Monday, June 10, 2019

THE BELIEVERS (1987) (Olive Films Blu-ray Review/Comparison)

THE BELIEVERS (1987) 

Label:  Olive Films 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 114 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: John Schlesinger 
Cast: Robert Loggia, Martin Sheen, Helen Shaver, Harley Cross, Jimmy Smits, Elizabeth Wilson 


I remember watching occult-thriller The Believers (1987) on late night cable TV as an early teen and enjoying it quite a bit, but more than anything it made me wary of my mom's coffee maker and the possibility that it might someday kill me. That's because at the top of the film a woman named Lisa Jamison (Janet-Laine Green) is fatally electrocuted by a faulty coffee maker right in front of her husband Cal (Martin Sheen, Apocalypse Now) and young son Chris (Harley Chris, Someone To Watch Over Me). Watching it again now I was a bit less traumatized by the scene of electric death and more jadedly amused at how overwrought that scene is. While not as jolting as I remember it does move the story along, with the now grieving widow moving from Minnesota to New York City to start a new life with his son. Cal assumes a new job as a therapist for the NYPD treating cops traumatized in the line of duty. Enter an attractive and recently divorced landlady Jessica Halliday (Helen Shaver, The Amityville Horror) who takes a liking to Cal and a romance blossoms much to the chagrin of his son who still grieves for his deceased mother.


A series of ritualistic child murders plague the city, at the first crime scene we meet undercover officer Tom Lopez (Jimmy Smits, Bless The Child) looking to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, screaming about a Santeria cult and their strange powers. At about the same time Cal and his son are enjoying a day at Central Park when Chris stumble upon the scene of an animal sacrifice, nearby  Chris finds decorative shell which he keeps to himself, and soon enough strange things begin happening around the Jamison home. 



What unfolds afterward hints that the elite and powerful aristocrats of the city may be sacrificing their own children to ensure their place in high society, with the corrupting influence of the occult permeating all facets of society, no one is safe and no one is above suspicion, which makes this a surprisingly effective and creepy paranoid thriller. 



Martin Sheen as the cop psychiatrist is easy to get behind, the caring father dealing with grief while starting a new relationship. Harley Chris as the son manages to not be too annoying as kid actors are prone to be and Helen Shaver as the new love interest does a fine job.



Then we have Jimmy Smits as the undercover cop fallen prey to the Santeria cult, he's unhinged the moment he arrives onscreen and only unravels further as the film moves on. Then we have the always intimidating Robert Loggia (Lost Highway) as Lieutenant Sean McTaggert, whom is feeling increasing pressure to find the culprits behind the child murders, even when Loggia is a good guy like he is here he is still a menacing presence onscreen. 



The occult baddies in the film are embodied by wealthy tycoon Robert Calder (Harris Yulin, Ghostbusters II) and cult priest Palo (Malick Bowens, Double Team), a creepy figure who uses the occult to enthrall, corrupt and curse his followers and enemies throughout the film - a few of his scenes still give me the shivers.



After the overwrought beginning the film settles into a slow methodical build-up of occult tension and paranoia before diving off the deep-end with the revelation of just how far the influence of the cult extends and the result is a tiny bit over-the-top, not ruining it for me but definitely a little over-the-top.



Directed by John Schlesinger (Marathon Man) with a screenplay by future Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost the attractive cinematography from Robby Müller (Dead Man)- there's a solid creative team behind the camera. While I enjoyed the heart of the story of a father pulled into the occult activities of the elite and powerful the bookend whammy of that overwrought electrocution and nutty ending do bring it down a few points. Nonetheless, I do give The Believers a recommend, it's a tense and paranoia infused occult thriller with a great cast, definitely a film deserving of some attention. 

Audio/Video: The Believers arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films presented in 1080p HD and framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen framing with a nice layer of film grain with pleasant some moments of fine detail and clarity. Color reproduction looks terrific and skin tones are natural looking. Black levels are decent and the source material is near flawless with the exception of some minor white speckling throughout. This  looks to be the same HD master provided by 20th Century Fox to Twilight Time for their 2014 Blu-ray release, with the same color-grading and identical white speckling in certain scenes, though the now out-of-print TT release looks to have the superior encode, but only marginally. Check out a screenshot comparison below: 

Top: Twilight Time Blu-ray (2014) 

Bottom: Olive Films Blu-ray (2019)







The disc audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix, dialogue, effects and the J. Peter Robinson (The Wraith) score are well-balanced, a solid stereo mix with optional English SDH Subtitles are provided. 


The only extra on this release is the original theatrical trailer for the film. The previous Twilight Time disc only offered the trailer, an isolated score and collector's booklet with writing on the film from Julie Kirgo, so you're not losing a lot of extras, and the transfers are nearly identical. The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork, while I didn't love the TT artwork this one doesn't really improve on it, Olive's stylized artwork is usually an acquired taste.    

While not quite the supreme occult thriller I remembered from my youth The Believers (1987) is still a creepy occult entry with some strong performances and troubling imagery. The new Blu-ray from Olive Films looks and sounds great if you're a fan of the film and missed out on the previous TT release this is a solid alternative. 


Thursday, June 6, 2019

THE EPITAPH VOL. 16 - MILL CREEK ENTERTAINMENT EDITION!

THE EPITAPH VOL. 16 - MILL CREEK MANIA EDITION! 

ANACONDA (1997) - JURY DUTY (1995) - OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS (1990) - EXCESS BAGGAGE (1997) - DOUBLE TEAM (1997) - BECOMING EVIL: SERIAL KILLERS (2019) - A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS THE STORY OF ALADDIN: 8 MAGICAL TALES - THE SHIELD: THE COMPLETE SERIES (2002-2008) 


ANACONDA (1997) 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 90 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (No Subtitles) 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Luis Lllosa
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Owen Wilson, Danny Trejo

First up is Anaconda (1997) starring the multi-talented looker Jennifer Lopez (The Cell) and rapper turned actor Ice Cube (Friday) as part of a documentary film crew in search of a lost Amazon tribe, along the way teaming-up with an unscrupulous jungle guide played by Jon Voight (The Train), running afoul of a giant anaconda that's out for blood. I remember seeing the trailers for this one when it was coming into the cinemas and thinking that looks like a ripe pile of bad-CGI shit... well, I wouldn't say I was wrong about that, The poor late-90's digital FX peppered throughout this film certainly don't help this hair-brained serpentine action/adventure romp, but I won't deny that it has a pulpy b-movie charm, as long as you're willing to give into it's eye-rolling unintentional self-parody. The film is presented in lackluster 1080p 2.40:1 widescreen, looking like a manipulated older HD master and only give a compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix with no subtitles and no extras. Sure, it's an eye-rolling groaner but it definitely has some bad-cinema charms for the lovers of big-budget duds.   


JURY DUTY (1995)
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 88 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: John Fortenberry
Cast: Pauly Shore, Tia Carrere, Stanley Tucci, Brian Doyle-Murray, Abe Vigoda, Charles Napier 

Even as a teen in the 90'as I found the antics of Pauly Shore hard to swallow,  I'd rate Encino man (1992) as the film of his I hate the least. This corny courtroom-comedy  is about a unemployed freeloader named Tommy Collins,  who after finding himself temporarily homeless, manages to weasel his way into jury duty on the sensational murder trial of  accused "Drive-Thru Killer" Carl Wayne Bishop (Sean Whalen, The People Under The Stairs). Having arrived in the cinema the same year as the O.J. Simpson murder trail verdict the film  somehow manages to mine that true-crime sadness for some comedy scrapings. I imagine that if you're a Pauly Shore fan you probably already love this silly thing,  but for me it was the bit-players that appear throughout the film that kept be plugged in, with appearances from Tia Carrere, Stanley Tucci, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Abe Vigoda among others. There's a steady parade of walk-ons and supporting roles that tickled by funny bone quite a bit, even if I find Shore rather annoying, but I guess that was all part of his shtick. Framed in 1.85:1 widescreen and benefiting from an uncompressed English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix with optional subtitles. The film looks good on Blu-ray, looking relatively blemish free and reasonably sharp with modestly detail. There are no disc extras on this one, but as part of MCE's I Love the 90s/Retro VHS titles it comes with a retro-looking slipcover with an alternate artwork on the sleeve. 



OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS (1990)   
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 102 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Donald Petrie
Cast: Dana Carvey, Robert Loggia, Julia Campbell, Todd Graff, Milo O'Shea, James Tolkan

In Opportunity Knocks (1990) SNL alum Dana Carvey (Wayne's World) plays small-time con man Eddie Farrell who while running a scan pretending to work for the electric company find themselves in the home of a man who is out of town for an extended period. Taking advantage of the situation he takes up residence in the home where he is discovered by the parents of the vacationing man, but he is mistaken for a friend of their son's, managing to take on a lucrative position with the father's company and falling in love with his doctor daughter Annie (Julia Campbell) The film plays out pretty much as you would expect from there with his crime-riddled past coming back to haunt him, exposing his true identity Dana Carvey does good work in the lead here, a funny if formulaic film The film debuts on Blu-ray with a 1080p HD transfer framed in 1.85:1 widescreen, looking solid if a bit soft in places. We also get an uncompressed English DTS-HD MA 2.- stereo track with optional English subtitles, plus a 27-min of deleted scenes and a 2-min trailer. This is part of MCE's I Love the 90s/Retro VHS titles, coming with a retro-looking slipcover with an alternate artwork on the sleeve. 

Special Features:
- Deleted Scenes (27 min)
- Trailer 

EXCESS BAGGAGE (1997) 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 101 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Marco Brambilla
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Benicio Del Toro, Christopher Walken, Jack Thompson, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Turturro

Spoiled but neglected rich-kid Emily Hope (Alicia Silverstone) stages her own kidnapping to get her father's attention, but a quirky car thief (Benecio Del Toro) throws a wrench into the ransom works when he steals the car she's locked herself in the trunk of, igniting a half-baked kidnap-comedy that while entertaining is very forgettable, but at least stars Christopher Walken (The Prophecy) as the girl's threatening uncle who is assigned to track her down, and he always makes these forgettable films at least a bit forgivable, not awful, but a very middling 90's romantic thriller. The film debuts on Blu-ray framed in 1080p HD framed in  1.851 widescreen, given only a compressed Dolby Digital 5.1 track with optional English subtitles and no extras. The presentation looks okay, this is obviously an older HD master marked by artifacting, but at least the colors look solid throughout. As part of MCE's I Love the 90s/Retro VHS series this release comes with a retro-looking slipcover with an alternate artwork on the sleeve. 


DOUBLE TEAM (1997) 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Tsui Hark
Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman, Paul Freeman, Mickey Rourke 

Double Team (1997) is a very strange spy/action offering from 'the 90's teaming-up the waning action-film star Jean-Claude Van Damme (Double Impact) with flamboyant basketball star Dennis Rodman, at time bafflingly showcasing the multi-colored hair talents of Rodman more than Van Damme. The kick-boxing bad-ass Van Damme obviously gets in some cool kicks and leg-stretches, while Rodman spouts of basketball themed one-liners that are beyond groan-worthy. The action comes at a steady clip however and it's never slows down enough to be intelligible or dull, but stay with it right up until the end, the showdown with baddie Mickey Rourke inside an explosives-rigged Roman amphitheater is worth the wait... oh, and Van Damme battles a fucking tiger! The film arrives on Blu-ray framed in 2.35:1 widescreen in 1080p HD. It's another older master that has it's share of unsightly artifcating and other compression issues throughout, plus we get a unremarkable - but at least uncompressed - English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix with optional English subtitles. No extras but this is one of the I Love the 90s/Retro VHS releases with a retro-looking slipcover with an alternate artwork on the sleeve.


BECOMING EVIL: SERIAL KILLERS (2019)

Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 388 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 

Becoming Evil: Serial Killers is a 7-part documentary series profiling some of history’s most notorious killers, covering the "classics" like John Wayne Gacy, David Berkowitz, Richard Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos, Jeffrey Dahmer, Andrew Cunanan, and Ted Bundy but also touching on the more obscure The Axeman of New Orleans and the very current case of The Golden State Killer. It's a bit dry but well-made, each episode not focusing on a particular killer but on a topic, like victims and media, lady serial killers, the first wave and new wave, mixed with footage, stills and interviews with experts knowledgeable about serial killers. It's a solid true-crime series, not the most flashy or well put together in my opinion, but I found it macabre entertainment.  The 7-episodes are spread out over 2 DVDs, framed in 1.78:1 widescreen with English Dolby Digital audio, with optional English subtitles, no extras.

A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS: THE STORY OF ALADDIN - 8 MAGICAL TALES  
Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 388 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: Full Frame & Anamorphic Widescreen 
Director: Alfred E. Green, Jack Kinney, Lew Anders, Steve Barron
Cast: Cornel Wilde, Evelyn Keyes, Phil Silvers, Jim Backus, Hans Conried, Lucille Ball, John Agar, Barry Bostwick, Susan Egan, Alan Bates, John Leguizamo, Doughray Scott, Rufus Sewell

Just in time to ride on the coattails of Disney's live-action re-imagining of their 90's animated classic MCE have a 2-disc set stories based on Aladdin beginning with the satirical A Thousand and One Nights (1945), a strange bit of farce with lavish sets, but it was just not my cup of tea. Next is the animated film 1001 Arabian Nights(1959), a retelling of the classic tale through the severely near-sighted eyes of the aging  Mr. Magoo It's a fun romp but I don't think it will hold the same sway over a younger audience who didn't grow up with reruns of the vintage cartoon, and the minimalist 
animation also won't hold sway over Disney kids. Fans of Lucille Ball will certainly want to take a ride on The Magic Carpet (1951), also starring Raymond Burr and John Agar (The Mole People). There's a bit of swashbuckling and magic carpet theatrics but this one falls fairly flat. Also on the set are a pair of made-for-TV adaptations, both I found rather bland, we have TV mini-series Arabian Nights (2000) and a TV musical adaptation Aladdin (1990), neither of which I could bare to finish. The 2-disc is buttoned up with a trio of vintage cartoon shorts, the nearly unbearable Aladdin (Melo-O-Toon)(1960) and Mr. Piper and the Story of Ali Baba (1963), and the more watchable Popeye Meets Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp (1939). 


THE SHIELD - THE COMPLETE SERIES (2002-2008)   
Region Code: 1
Rating: TVMA
Duration: 4223 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Cast: Michael Chiklis, Catherine Dent, Walton Goggins, Michael Jace, Jay Karnes, Benito Martinez, CCH Pounder, Cathy Cahlin Ryan

Gritty L.A. crime drama The Shield which ran for seven seasons arrives on DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment on an 18-disc set presenting the film in anamorphic widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The potent cop series follows Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his Strike Team as they wage war on corruption in their neighborhood, often time bending the rules and blurring the lines between right and wrong. This is not a show I watched during its initial run, in fact I am just into season one so far and the FX show was dark, gritty and unsavory, so yeah, I am sort of kicking myself for not partaking earlier. The series looks great in DVD - a Blu-ray set is also available from MCE - and it's packed with extras including a wealth of behind-the-scenes featurettes, audio commentaries, deleted scenes and⇉ make this a damn definitive set. So far I am having a blast discovering the show, highly recommended for you TV bingers out there, this is binge-worthy stuff. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Own GREMLINS (1984) on 4K UltraHD Combo Pack and Digital on October 1st



WARNER BROS. HOME ENTERTAINMENT
ANNOUNCES THE BELOVED COMEDY HORROR FILM

GREMLINS(1984) 

TO BE RELEASED ON ULTRA HD BLU-RAY COMBO PACK
AND DIGITAL CELEBRATING THE 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FILM,
GREMLINS WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 4K RESOLUTION WITH HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE (HDR)

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment announced today that 1984’s Gremlins will be released on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital on October 1. Directed by Joe Dante (Innerspace, The ‘Burbs)) and written by Chris Columbus (The Goonies, Young Sherlock Holmes), the film stars Zach Galligan as Billy Peltzer, Phoebe Cates as Kate Beringer, and Hoyt Axton and Randall Peltzer, along with the voices of Frank Welker as Stripe and Howie Mandel as Gizmo.

Gremlins was produced by Michael Finnell and executive produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, and Steven Spielberg. 

Ultra HD* showcases 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a wider color spectrum, offering consumers brighter, deeper, more lifelike colors for a home entertainment viewing experience like never before.  

Gremlins will be available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack for $41.99 SRP and includes an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the feature film in 4K with HDR and a Blu-ray disc with the feature film and special features. Fans can also own Gremlins in 4K Ultra HD via purchase from select digital retailers beginning on October 1st.   

Synopsis: Gremlins is a wildly original roller-coaster ride of hilarious mischief.  One minute your hair will stand on end, the next you’ll hold your sides with laughter at the havoc these supposedly gentle furballs create when the rules surrounding their care and feeding are inadvertently broken one fateful Christmas.  Written by Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante, Gremlins unleashes special effects that dazzle and enchant and merriment that lingers in the memory.

Gremlins Ultra HD Blu-ray contains the following previously released special features:
- Filmmakers’ Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Producer Michael Finnell and Special Effects Artist Chris Walas
- Cast Commentary with Director Joe Dante, Zack Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, and Howie Mandel
·  Gremlins: Behind the Scenes Featurette
- Additional Scenes with Commentary
- Photo Gallery
- Theatrical Trailers
- Additional Scenes
- Cute.  Clever.  Mischievous.  Intelligent: Making Gremlins
- Gremlins: The Gift of the Mogwai (motion comic)
- The Last Gremlin (motion comic)
- From Gizmo to Gremlins: Creating the Creatures
- Hangin’ with Hoyt on the set of Gremlins

DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION ELEMENTS
On October 1, Gremlins 4K UHD will be available to own for streaming and download to watch anywhere in high definition and standard definition on favorite devices from select digital retailers including GooglePlay, Vudu, Xbox and others.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

MINDWARP (1992) & BRAINSCAN SCI-FI DOUBLE FEATURE (Mill Creek Blu-ray Review)

MINDWARP (1992) & BRAINSCAN 
SCI-FI DOUBLE FEATURE 

MINDWARP (1992)

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 96 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Steve Barnett
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Angus Scrimm, Elizabeth Kent

In the year 2037 Earth is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, nuclear war has erased the ozone layer and the few surviving members of humanity are split into three distinct groups. In an area known as the Death Zone we have the cannibalistic mutants known as Crawlers, then we have the non-mutated humans survivors known as Outworlders who survive on a diet of small animals and evade the menace of the Crawlers. The third group are privileged non-mutated humans living in protected biosphere-styled cities known as the Dreamers who spend most of their life plugged into a virtual reality simulator known as Infinisynth. It's here we meet a young woman named Judy (Marta Martin) who is unsatisfied with her virtual plugged-in life. She craves a more meaningful connection to her mother who is only too happy to live out her opera-singer fantasies inside the Infinisynth system. This virtual reality aspect the film had a strong flavor of Total Recall (1990), it's fun stuff and predicted the family disconnect of the digital age where everyone is plugged into their mobile devices, gaming systems or blogging about obscure b-movies (wink wink). Infinisynth is a pleasant enough distraction from reality, everyone else seems content to drink their green-slime protein shakes and immerse themselves in the artificial reality of it, everyone that is except for Judy. 

When Judy's mom refuses to unplug from Infinisynth the young woman infiltrates her mother's virtual dream in an attempt to wake her up with disastrous consequences, her actions anger the mysterious System operator who operates Infinisynth, resulting in Judy being exiled from the safety of the city into the radioactive wastelands where she wakes up in a shallow grave. Digging herself out she discovers a macabre collection of crucified skeletons and is soon set upon by the cannibalistic Crawlers, only to be saved by an crossbow-wielding Outworlder named Stover (Bruce Campbell, Evil Dead) who gets the better of the puss-faced mutants. After being rescued Stover shows Judy the way of the wastelands, with the pair hooking-up before being captured by more Crawlers. They're taken to an underground lair where they meet the Crawler's cult leader, a human-skin mask wearing weirdo named The Seer (Angus Scrimm, Phantasm) who plans to breed a new race of Crawlers with Judy, yikes.

Mindwarp was the first of a trio of films Fangoria magazine funded in the early 1990's, it's no great shakes but I think any Evil Dead fans out there are certainly gonna wanna check this out if just for Campbell's participation. It's definitely a more subdued performance than were used to seeing from him, no fast-talking quips or one-liners, he plays it very straight-faced. Marta Martin as our heroine Judy is alright, am attractive presence but she sort of falls into the shadow of Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm. the latter of whom is a very creepy presence as the priest-like leader of the Crawlers, with his dead-skin mask. 


The film is certainly no lost horror classic but it's an entertaining post-apocalyptic watch with some good gore and bloodletting throughout from the KNB FX Group. For a low-budget slice of horror we also get some fun set pieces and ideas, inside the Crawler lair there's a gnarly human meat-grinder, victims go in one end a syrupy red liquid comes out the other, and the Crawler's just love to drink up this grue. There are also mind altering leeches which Stover falls victim to only to vomit them up later, sort of channeling Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The flick has some very fun moments of gore and bloodletting, while not a classic it's at least an interesting footnote of early 90's horror, and the participation of of Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm makes this well-worth seeking out.


BRAINSCAN (1994) 
Region Code: A 
Rating: R
Duration: 96 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: John Flynn
Cast: Edward Furlong, T. Ryder Smith, Frank Langella, Jamie Marsh, Amy Hargreaves 

Brainscan (1994) is not a film I liked all that much when I saw it in the 90's at a strange lodge that the airline put us up in after a flight was cancelled due to a severe snowstorm. The wood paneled lodge  sort of reminded be of The Great Northern Hotel from Twin Peaks, the walls lined with mounted heads of deer, but they're kitchen made a tasty burger, which I sat and ate while cruising the free premium cable channels available in my room, which is where I stumbled upon Brainscan. The sci-fi horror film is a bit of a creepy murder-mystery that incorporates horror gaming into it by way of a CD-ROM (a what?) video game called Brainscan. I'm of the opinion that these techno-thrillers from the nineties rarely hold up in my opinion, but they're usually fun on a cheese-factor level at least. The main guy here is a lonely horror-obsessed teen named Michael (Edward Furlong, Terminator 2) who when he was younger was involved in a horrific car accident that left him with a gimpy knee and took the life of his mother, which we see during a nightmare scene at the start of the film. He is left alone at his suburban home by a father who is completely absent from the film aside from a phone call, and at school he's a misfit with only one friend, the like-minded Kyle (Jamie Marsh) who shares his love of gore films and scary video games.

When Michael reads about the newest horror video game in the pages of Fangoria he orders the game and when the disc arrives in the mail he pops it in the virtual reality game. The game appears to connect straight to your synapse via a series of lights and sounds emitted from the video screen, it's a strange bit of sci-fi, though not as far-fetched as the gaming/stereo/TV/computer set-up this kid has in his room, it's incredibly elaborate and expensive looking set-up, and not something I think could have even existed in '95. The gaming experience however is awesome, Michael is overwhelmed by how realistic the game looks and feels, the voice of a devilish character named the Trickster instructs him to enter the home of a stranger and to stab him death, which he does, then telling him to take a souvenir from the crime scene, to which end he hacks off the victim's foot. He awakens from the simulation convinced this is the most realistic and violent video game he has ever played, but his elation is short-lived when the local news reports on a murder in his neighborhood, recognizing the crime scene as the very same place he committed the murder in the game! 

The previously unseen Trickster (T. Ryder Smith) then emerges from the TV into reality in a way that brought to mind an iconic scene from David Cronenberg's Videodrome, the villainous character resembling a vamped-up rock star, not unlike Sami Curr from Trick Or Treat (1986), who encourages the reluctant Michael to continue the game or face real-life consequences, which eventually results in Michael killing his best friend Kyle.

While all this weirdness is happening we discover that Michael has a crush on the girl next door, Kimberly (Amy Hargreaves, Blue Ruin), it's a bit of creepy, stalker-ish sort of crush as he videotapes her through her bedroom window. Meanwhile Det. Hayden (Frank Langella, Dracula) is the cop investigating the spate of murders, he starts to put the pieces together and Michael fast becomes the prime suspect. As the film plays out Michael is coerced into more deadly-gaming by the Trickster with the detective closing in on him. 

Brainscan clearly was pushing hard to create a franchise horror villain with the Trickster, trying to tap into the lucrative teen horror market, despite having a R-rating, by mixing in youth culture elements like gaming and horror, you know, for the kids. Despite this the character of Trickster is pretty cool, but Edward Furlong is his usual whiny self, he was just an annoying kid actor, and if you've read any of the interviews with the director of this flick he felt the same way about him. 

The special effects are a mix of practical and early digital, the practical stuff is good, but the digital stuff mostly doesn't hold-up. The Videodrome-esque introduction of the Trickster is pretty cool but other stuff shows the limitation of early digital FX, the same sort of stuff that has hamstring techno-horror like The Lawnmower Man from the same era. What does hold up is the make-up effects from Steve Johnston and crew did for Trickster, underneath that make-up T. Ryder Smith does a great job, wryly cracking a few jokes and generally being a fun villainous character, even if it feels like Freddy Kruger-lite, he's still a charming demonic figure.

Poor Frank Langella doesn't have a whole lot to do here, his cop character is largely underplayed, riffing with his partner at times, having some interaction with the gamer-kid, but it's a thankless role without much to chew on. I did like Amy Hargreaves as the girl-next-door, she seemed like a real sweetie, but Jamie Marsh is absolutely annoying as the stereotypically dippy horror/metal fan, which as a metal-fan from way back I found insulting.

While Brainscan (1994) is not some lost gem of 90's horror it is a movie that has grown on me a tiny little bit with time. Watching it now it's a bit of 976-EVIL by way of Trick Or Treat, better than the former and not as fun as the latter, replacing the satanic rocker and metal music with the Kruger-lite Trickster and a horror themed CD-ROM game. No, it's not essential 90's horror but I found it entertaining in a dated sort of way, I definitely took more of a shine to this time and think there's fun to be had here for others as well, but don't expect some great re-discovery, just a goofy good time.

Audio/Video: Both of these films have been issues previously on Blu-ray, Mindwarp received a limited edition Blu-ray in 2013 from Twilight Time and Brainscan got an extras-laden Blu-ray from Scream Factory just last year. Both films arrive on a single-disc Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment framed in 1.85:1 widescreen. To my eyes both looked be sourced from the same HD masters provided to both SF and TT by rights holder Sony, but Brainscan looks to be cropped to 185:1 as where Scream Factory presented the film in 1.78:1, so it loses a sliver of information on the top and bottom. Otherwise grain levels, color saturation and density look identical.

Audio on both disc comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with optional English subtitles.  Brainscan has the more impressive audio of pair, highlighting the George S. Clinton (Cheech & Chong's Still Smokin') score sound good, plus we get good 90's tuneage from the Butthole Surfers, Primus, White Zombie and Tad among others. 


No extras on this release whatsoever, just the option to choose the movie and subtitles. If you're looking for bonus content I say go with the SF and TT Blu-ray releases, but know that they'll set you back $20-40 each. However, if you're fine with just picking up the films sans any extras this double-feature from MCE can be had for $12 right now and has comparable A/V presentations, making this a great way to check out these early 90's sci-fi horrors. 
MINDWARP SCREENSHOTS 

BRAINSCAN SCREENSHOTS