January 9, 2014

Movie Review: Mindwarp (1992)

Mindwarp was released way back in 1992 and was the first film released by the short lived Fangoria Films label. Yes, that name has been used a few times since, but this was back when the intention was to actively finance one film a year (it lasted through three films before folding). In the years since it has been used as a distribution company and as a marketing label. Anyway, this movie debuted on home video and does not seem to have gone much of anywhere. It is not a movie that comes up in everyday conversation, even among genre fans. I guess the question could be asked about whether you should care or not? The answer is a resounding maybe.

The science fiction/horror mash up was directed by Steve Barnett. Now, he has not had all that illustrious of a directing career, the pinnacle would probably be Mindwarp, or maybe Scanner Cop II. He has, however, worked on a number of big ticket pictures as a production manager, including Live Free or Die Hard and Sideways. The screenplay was written by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris. This writing team has gone on to write such movies as Terminator 3, Terminator: Salvation, Catwoman, Surrogates, and are lined up to write the Death Wish remake. Needless to say, with regards to any of these three, Mindwarp will not be considered a highlight.

The biggest thing about this movie, and probably the only reason to be interested in this creation, is the cast. Mindwarp brings together two genre legends. On one side you have Bruce Campbell, who had already been immortalized in the first two Evil Dead movies. On the other side you have Angus Scrimm, the terribly frightening Tall Man from the Phantasm films. Neither one is the star of this piece, but it is somewhat entertaining to see these two guys in the same movie, even if the final product is a little lackluster.

So what is it about?

Mindwarp is set in a post apocalyptic world where it seems the bulk of humanity has been killed off and what is left has moved underground. Not only have they dug in deep, they have created a society that is entirely ensconced in the mind. Everyone has a port (they appear to be serial, to early for USB) which connects them to a computer where they live their lives in whatever virtual reality they choose, unplugging just to eat and go to the bathroom. I am curious to know how this society could have developed, as it seems they went from blowing each other up to a sedentary existence free from conflict, but this movie isn't about that.

Judy (Marta Alicia) is tired of this life. She wants to experience real reality, she wants to be on the surface, unplugged. Well, her complaints do not fall on deaf ears. The SysOp grants her wish and she is banished to the surface, a barren wasteland whose inhabitants and primarily made up of Crawlers, mutant cannibals. It does not take long before they find Judy.

Fortunately for her, she is also found by Stover (Campbell), a survivalist living off whatever possums he can trap. Well, he saves her and we get a bunch of expository dialogue and then the Crawlers catch up with them, they are quite intent on bringing Judy back to their leader. The interest stems from all the women being barren and they want her to be used as a mate for their grand leader.

The leader is none other than the Tall Ma.... err, Seer (Angus Scrimm). He is their leader, their preacher, and their everything. They worship the guy as he keeps them fed on blood and flesh. It all leads to a big climactic reveal compounded by twist. Want to know what they are? Go watch the movie. It may not be great, but I will not spoil it here.

The movie appears to be produced on a limited budget, but it still looks decent. At least the surface landscape and bad guy dressings are good. The underground plugged in world is not so hot. The movies biggest sin is that it is kind of dull and relegates Bruce Campbell to a background role that does not take advantage of his full charisma. Tragic.

Now, it is not a terrible movie, just an underwhelming misfire. The concept is good and the execution is poor. It takes the VR future world concept and tweaked it a bit before anyone even really knew it was a thing. It should at the very least be commended for that. It is a shame it is so dull.

Very Mildly Recommended.

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