World's Funniest Critic - Brainscan(1994)
Washed up actors get the best women. Any forgotten Hollywood junkie screw-up that, in his distant past, had a part in any film or t.v. show that obtained any kind of culural significance, is currently shacking up with the girl of your dreams. That kid from Home Alone dated Mila Kunis for six years. The white rapper from Beverly Hills 90210, that Brian Houston Greenbaum fellow, was dating Megan Fox when she was barely legal. Eddie Furlong, star of Brainscan, our review movie, was known to enjoy Jolene Blalock, the actress whose perfect Vulcan heiny single-handedly kept the show Star Trek: Enterprise on the air for four seasons. And that was back when she was terrestrial. Although I’ve never seen the show, I’m seriously considering it. The next time my dog is out of the room, maybe.
If you’re a Terminator 2 fan, then you probably remember Eddie Furlong, the young lad who played the teenage John Connors. However, if you’re a fan of Eddie Furlong, himself, then you are not here reading this. You probably don’t read for pleasure, if at all. Also, like a goat, you probably swallow random things lying scattered about your neighbors’ lawns and garages. In fact, right now, you’re out squatting in your backyard waiting for your father’s car keys to emerge from your bowels in a hardened dinosaur egg of tar, plaster, paint chips and newspaper. I pity your parents, who wanted a child, but instead were cursed by an angry God with progeny that uses the sink and toilet interchangeably.
When asked why he didn't reprise his role as John Connors in the popular TERMINATOR 3, rather than the poorly casted, equally Testosterone-killing Nick Stahl, his reply was something along the lines of 'It just wasn't the right time.' I'm paraphrasing, of course, I suppose the 'right time' would have been just minutes after the casting director was blinded by a bucket of boiling sewage and fumbling about with a .38 caliber bullet embedded between his frontal lobes. Not a pretty picture, huh? Well, neither was T3. From what little I recall of it. However, I do remember seeing a very firm pair of buttocks in the film. I wasn't certain which terminator they belonged to, but I liked them, nonetheless.
Look up the word Douchebag in the dictionary, sometime. I don't mean the kind of Douchebag that Eddie grew up to be, I mean the actual feminine kind. You won't find anything in there about Furlong, only a mind-expanding description of a container used in the cleansing of orifices. I only mention this because Eddie currently makes his living selling them out of a burlap sack alongside Ventura Highway. He still doesn't know what they're used for, but he keeps one filled with a homemade gin that he distills with berries that grow out through the cracked tiles in his bathroom floor. Does this sound depressing to you? Of course it does. It would to Eddie, as well, if he was mentally present for more than the few precious seconds that occur, everyday, between waking up in the morning, stumbling to the kitchen, and dunking his head in a sink filled up with potato vodka.
To top it all off, Eddie also released an album. I haven't heard any of the tracks, but Furlong's voice shifts in and out of a higher register that, if you close your eyes and imagine tits, can sound quite feminine. No doubt, his stringy, underdeveloped, DiCaprio-esque physique has fooled many a lonely con in the dimly lit Los Angeles county drunk tank, as well. You can, at least, speak up a little when that happens, Ed.
BRAINSCAN was made in that brief period after T2 that he was a recognizable film actor. A time that people snapped photos of him walking down red carpets with beautiful starlets, rather than face down on stained throw rugs, somewhere within the vicinity of Tara Reid. He's not recognizable now, however, to even his mother, who often mistakes him for a hobo, and keeps a taser on her person at all times just in case it IS him.
BRAINSCAN is not a horrible film, but it's not one of those movies that are so bad that they're good. Nor is it one of those far rarer movies that are actually good. If you pay attention to the film, you'll notice a couple startling similarities to the more recent DISTURBIA. Although, there's no Shia LaBeuf(LaBeof or LaBufe, or however that guy's ridiculous name is spelled), there's plenty here to sicken and horrify you without him. If, like Lot's wife, you're the type who simply must take a look, you can get a better epinephrine shot of Shia's befuddled terrorism in the Transformers flicks.
BS features Furlie playing Michael Brower, your typical high school outcast, who is an outcast for no reason that is ever made clear in the film. He doesn't carry weapons, wear chains or nose studs, dye his hair, or even bomb his nostrils with nitrous charged whipped cream cartridges for recreation. He doesn't even dress in all black, which is standard for the kind of kids who gets killed in gym class.
The movie seems to think it's enough that he's into horror films and adorns his walls with old black and white movie posters. As if being a horror fan makes him more likely to slice up his Home Ec teacher into little cubic chunks and build a bloody, mini-igloo out of her. As far as the film is concerned, Michael Brower is the definition of misunderstood rebel, even though he may seem like the kind of kid who gets performance anxiety when trying to piss in a urinal in the men's room.
Furlie's character is also a voyeur who enjoys spying on his neighbor Kimberly(Amy Hargreaves), an angelic girl his own age, whose bedroom has more windows than the Titanic. We are supposed to find this odd and suspicious. However, I think I'll cut him a little slack on this one. He's just doing what nine-out-of-ten teenage boys(and one-out-of-ten teenage girls), would do in his place.
Michael's mother is dead, and his dad is an itinerant 'businessman' who's always away on 'business'. So, of course, Michael has zero supervision, and is left to his own devices almost all of the time. Essentially, he can come and go as he pleases, which is really, really good for the plot of this movie. Good for you, plot! I'm not certain of the legality of this arrangement, since Mikey is clearly not even old enough to drive yet. He's still peddling around on a BMX. But, judging by his house, and Mike's collection of expensive computers and gadgetry, his dad is doing awfully well. So why mess with a good thing?
It’s a sweet setup, an allegedly awkward teen’s wet dream of a situation, and contrived deliberately for the intended audience of this film. So what’s dad’s ‘business’, a bright fellow, such as you, may ask? Why, it’s being away for long periods of time. Wait, I know he’s got ‘business’, but what kind of ‘business’ is it? What’s he doing when he’s away? He’s being away. That’s his job. Don’t you get it? What’s the problem? Back the fuck off.
Furlie’s best friend is named Kyle. He’s your standard 90′s, grunge rock, flannel wearing, baggy-panted, long-haired, irreverent doofus. Seth Green played this role in every other stupid movie made that decade, and might have grounds for a lawsuit(so long as the case doesn’t coincide with Comic Con). Kyle tells Michael about an ad for a new game he saw in the back of a magazine(Scouting for Girls)for a new horror video game called Brainscan, which claims to be the ultimate experience. Mikey, so jaded to the muted offerings of horror games, shrugs it off as hype, but orders one, anyway. He dials the number his friend gives him and receives a brainscan that assesses his psyche, and decides what version of the game to send him. Despite the fact that brainscanning over a phone line would take impossible, supernatural technology, Mikey is unperturbed.
You want a copy of the game? The number they give in the movie is 1-800-555-FEAR. You could also try 1-800-555-DEAR or DEBS. I’m proud to say that I only had to consult the internet twice to figure that out.
Next, we see Furlie and his pal Kyle at school, watching a gore film in their horror flick fan club. The Principal bursts in and calls a halt to all proceedings. Back in his office, he lectures Mikey, in a subtle display of foreshadowing, on the degenerative influence of such filth as he’d just been viewing. He states quite firmly his belief that partaking of such movies and games could lead to murder and rudeness in real life. Mikey laughs this off, and rebuts his principal’s opinion with an argument that, influences aside, a person is responsible for their own actions and that the modern cultural tendency to blame said influences, rather than the individual, needs to be reconsidered. Staggering violence has always been a part of our collective heritage, while video games are just a recent phenomenon. The principal leaves him with a warning that he is headed for disaster, and that he should, forthwith, go fuck himself off.
On his way home, Mikey comes across a crime scene swarming with police. A murder has occurred just a strong piss away from his own home. He is noticed by the lead detective, played by Frank Langella, and told to get lost. Langella plays the role of bland authority figure with his usual flare, coming off as he always does: dependable, yet, possibly a pedo-necrophiliac. When Mikey gets home, Brainscan is waiting for him in the mail. Mikey pops it into his Tandy 1000 and off he goes!
He finds himself in a murder simulation in which he’s a would-be serial killer breaking into some bald guy’s house(don’t serial killers ALWAYS murder in accordance to their sexual preferences?). Along with him on the ride is Trickster who, at that moment, is just a disembodied voice egging him on and providing helpful guidance. Mikey comes across a rack of kitchen implements, all of them useless for murder except the gigantic butcher knife, and the voice advises him to ‘choose one!’. Honestly, I'd like to see a good death by pizza wheel. You'd really have to pay attention to what you're doing, though.
Trixter is so persistent, so irritating in his Lower Mortgage Rate/Refinancing commercial style voice, it’s a wonder this doesn’t end up a suicide simulation. Also, he laughs through the murder, the same evil old man cackle you hear coming out of any stall in any public restroom where runaways ply their trade. Well, Mikey does the deed, quite messily, and saws off his victim’s foot for a souvenir. Why you’d want some frumpy, hairless guy’s foot, I can’t imagine. I'm not judgmental.
Mikey wakes the next morning with a clear head. However, he hears at school that another murder has occurred on his street. This one, to his dismay, sounding a bit too much like the shenanigans he’d gotten into last night. Surprise, Private Pyle! Mikey freaks out and, when he gets home, is confronted by Trickster in his terrifying true form: the ugliest, dumbest looking villain you will ever see outside of Japanese cinema. He looks like a cross between Ben Kingsley and a laughing hyena that’s cursed with the ultimate 80′s metal haircut. Not to mention his name is Trickster. Trickster? For godssake. Talk about fruity. Someone get the director a Budweiser. He's had one too many mimosas.
Trickster tells Mikey it’s all just part of the game, which, though violent, perverse and actually happening, can’t be more sick than any given 90s Friday night ABC sitcom. A German shepherd steals the foot out of his bag when he’s out in the woods trying to bury it. This is a major setback, but it begs the question: why bury a foot?
At one point Trickster starts urging Mikey to kill himself. On this point, Trickster and I see eye-to-eye. The sad fact is that movie Eddie has more to live for than the real one.
To sum up the rest, without giving everything away, people that Mikey knows continue to find their quietus in manners not consistent with natural causes. Detective Langella, with the aid of basic problem solving skills, starts closing in on Furlie, who is the only possible guilty suspect in the case. In the film’s denouement, Mikey and Trickster face off in the greatest battle since Bonaduce vs. Barry Williams.
All in all, the simplicity of BRAINSCAN really works in its favor. There is a very basic plot structure, and fewer characters than most pornos. Even though it was intended for viewing by impressionable young people, it doesn’t try to be too preachy about morals. It was made to turn a quick buck selling and renting to teens, and I’m sure it did that. Don’t expect boatloads of gore, or for it to make sense. And don’t be surprised if you even start rooting for the evil Trickster to succeed over Eddie Furlong, Trickster is far less ugly when you compare him to Eddie now. Oh, and if you happen to spot Furlie begging for change outside your favorite Dollar Tree, don't give him any money, he'll only blow it on douches.