Judge Patrick Naugle has his very own biodome.
In the future, life will be a dream.
It's the year 2037 and our planet has been laid to waste by nuclear annihilation. After the loss of the ozone layer, the earth is now a wasteland peppered by radioactive Death Zones that house Crawlers, mutated cannibals who dwell underground and communicate in grunts and screams. The rest of humanity lives inside a sealed biosphere plugged into a virtual reality program where they can live out all their fantasies. When a young woman named Judy (Marta Alicia, 2009's Star Trek reboot) rejects the system and accidentally kills her mother inside the computer world, she's booted out of the elite group and thrust into the Outworld (earth) where the Crawlers attack and begin dragging her back to their caves. Judy is rescued by a lone wanderer, Stover (Bruce Campbell, Army of Darkness), who is one of the few 'normal' people left on earth. Stover and Judy's safety is short lived when the Crawlers capture both of them and force each into slavery for their underground lord, The Seer (Angus Scrimm, Phantasm). The Seer has a special connection to Judy that may just hold the key to her survival…if she can avoid becoming the Crawler's next meal!
Horror aficionados will recognize Fangoria Magazine as the alpha and omega of periodicals on scary movies. All through the 1980s and beyond, Fangoria has covered big budget and low budget horror movies, offering up reviews, interviews, and anything else having to do with cinematic gore and grizzle. As Fangoria's popularity rose, they decided to not just cover the movies but actually make the movies. Their films include 1991's Children of the Night and 1992's Severed Ties, neither commercial successes. After Severed Ties, the Fangoria production house closed shop and they move into distribution only. Before the failure of the company, they had to start someplace and that place was 1990's sci-fi horror flick Mindwarp, actually released in 1992 after a two year delay. Sadly, good things don't always come to those who wait.
Mindwarp is so seeped in early '90s trappings that it's hard not to laugh at it 24 years later. The film deals with what appears to be an early version of cyberspace, only cyberspace in 1992 looks a lot more bulky and cheesy than what we have today. There are a lot of heavy headsets, thick wires, and neon lights. Basically, the internet in 1992 looked a lot like a Spencer Gifts store at your local mall. The good news (well, kinda) is that most of the movie doesn't take place in a cyber world (ala Virtuosity or The Lawnmower Man). Instead the bulk of Mindwarp takes place inside deep, dank caves of cannibalistic monsters who like to make their houseguests into snack food. This sounds better than it actually is.
Here's the honest truth: Mindwarp is not a very good movie. Not in the least. Sometimes a movie slips through the cracks and needs to be discovered years later to garner a cult following. More often than not, however, there's a good reason why certain films sort of burn out of existence…they're terrible. While Mindwarp isn't as terrible as some of this ilk, it's rote and mediocre, almost the epitome of early '90s straight-to-VHS fare. It's almost sad to see genre stars like Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm slumming around a movie like this. Their stars are just too bright to be part of an empty galaxy like Mindwarp.
If I have any solid praise for Mindwarp, it easily goes to the make up artists at the KNB effects group (including The Walking Dead's Greg Nicotero) who made up all the 'Crawlers' in the movie. Even here, the positives are only good, not great. The actors playing the mutated cannibals all look sufficiently icky, but none of them carry much of an original spark. A lot of Mindwarp feels like a retread of the Mad Max movies (a series I've never had much affection for). The Crawlers look like they could have been used as an early draft for Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes with their weird snouts and large overbites. If the effect was supposed to be scary, the filmmakers failed miserably.
By the time Mindwarp's craziness kicks in (more than halfway through the film), it's a bit too little, too late. Angus Scrimm eventually shows up as some weird overlord/priest in a botched Klu Klux Klan outfit who likes to poke people's eyes out and dump them into the futuristic equivalent of a wood chipper. Then he makes everyone drink out of human skulls. Clearly, he's a Republican. Sadly, Bruce Campbell—so great as Ash in Sam Raimi's hyper-kinetically fun Evil Dead series—mostly plays the straight man here, which would be fine it the character were played by anyone other than Bruce Campbell. The screenplay by John Brancato (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) and Michael Ferris (Catwoman, natch) is brimming with little originality and lots of plagiarism (err, "homage"). Director Steve Barnett (Hollywood Boulevard II) directs the film as if he's attempting to get from point A (title credits) to point B (end credits) with as little inspiration as possible.
Mindwarp is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. The picture quality is decent; the main problem is that Mindwarp just wasn't a very good looking movie to begin with. The production feels cheap and flat and doesn't really leap off the screen. Colors and black levels are fine. I'm sure this is the best Mindwarp has ever looked, so fans will certainly be thrilled that it's finally on Blu-ray. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo in English. Much like the video quality, the audio mix is serviceable and little else. This is a very front heavy mix that doesn't utilize any impressive surround sounds or directional effects. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Extra features include an isolated music score track by composer Mark Governor and a short TV spot for the film.
Twilight Time may have rescued a horror oddity from being banished into the VHS/DVD netherworld, but I can't help think there are so many other films more deserving than the middling Mindwarp. If you like this movie, here it is in all its gooey 1080p glory. Otherwise, at a nearly $30 price point (and in limited run of 3,000 units), Mindwarp isn't worth the head trip.
Not for anyone with half a brain.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Twilight Time
• Isolated Score
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