Brainscan (Blu-ray Review)

Brainscan feels perfectly at home as a part of Shout! Factory’s Scream Factory line. This 1990s film definitely can find itself in the “cult” status as the movie barely made itself known (Or even people aware) at the box office (Debuted at #10, didn’t even make $4.5 million) and likely found its life via premium cable movies channels and video rental stores. This was during the period where they were trying to make Edward Furlong a “thing”, only to find that unless its Terminator 2: Judgement Day, people weren’t going to show up. This film will be getting the love nobody probably ever expected it to deserve, with a load of brand new bonus features/interviews on this cool Blu-ray set. You can pre-order it from the Amazon link below to have it when it arrives on August 28th!


Horror films and computer games fascinate teenager Michael, and a CD-ROM that portrays murder from the killer’s point of view combines these interests. The first time Michael plays it, he kills a stranger and cuts off a foot, thinking the events take place in virtual reality. But the next day Michael finds a foot in his refrigerator, and cyber-ghoul Trickster emerges from the program and forces him to keep playing — and to continue committing these violent crimes.

A little bit of a nostalgia trip here for me. Back when I was young and we had that “Free Showtime/HBO” on our cable, you know, that barely scrambled but perfectly clear to see and listen premium channel that you had? Well, Showtime was mine. And there were a couple horror movies in the 90s that they really pushed hard that I remember and always seemed to catch and watch on them, one was Pumpkinhead II and the other was Brainscan. They sold these box office failures as if they were a big deal and I bought in. I saw this movie or caught it somewhere in the middle of airing a good handful of times. Though, when it premiered, I made sure I had appointment viewing for it in full.

Brainscan can easily be thrown in with the techno-sci-fi/horror/thrillers of the 90s that have wildly outdated themselves. Those films in the vein of The Lawnmower Man, The Net, Hackers and Johnny Mnemonic to name a few. It was a time where we didn’t really understand certain technologies, but movie studios needed to capitalize on the concept and find a fear based place to take them. This particular one dealt in online gaming and virtual reality which were even beta back then and nowhere close to what is going on right now. And of course, they are pretty wrong on plenty of it. And of course the film has our “cool teen lead” living in the most unrealistic “alternative tech geek kid” bedroom you’ve ever seen, but we all maybe dreamed we could have. One cool bit about that room, is that he has a 16×9 tube TV with which he plays the game on.

Its quite obvious with Brainscan that the studio behind it has big franchise aspirations for the film by way of the villain character Trickster. Andrew Kevin Walker wrote the original draft for the film and said the character was not in the script, so it was added somewhere later. This was in a time where Jason was dead, Freddy had died, Michael Myers was in a legal hiatus and the door was open for new blood to take the horror mantle. At this time it was pretty much Chucky, Pinhead and Leprechaun (Candyman’s sequel would come the next year). Things were pretty open, in other words. But, Trickster wound up not getting past this first film, although he could have perfectly worked for some more. Hell, I’d even have dug a Lawnmower Man Vs Trickster film at some point had both of these led into lucrative franchises. Why not?

If you’re into dated thrillers or horror movies using technology as their crux, are able to surrender to a movie’s own rules or just are able to get back to the mindset of when the film was made, Brainscan can be a pretty good hoot. Edward Furlong is a bit of a tough pill to swallow, but the surrounding happenings are intriguing enough to just go along with him. There are some cool effects on display here and taking this as a sci-fi thriller playing in its own boundaries, its fun enough to take in on a retro horror night.


Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: There is no mention of any sort of new scan for Brain…scan…for this release, so basically just some sort of HD image going on here. That said it looks rather solid, but could be better. A bit above that of what people would call a DVD upconvert. Its an overall very good image and probably could have convinced me if they said it was a 2K scan. Details are strong, with colors really showing themselves in the special effects. Lighter clothing shows some more detail than darker, but that’s not that they don’t impress at all, its just for comparison’s sake here in my review. The film has made it to Blu-ray which is reason enough, and it looks pretty darn good.

Depth: Decent depth of field on display here with characters feeling free from and distant from their respective environments. Movements are cinematic in feel and no real distortions causing any harm to the enjoyment of the action sequences.

Black Levels: This is a dark movie as mentioned, and there’s a good, natural look to it all where details are hidden a bit at times, but still doing a good job with textures and patterns overall. No crushing present at all during this review.

Color Reproduction: Colors are natural and well saturated in this image. Special effects like lightning stuff and lights and displays all have some nice pop to them.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Facial features like moles, sweat, stubble, make-up…milk drops and more look pretty good in closeups and are hit and miss in medium shots with some areas looking smoother.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean


Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: Brainscan drops a solid 2.0 stereo track that has good easy with its sound travel back and forth and matching the character placement to speakers on screen. Volume relative to distance also pulls in some good accuracy as well. The mix features a really well done balance of effects, vocals and score/music used in the film. It has a good level of intensity it brings in some of the loud moments, eschewing in some good deep tones. Overall, it does the trick.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, plenty audible and at the forefront no matter how crazy things get.


Audio Commentary

  • With assistant to the director Tara Georges Flynn

A Virtual Debut (HD, 14:25) – An interview with screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker. The writer of such films as Seven, Sleepy Hollow and 8MM discusses his work on the original script (He wound up with a producer credit), and that Trickster came from a rewrite somewhere as his only included a phone voice. He’s pretty matter of fact, but full of great information and pretty satisfied with how this film turned out and happy to have had a hand in it. “If Brainscan would have ended up being my only credit, I would have been very happy. Just to see my name on a poster blew my mind!”

Talking With Trickster (HD, 13:39) – An interview with actor T. Ryder Smith. The actor talks taking on a character of this stature as well as the difficulties and things you don’t realize physically when being buried in heavy make-up and prosthetics. He does touch a little bit on Edward Furlong, but only from his own perspective and doesn’t make any assumptions or judgement on him. Shows some VHS sourced behind the scenes footage of him getting makeup.

Merging Realities (HD, 19:04) –  Interviews with special make-up effects supervisor Steve Johnson and special make-up effects artists Andy Schoneberg and Mike Smithson. Johnson talks some of the beginnings of the end with a lot of model and practical work around this time, as well as loving the original script for the film. They admit he is mostly based on Keith Richards with a Jack Nicholson hairline and Lon Chaney London After Midnight eyes. The goal was to make him not look old, but rock and roll. They all say that T. Ryder Smith was a joy to work with and that they loved his performance. The crew also talks about the working in merging both digital and practical work together in digital’s infancy. There is also a bit of a focus on the “abomination creature” from the deleted scene and how they couldn’t get it to work. Some other things got cut that they were disappointed about, and were okay with at the time, but feel is dated now. Johnson surprising comes down the middle about the practical vs digital debate during the closing moments. Features some raw VHS footage of tests and such.

Musical Virtuosity (HD, 11:24) – An interview with composer George S. Clinton. He discusses getting into scoring before going over his work on Brainscan. He doesn’t remember landing the job, but thinks he made a demo cassette for the score for the film among other composers and won out. He likes the futuristic implications of the film and also goes over the equipment he used to make the score (It was all just him by himself, no orchestra or other accompaniments). Clinton wanted a crossover of modern sounding music and classic horror elements that could support a orchestral sounding fill.

Trickin’ With Trickster (SD, 5:09) – Vintage Behind-the-Scenes Fun on Brainscan. These appear to be videos made for some EPK that never happened with interplay between Edward Furlong and T. Ryder Smith in full Trickster make-up/wardrobe.

Deleted Scene (SD, 1:38) – Raw VHS footage without music or foley effects added.

Behind-The-Scenes Footage (SD, 7:47) – On-set footage of the effects team working on the above deleted scene. And then there’s a little bit on someone working on a bust of the Trickster.

Teaser Trailer (HD, :39)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:02)

TV Spot (SD, :33)

Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (HD, 1:15)

Still Gallery (HD, 1:55)


Probably a lot of nostalgia, but there’s a silly bit of old school thriller fun to be had with Brainscan. Scream Factory has given it a solid presentation, but where they’ve gone above and beyond is the bonus features. This thing isn’t a Collector’s Edition in name, but damn if it doesn’t have enough on here to warrant being considered one without the label. If you’re a fan of the film, they’ve done it some pretty good justice. And for those who want to go back, there’s plenty here beyond the film to warrant owning or finding appreciation in it. A valiant effort on a cult film, as they are know to do, by Scream Factory.

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