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Friday, November 2, 2012


If time travel ever becomes a possibility in my lifetime, I'm going to return to the late '80's/early '90's, to rescue several slasher franchises from doom and obscurity. So that means, if any of you have any knowledge of physics and the work of Einstein, welcome aboard! See, that would give us a shot at seeing franchises involving Dr. Giggles, Cropsey, the Cupid-masked killer, Horny the Clown, romance-despising miners, and teens brainwashed by today's baddie, Trickster. That would be like dying and going straight to Slasher Heaven!

Anyway, yes, today's movie features a villain who only ever got to scare us in 1 story, Brainscan. It's also a film that probably looked date during the theatrical run, due to the reliance on dated computers and video game gimmicks. But it might still be fun! Get ready for SPOILERS to follow....

The opening sequence cuts between a car wreck and a teenager having a nightmare. His mother was behind the wheel, and she kicked the bucket. He lived, but his leg was mangled, giving him a limp. He's getting restless as he sleeps, remembering how terrible his injury looked, then calling out to his mother.

He wakes up to the sound of the phone ringing, It's Kyle, his best bud, and he's reading about an interactive horror game called Brainscan. Oh, and our protagonist is named Michael. As Kyle reads the game description to Michael, Mikey wanders over to his bedroom window to check on the girl next door. She's putting on some makeup, then she stands up and begins to undress. Kyle yells at Michael, and it ruins the moment. Oh, and her name is Kimberly.

Michael ends the chat with Kyle, and has his PC dial up Kimberly. As she picks up the phone, he disconnects the call. Chicken! Michael cheers up by calling Brainscan, to order the game. The rep on the line is very vague about the plot, and says that the game uses your subconscious brainwaves to tailor the game just for you. Michael scoffs, and receives an electric pulse through the PC that gives him a seizure.

After that passes, the customer rep promises that the first disc will arrive very soon. Michael tries to call them again, but can't reach their office a second time. Oh well...he can wait like the rest of us.

At school the next day, Mike and Kyle are introducing an Italian horror flick to the other members of their "Horror Club", which seems to be a somewhat popular after school activity.  As their selection starts to get gory, the school principal storms into the room, and turns the video off. Oops...

In his office, the principal lectures Michael about how depraved he and his horror films are, and bans the Horror Club from school grounds. The only way he'll allow the club to reconvene, is if Michael gives him the next movie or game to preview first. Michael skulks away to go home.

Along the way, he sees a crime scene in a neighborhood somewhat close to his own. A puddle of blood makes him recall his own life-shattering car accident, until the lead detective at the scene snaps him out of it. After a few questions, the detective tells him to scram.

In the mailbox, Michael finds that Brainscan has arrived. That was fast! He boots up the game, after listening to a phone message from his dad. After putting the CD in, he tells Igor to intercept any and all phone calls. As luck would have it, Kimberly chooses that night to call him. Poor guy can't catch a break!

The game's startup screen appears, featuring an image of the game's mascot, Trickster. Trickster has bright red hair coiffed up and teased like a member of Duran Duran, fangs, and glowing neon eyes. He tells Michael to stare at the eyes while the game is calibrating, and gets angry when he cracks a joke.

As Michael settles down, Trickster tells him that the disc in his computer is the first in a series, and that each one must be completed before he gets the next one. The time limit on the first disc is 2 hours, and Trickster informs him that he needs to think like a killer to win. Sheesh, this sounds more like work than a game! And for only 2 hours of gameplay?

After all of that, Michael is prompted to click on the word "PLAY" to begin Brainscan. Duh. The monitor flickers, a countdown clock begins ticking the seconds away, then Michael's world goes spinning, like Lindsay Lohan walking a straight line. When it stops, Michael is outside, in a different neighborhood.

As Michael gets his bearings, Trickster instructs him to open the front gate of a nearby house, and then walk into the house. He has the teen grab a butcher knife from the kitchen and go to the second floor, where he finds the homeowner asleep in bed. Under the curious gaze of the man's cat, Michael waits until the guy rolls over onto his stomach, then proceeds to plunge the knife into his back several times.

With the weapon stuck between his shoulders, the man tries to crawl away, but winds up trashing his own bedroom instead. Michael is told to make sure that's he's dead, then encouraged to saw off one of the feet as a "trophy" of his first kill. The game's timer reveals that he had less than 10 minutes of game-time left to complete the task. Phew!

The next day, Michael lets Kyle in on how intense his first session was with Brainscan. Kyle asks to borrow the game, but Michael tells him that he wants to play it a few more times first. Before the conversation can turn into a disagreement, they get distracted by a squad car hurtling down the road past them.

That evening, Michael tries to boot up the disc again, but it doesn't seem to work anymore. The girl next door arrives home at that point, so Michael decides to put his libido ahead of his gamer status. Gathering up his courage, Michael  walks next door to talk to an actual, living, breathing girl. He's like the Braveheart of geek society.

Kimberly's parents act like Michael is carrying a plague or something, but let him wait for her in their living room. Her mother turns on the local news, and all 3 hear a story about a man who was murdered in a nearby house, and Michael recognizes the house from his game. Whoops! Michael panics, and quickly returns home, asking Kimberly's parents to tell her that he stopped by.

When Michael gets back home, he hears the part about the severed foot on the news. Double whoops!! Michael limps his way to the scene of the crime, where a huge crowd of gawkers has arrived. Michael sees his bike leaning in front of the garage door, but is stopped by the same detective from the other crime scene, before he can get to it.

Michael goes home again, and finds the severed foot in his fridge. He tries to call the company behind Brainscan, only to be told by an operator that the company doesn't seem to exist. They call him as soon as he hangs up. As the teen demands answers, Trickster explains that Michael did all of it himself. Then the game icon teleports himself into Michael's bedroom, building himself a body several pixels at a time.

With a flourish, Trickster formally introduces himself to Michael. He claims that Michael invited him in, perhaps hinting at a vampiric nature, or maybe that he can possess the teen, like a demon. Then he trashes Michael's collection of game and music CD's, before producing one of his own out of thin air.

After the initial nonsense, Trickster tells Michael that the murder was real, and that he did stab and dismember the victim, as Trickster watched from the sidelines. Then Trickster gives Michael his next goal in the game: to get rid of 2 witnesses. Trickster admits that he counts as a third witness, but that he could be tortured and disfigured, and would never tattle. He demonstrates his loyalty by slitting his own throat, then snapping off his fingers one by one, without batting an eyelash. Speaking of eyes, Trickster removes his own.

Michael tries to get details about the witnesses from Trickster, but is only told that the second disc has all of the information that he'll need to complete his second task. Trickster also says that only playing the entire game will provide all of the answers. Then the creature vanishes, presumably back into the game.

Michael grabs a shovel and buries the foot in the forest...or tries to, at least. A dog snaps it up and runs away, with Michael close behind. The dog gets away, but returns when Michael doesn't chase it. The teen pleads with the dog over the foot, claiming that he'll never ask for a favor ever again, in exchange for the return of the foot. This being a movie, that actually works.

As Michael prepares to bury the foot, the dog's owner shows up. Luckily, they both go away, and Michael runs in the opposite direction, Amazing how this guy can barely walk in some scenes, but manages to be a track athlete in others.

Back in his house, Michael decides to burn evidence in the fireplace. There's a knock on the front door, but it's just Kyle. Michael apparently skipped school for his little adventure, and the murder is huge news in the community. Kyle wants to come in and give Michael all of the details, but gets brushed off several times before taking the hint to go away.

Michael cranks up some heavy metal and gets into bed, but someone else rings his doorbell later that evening. It's Kim, the girl of his wet dreams! He lets HER into the house, and she reveals that she went to his teachers to get the assignments he missed that day. When Kimberly brings up his impromptu visit the other day, he claims that he was looking for some info from a class. He's then reminded that they don't have any classes together...

They both get all shy and stupid around each other, and Kim gives Michael his mail. Wait, who's stalking who in this scenario? Michael then repays her kindness by kicking her to the curb. Proving that women love a bad boy, Kim tells Michael to call her. Nice guys really do finish last. Frustrated by the way the visit ended, Michael trashes his textbooks. See that, kids? When your class doesn't have enough books, and you're forced to share with that kid with the headgear and the funky hair, now you know who to blame!

In the middle of the night, Trickster pays Michael another visit.  He admonishes the kid for not playing the second disc, until Michael confesses that he destroyed it. Giving Michael a fangy grin, Trickster conjures up an unmarked disc for him to play the game on. When Michael threatens to take the game to the police, Trickster calls his bluff. Michael gives in, and takes the disc.

Before he inserts the second disc of the game, Michael sets up a camera to record what happens during the second session. The game starts with the same tunnel thingy, then Michael finds himself still in front of his computer. The game's timer implies that he's squandered away all but the last 7 and a half minutes of gameplay.

He checks the video, and watches himself get up, mesmerized by the game, and leave the bedroom. In the freezer, Michael finds this large pendant that Kyle was always wearing, suddenly covered in blood. He calls his best friend, and his favorite cop answers the phone instead of Kyle. Michael hangs up, and has a minor hissy fit.

Kimberly drops by his house again, and looks like she was on the losing end of a brawl with her hairbrush. Michael invites her inside, and she shows him a petition Kyle had put together to save their horror club. Kimberly gives Michael a hug, and they get sad together.

On the latest news report, the detective finally gets a last name: Hayden. Then Trickster pops up behind Michael, and they argue over the definition of the word "witness", with Trickster claiming that Kyle would have gone to the authorities to report on Michael's recent bouts of erratic behavior. The doorbell rings and Michael goes off to answer it, leaving Trickster behind to channel-surf. The demonic entity settles on The 3 Stooges, and gets himself comfy.

It's Detective Hayden at the door, along with his anonymous sidekick. They tell Michael that the other kids at school thought that he was disturbed, and the detective implies that he recognized Michael's voice over the phone the night before. When they leave, both men agree that Michael's their best suspect for the killings. They also note that he was probably burning evidence in the fireplace, given that it's summer. D'oh!

In his bedroom, Michael discovers that Trickster has been busy, trashing his stuff and eating his food. They have another spat, and Trickster inexplicably conjures up the latest issue of the school newspaper, which features a front page story that Kimberly wrote, based on their visit. Trickster gives Michael the next game disc, and implies that he has 2 choices: Either play the game, or kill himself.

Trickster even starts Michael on his way by providing him with a clue: " the mud..." Michael then decides to go have a necking session with Kimberly, but she turns into the guy whose foot Michael removed. Nice.

In a funny twist, Kimberly decides to come by his house again, but it looks like he might be out. Detective Hayden's staking out the property from a distance, using a pair of binoculars. It turns out that he is home, because he hurls the school paper at her through his upstairs window. Then he cranks his music up to drown out her voice.

After Kimberly leaves, Detective Hayden quietly enters the house to investigate. He bags up some of the fireplace ashes as evidence, then he also exits, to round up a posse to hunt for the foot, and maybe more bodies. At about the same time, Michael plays the latest chapter of the game.

He finds himself outside Kyle's house, and discovers his own footprints in the garden. Michael brushes the dirt around to destroy the evidence, then realizes that a CSI guy is inside, dusting for prints. Trickster somehow calls Kyle's number(???), and tells the investigator that there's an intruder outside the house.

Michael runs away, but is spotted. A brief chase ensues, and Michael unwittingly gets himself trapped between the evidence collector and the posse of townsfolk. He dodges into some bushes, and narrowly avoids being caught by a cop with a flashlight. A sound in the bushes brings the guy back, but it's only a raccoon.

Michael tries to be more stealthy, but is ambushed by his principal. He escapes by getting a pile of bricks to topple over onto his assailant, and just manages to evade the posse by hiding in a house under construction. The nosy dog finds him again, so Michael makes a second bargain with the animal. A shootout between 2 of the posse members provides a nice distraction, and he gets to the forest.

A cop stops him, but sends him home, not realizing that he's the person they're searching for. Detective Hayden examines the victim of the shooting, and demands to know how it happened, since he strictly forbade them to carry guns. He looks around, but fails to see his prey's getaway.

Kimberly notices though, and she gets Michael's attention. He stares at her, then enters his home without a word. Trickster congratulates him for all of the mayhem that occurred, but Michael tries to ignore him. After Trickster has a somewhat amusing tantrum, he tells Michael to kill the final witness to complete the game: Kimberly.

In the morning, Michael decides to confess to Hayden, but Trickster stops him. He's given a final choice: Either he kills Kimberly, or he kills himself. Michael has Igor connect to Brainscan for the last time, and Igor bids him a sad farewell.

Michael sneaks into Kimberly's bedroom, and watches her as she sleeps. As Trickster orders him to kill her, Michael stabs the demon instead, but gets his hand wrapped up in the demonic entrails. They struggle, and begin to melt into each other, and the ruckus causes Kimberly to wake up. She sees Trickster eat Michael, then Michael reappears, but with Trickster's eyes.

Kimberly begs Michael to fight for his soul, then she drops a bombshell on him....she watches him, just as much as he watches her. She even reveals that she watches his bedroom window, and shows him dozens of pictures that she took of him. Boy, these kooks are made for each other, huh?

As they confess that they love each other, Trickster comes back. He opens the bedroom door, and Hayden marches in and shoots our would-be hero in the chest. Michael falls to the ground and dies, only to find himself back in his favorite chair, safe at home. A voice from his computer congratulates Michael for completing Brainscan, and advises him to sit and relax as he gets used to reality once more.

Michael ignores the advice, instead throwing open his window like Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning. He sees a huge pool party going on at Kimberly's house, and trashes his computer and all of his games in retaliation for everything he just experienced.

Outside, Kyle can be heard banging on the door. Michael rushes outside and hugs his buddy, much to Kyle's alarm. Then he tells Michael that a story on the news claimed that some kid died playing Brainscan, and that he should avoid ordering it. Wow, talk about too little, too late!

Michael decides to ask Kimberly out in the real world, but her friend Stacie tells Michael that she's inside with her boyfriend. As Michael heads inside, Kyle flirts with Stacie. Awww, everyone gets a happy ending!

Michael finds his crush-next-door, and asks her on a date. Kimberly starts to say no, but it turns into a definite maybe, which makes Michael go all soft. Then she further messes with his head by kissing him. Before he leaves her room, Michael sees that she really was photographing him from her bedroom window! Okay, why is the movie messing with our heads right before the ending?

At school, Michael gives the principal his copy of Brainscan. As the teen leaves the office, he glances back, only to see Trickster appear behind the principal's desk. They grin at each other, then Trickster glares at his next "victim" as the door shuts. THE END?

Nope, not quite. Trickster interrupts the credits to show one last scene...That pesky dog shows up at Michael's house again, and he's holding the severed foot in his mouth. The foot that only existed in the game. He drops it in front of the house, and the movie ends for real. Yeah.

Well, the ending kind of ruins it, but the premise was a fun one. I could have definitely seen this as a franchise, with Trickster's appearance and the game's story changing from player to player. Maybe they can do a remake, and change the dumb ending as well. 3.5 out of 5, with points lost for the ending and the outdated technology in the film.

And what did I learn from Brainscan?

-Life-altering injuries can be switched on and off like a light bulb.

-Voyeurism is innocent and cute.

-Dogs are dirty, rotten snitches!

Barring any further hurricanes or computer glitches, my next movie is either Stag Night or The Silent Scream. I really need to catch up!