Given that this is the week of all things Bruce, I’ll confess that when I rented the VHS of Mindwarp (also known as Brain Slasher) several years ago I did so because of one name and one name only, which was of course Mr. Campbell’s, emblazoned across the top of the cover. At this point I had watched The Evil Dead trilogy and fallen madly in love with it, so anything that had more Bruce was a good thing in my book. But would that hold true with this blind watch? The self-proclaimed King of B-movies is known for starring in, well, B-movies. And B-movies aren’t exactly known for being high-caliber, quite the opposite. But there are good-bad movies and bad-bad movies, and sometimes the line between the two is thin.
Mindwarp takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting; our protagonist, Judy (Marta Martin, credited as Marta Alicia), lives in a tiny room with her mother. Here, they (and presumably everyone else in this complex) plug themselves into Infinisynth, a virtual reality program where they can do whatever they want; only pausing to eat and take care of bodily functions. Not terribly original, but at least it predates The Matrix (1999) by 7 years or so. Judy, however, is unsatisfied with virtual reality; she yearns for something more “real.” After getting in an argument about her missing father with her mother (who can’t even remember her name), she accidentally kills her mother by interfering with her virtual scenario. She is summarily accosted by a SWAT-like team and given an injection that makes her pass out.
She wakes up in a wasteland with crucified skeletons everywhere, and is attacked by a band of cannibalistic mutants (think Mad Max (1979) + mutants) and is about to be carted off when Stover (Bruce Campbell) rolls in and saves her. Back at his shack, he tells her how the remaining population was left on the surface to fend for themselves while the well-off shut themselves up in the Infinisynth facility. That night they are both dragged into the hellish underworld of the mutants, full of scrap metal, parasitic fish, slave workers, and mutants snacking on human remains. The Seer (Angus Scrimm) has created a religion around human sacrifice that the mutants adhere to, and proceeds to explain how he’s doing a great thing by giving these mutants something to live for and so on. So it’s up to Judy figure out how to free Stover and escape back to the surface.
Now, all that sounds appropriately cheesy and campy, but is the movie any good? Well, if you take it a face value, probably not. Mindwarp is a Fangoria Films production (as in the popular horror movie magazine Fangoria), so that alone should tell you heaps about the kind of film this is. The acting from our lead, Marta Martin, is pretty god-awful. Her lines all have a fairly stiff delivery, and her dialogue is just bland in general. It’s unfortunate that the lead character is far less compelling than the supporting roles, which would, of course, be horror legends Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm. Campbell gives a passable performance as Stover; it’s not terrible, but it certainly doesn’t have the charm of his Evil Dead 2 (1987) and Army of Darkness (1993) performances. Angus Scrimm (best known for his role as the Tall Man in Phantasm (1979)) is probably a little too over-the-top for his own good, but at least he dominates the scenes he has with his lengthy bad-guy speeches. The film quality is fairly muddy, and this is exacerbated by the darkness in the underground scenes. Whether or not this is just a bad transfer I can’t say, but with both the versions I’ve seen it this was the case. The soundtrack is forgettable (I don’t even remember it, and I literally just watched it), but the special effects are acceptable, given the budget.
When it’s all said and done, Mindwarp is moderately entertaining, and horror buffs / fans of Mr. Campbell and Mr. Scrimm should definitely check it out. I can’t really recommend it to anyone who’s not a horror fan or can’t enjoy a campy movie though, because although Mindwarp has a decent premise and some cool set pieces and effects, it’s just not “must-see” material for anyone but fans of cheesy horror / sci-fi who are looking for something new.
-My apologies for the lack of a trailer. I have scoured the internet and simply cannot find one, all I could find was a clip that was mostly the last scene of the movie. Mindwarp must be too obscure to be granted such glorious privilege.