July 5, 2010 at 8:24 pm (8 Heads, Brainscan) (, , )

Brainscan – 1994 – United States

Filled with horror references (I Was A Teenage Frankenstein and Suspiria posters, footage from The Dracula Saga) and hard rock (White Zombie blasts at a party, a demon jams to Primus, tens of Aerosmith posters), Brainscan shamelessly panders to genre audiences. Thankfully, its most derivative elements are subversive enough to possibly be construed as horror criticism—or maybe just an inquiry about our love for the violent and disturbing. Similar to Scream, Brainscan is a self-aware horror flick, made more interesting since its dark content isn’t played for laughs.

An estranged teenage metalhead nerd with a dead mother and absentee father watches horror films and plays gory video games. After reading about a game (in Fangoria magazine no less) called Brainscan (“Satisfy your sickest fantasies!”), the jaded teen plays and is plunged into a violent nightmare world as Brainscan hypnotizes him to murder. Brainscan spawns a demon (like a punk Freddy Krueger)—a manifestation of the teen’s destructive urges that connives him to commit further crimes, escalating in the murder of the teen’s friend. This premise could amount to slasher trash, but there is depth, sympathy, and credibility in the teen’s characterization.

Watching Brainscan for thrills is satisfying. There’s gore, excellent point-of-view shots, and a glut of inventive digital effects (including creative video feedback). But Brainscan engages most as an analysis of horror. Questions are posed to horror fans, primarily: Why watch horror? Escapism? Catharsis? Satisfaction of destructive impulses? Brainscan questions without providing a conclusive answer. Unfortunately, the ending, which neatly ties all the loose ends, is cheap and unsatisfying. Given the superficial after-school-special resolution, I’d rather have Brainscan stop abruptly during the climax leaving the audience to interpret freely.

Rating: 8/10 Shrunken Heads. Logical inconsistencies and weak finale aside, Brainscan engages on a visceral and intellectual level. See it, horror heads.

Obeah’s Obscure Note: A poster by visionary artist Alex Grey is visible during the scene Michael confronts the Trickster during his snack. Very cool!

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