Starring: Edward Furlong, Frank Langella, T. Ryder Smith and Amy Hargreaves
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: 9.99
Certificate: 15
Available 30 January 2006

Michael runs a horror film club at high school. His mother is dead and his father spends much of his time working away from home, so Michael (a horror tecno-freak) spends his free time hanging out with his best friend or spying through the window on Kimberly, the beautiful teenage daughter of the neighbouring house. When he is told about
Brainscan, supposedly the most frightening interactive game ever, he is naturally dubious. After he phones to enquire, the disc is automatically sent to him without him giving any details. A series of pulses starts the game. A voice directs him as he breaks into a house and is goaded into stabbing a man and taking a trophy by cutting off a foot. After some intense gameplay he gets a drink, only to find the foot in the fridge and later to discover there has been a brutal killing in the district. An insubstantial character calling itself the Trickster emerges from thin air to tell him he has to play the second disc, because there was a witness. Michael gets himself deeper and deeper in trouble and can't see a way out; his best friend is murdered, Detective Haydon (played by Frank Langella - a man who knows a thing or two about horror) takes an unhealthy interest in him, and now he is being persuaded to kill the beautiful Kimberly...

When I first sat down to watch this film I had two immediate thoughts. The first was where has Edward Furlong been since Terminator 2? I really can't remember seeing him in many things. Here he has a brooding thing going on. The other relates to the format. It reminded me of Killer Net, the brilliant Linda La Plante thriller screened on Channel 4 a few years back (please release it on DVD). In that story a psychology student sends for a game via the Internet. In it he has to successfully stalk, kill, dispose of the body and negotiate his way through a police investigation. Finally he is allowed to choose his own victim, and when he does an old girlfriend who flamed him on the net is found murdered. Brainscan is not too dissimilar in its premise.

There's some nice tension-building moments, and some light relief for the viewer which only appears to be desperation for the key character. In the scene where Michael is attempting to bury the foot, a dog arrives from nowhere and runs away with it. Under his breath he asks the dog to drop the foot and go away, and he will never ask it anything again. As a nice piece of poetic symmetry the dog shows up again later in the film when he is hiding from the police. A good example of the random factor. The dog even gets the swansong during the final credits.

There is real danger and real tension in this film, but it is let down by one major cringeworthy character. The reason for the inclusion of the ethereal being Trickster is beyond me. Imagine a cross between Freddy Krueger and Betelgeuse and you'll get the idea. I like Michael Keaton as an actor, but his Betelgeuse character was plainly silly and annoying. So it was no surprise that I reacted to the Trickster in the same way. Quite frankly, whenever it appears it almost totally destroys the ambience of the piece; strange, as the film seems to be hinged on the character. Personally, a creepy inner voice would have been far more effective. But having said all that this remains a fine and quite original film.

Ty Power

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