice. And that's something all of his films have in common- a grittiness that a lot of directors don't pull off very well. But for him, it seems effortless. So to say I was intrigued to see him tackle the horror genre is an understatement. Yet this is the second time I've attempted to watch this film, because the first time I gave up after 45 minutes. But I do know there is a large fanbase for this film, so perhaps I'm missing something? I figured it was worth the trip, even if it ended up being a bad one.
Brainscan is not a good film on any level. In fact, it's kind of a mess. It's hard to really tell what genre they were attempting here, but it definitely doesn't come across as a horror film all that much. In fact, the R-Rating is really surprising considering the lack of gore. Aside from the very brief flash of boobs, there's not even any nudity. I've seen more nudity in an 80's PG-Rated comedy!
At times it feels like not much is really fleshed out, especially when it comes to Michael's (Edward Furlong) relationships to his only friend, his absent father and also in regards to the strange (and sometimes creepy) infatuation he and his cute neighbor seem to share with one another. Speaking of Furlong, wow he is just awful in this. I know he was the "hot" item back in the 90's and he was consistently busy with big studio projects, but I'm sorry, he's as wooden as a bedpost and really just comes across as annoying more than anything. He makes it hard to care about anything he's going through when he comes across as a whiny, moody, arrogant teenager. Frank Langella, bless him, doesn't fare any better. Probably his most understated performance ever captured on film, he seems to really not give a shit and puts in as little effort as possible. While on the opposite end of the spectrum, T. Ryder Smith as The Trickster is clearly having a blast. Still not a great character by any means, but he pops in from time to time to break up the boredom and ham it up, which in this case, was a welcome treat.
It's hard to know where to put the blame too. You have so many questions about characters, plot, relationships and motivation, but almost none of them are answered, and that is incredibly frustrating. Maybe Walkers script was more fleshed out and was cut in post? Maybe director Flynn was out of his element, or maybe directing a kid was something he wasn't cut out to do? Maybe the studio enforced edits to make it more commercially viable? I don't know, but ultimately Brainscan is a film who's reputation I clearly do not understand. Maybe it would be different had I seen this originally back in 1994 when I was 18? Perhaps. But watching it for the first time as a 45 year old, I just don't get it.
Brainscan is currently streaming for FREE on Crackle.com with commercials