Mindwarp [aka Brainslasher] (1992)

The short version:

Blech.

The long version:

Starlog magazine was doing very well in the early 90s.  They’d spun off two additional titles, Cinemagic, which dealt with filmmaking techniques for do-it-yourselfers, and Fangoria, which gave readers an icky, behind-the-scenes look at the new wave of explicit horror films.  And then Fangoria briefly went into the production business, turning out three horror films.

Mindwarp seems an odd choice for a magazine obsessed with film gore, as it is – at least in theory – a fairly straightforward science fiction film.  And I suspect the film’s many problems stem from that confused origin.

We start with the society that’s literally entertaining itself to death, as the real world is too terrible to contemplate and the survivors live their lives in a computer simulation designed to keep them permanently happy.  But one of the sleepers is far from happy and she gets driven out into the wastes outside, where, naturally, she encounters cannibal mutants and their evil, underground temple.

At it’s heart, it’s basically a Twilight Zone episode, and not necessarily one of the better ones, at that.  Let’s face it, most of the “Zone” episodes are already too long at half an hour (I once saw three of them edited down to about four minutes apiece for a documentary starring Will Wheaton, and they worked far better at that length.  Far, far better).  So at Ninety minutes, the story is creaking at all the joints with all the extra padding they had to cram in.

By now, you’ve probably guessed the ending, which is always the problem with Zone-ish stories.  When the “twist” ending of a film is this obvious, ultimately the movie itself has to be strong enough to carry the audience without any help from clever plotting.  But, unfortunately, once they get into the underworld of the “crawlers” the film slows down to a deadly crawl, with lots of splattery (if not very realistic) gore, a grim level of constant violence, and an oppressive lack of hope.

A young Bruce Campbell stars, and Angus Scrimm – Phantasm‘s “The Tall Man” – gets a double role which mostly involves being crazy and evil, or weary, wise and pontificating, depending on which awful underground world he happens to be running at the moment.

It has little to recommend itself as a science fiction film, and not much more as horror.  I suppose gorehounds, particularly those who like their horror grim, splattery and Fulci-esque, might not find this one so bad (if a bit tame).  But I’m not even sure of that.

Or, to sum it all up:

Blech.

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