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By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 22, 1994


John Flynn
Edward Furlong;
Frank Langella;
T. Ryder Smith;
Amy Hargreaves
Under 17 restricted

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Freddie's dead, Jason's over, Chuckie's out . . . Meet the new kid on the horror block: Trickster, a video villain from within the computer screen (he looks a bit like Dennis Miller after a few days in the ground). Played by T. Ryder Smith, Trickster provides much of the fun in "Brainscan," a thoroughly formulaic horror movie juiced up with virtual reality techno-toys and MTV attitude.

Edward Furlong, better known as the kid in "Terminator 2," plays misfit loner Michael Bryer. His mother died in a car accident and his father is always away working, leaving the boy to retreat into a world of computers, fantasy and horror. His room is a teen guy's fantasy, an attic crammed with state-of-the-art computer gear, neighborhood-rattling stereo equipment and comic books.

Michael's best friend alerts him to an ad in Fangoria magazine for a computer game called Brainscan that taunts him to "satisfy your sickest fantasies . . . enjoy the fear."

So the young anti-socialite dials 1-800/555-FEAR, and after the set of four CD-ROM discs arrive, he plays the first installment. Called "Death by Design," it's a virtual reality experience of a murder -- with a killer's-eye view. Furlong, whose mask-like face and hard, unreachable eyes are the image of contemporary teenage anomie, comes to in front of his screen and realizes it's not just a game. He's guided and goaded by the gleefully gauche Trickster, a campy comic book creation who sizzles out of the screen and says "Please allow me to introduce myself . . . " Frank Langella appears as a detective who notices Michael at one too many crime scenes.

"Brainscan" is as brain-dead as they come, but director John Flynn keeps it consistently watchable with clever gimmicks and gruesome gags. The movie's into-the-screen premise may have been lifted from David Cronenberg's "Videodrome," but the technology is flashy and witty and the camerawork is consistently interesting. And those who faithfully follow the genre (and you know who you are) will be grateful that Flynn has done away with the hoary theme of monster-murder as reprisal for teenage sex.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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