|Star:||Bruce Campbell, Angus Scrimm, Marta Alicia, Elizabeth Kent|
|Cert / Year:||18 - R / 1990|
In a future society people live their lives in virtual reality. They are content living in a computer generated fantasy world that they hardly ever leave. That is they are all content bar Judy who longs to find out what the real world is like as she secretly suspect that her father disappeared there. She gets her wish when she breaks the rules once too often and is expelled from the system, but far from anything she had imagined she soon finds that the real world is a nightmare barren wasteland populated by cannibalistic mutants. This is where her dream ends and her nightmare begins.
There are big budget effects laden sci-fi movies, there are lower budget cult sci-fi movies, and then there is the no budget exploitative pulp sci-fi film. Unfortunately for Mindwarp it has a script from a higher budget cult movie and ridiculous mutants and blood-splattering horror from itís zero budget implementation.
The story is quite an inventive humans living virtual lives affair much like The Matrix yet predating it by three years. It is a good idea even if it isn't particularly well though out on the technology side (why have them waking up at all just feed then intravenously much more like The Matrix). The action then moves to the surface and becomes pretty standard post apocalyptic fare and this is where things fail slightly. However soon it descends into the nightmare underworld where both the story and the film succeed best. This continual feeling of out of the frying pan into the fire as each new environment is more horrific than the last finishes with a very badly handled yet interesting plot twist. So despite the implementation John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, and Henry Dominic (two of which would go on to bigger things with Terminator 3 and Cat Woman) and come up with a pretty good script and with a bigger budget and a lot more polish it could have been turned into a pretty good film.
But this is the crux of the matter this is not a bigger budget movie it is cheap. We are talking bicycle wheel wearing blokes in obvious rubber masks as mutants here. This is the sort of film that is targeted as the less discerning viewer (ok I mean us guys when we have had a few beers), and to do this these sort of films usually revel in blood and naked flesh. Well the film certainly has the former in buckets (or skulls) although I hate myself for saying this but it seriously lacks the latter. Just as it has not the budget to do the story justice it also doesn't have the excesses that would make it work on a much lower level, and so it kind of falls between two stools.
Mindwarp isn't a complete write off of a film. It's always good to see Bruce Campbell but this isn't him at anything like his best. Marta Alicia is a good newcomer, and Angus Scrimm is really nicely evil. So the cast is ok for a movie of this type. The special effects (bar the rubber mutant masks) are gruesome fun, with the flesh-burrowing worms being especially effective. Add to this the rather ambitious story and there are many plus points. Unfortunately the lack of excess and some patchy direction from Steve Barnett means that the whole film never quite gels or hits the mark. It's too clever for a pulp movie and too cheap to be anything else. In the end the best that it manages is to be in places pretty watchable. Which is the shame, as taking the film in either direction would have made for a better experience.
In the future, life will be a dream. And reality a nightmare.