In Rodney Ascher’s brilliant and mind blowing new documentary A Glitch in the Matrix he delves deep into the theory of simulated reality, a concept that nothing in this world is real and our consciousnesses are all trapped in a computer simulation.
This increasingly popular and disturbingly believable notion has formed the story line of many movies from The Matrix to eXistenZ to Dark City to Mindwarp. Okay so perhaps that last one is less famous than all the others but thanks to Eureka Classics this crazy Sci-Horror is finally getting a Blu-ray release for the first time in the UK.
Released in 1991 Mindwarp, known outside America by the equally unhelpful and inflammatory title Brain Slasher, is set in 2037 after an apocalyptic nuclear war has destroyed most of the ozone layer and left the planet in desolation. To escape this horror the majority of people live online in an simulation run by Infinisynth, an all powerful computer, which allows them to be and do whatever they desire.
Woken periodically to eat and expel these people dubbed dreamers have stopped all interaction with each other, even halting reproduction, preferring the simulated fantasy Infinisynth offers to the real world and leaving humanity on the brink of extinction.
As one of the last generation Judy (Days of Our Lives star Marta Martin) rages against the machine desperate to experience something tangible. When she invades her mothers electric dreams the sinister Infinisynth systems operator takes action against her de-connecting her from the machine and casting her out into the inhospitable wastelands.
Getting her wish at last she realises it is in fact a nightmare as the poison earth is filled only with mutated cannibalistic creatures named Crawlers. After nearly falling foul to these monstrosities as soon as she arrives she is thankfully saved by Stover (Bruce Campbell from all things Evil Dead) a lonely, disillusioned Outworlder who was never lucky enough to know the safety and security Judy has grown up with Inworld.
Although life is hard the two bond instantaneously and it seems Judy has finally found what she has been searching for however when the pair are captured by the creepy Crawlers they are taken to their underground kingdom where brutality and violence are everyday and the word of the evil overlord Seer (Angus Scrimm from the Phantasm series) is all.
Noteworthy as being one of only three films produced by Fangoria’s short-lived Fangoria Films label alongside 1991’s Children of the Night and 1992’s Severed Ties, Mindwarp starts out on an interesting path with its innovative vision of in a far flung future and engaging question whether living a beautiful lie is better than a terrifying truth.
When Judy is banished however things become a little too familiar in terms of the misshapen mutant monsters and Mad Max style sets and costumes and although there is plenty of gore to incite the audience the grim post-apocalyptic tropes begin to become tiresome.
Once underground the tone shifts to a much darker place as Judy is introduced to the sick life cycle the Seer has institutionalised his followers into. Mining landfill for our trash, the creatures are beaten and slaughtered at will, their bodies thrown into a giant machine that slices them into pieces, filling a bath tub full of their blood for the rest of the community to drink ceremoniously. Babies are bred from chained up slaves, flesh is devoured and people live in constant fear although shockingly Judy discovers something far more disturbing when the Seer’s true motives are revealed to her.
Although the story throws plenty of twists and turns along the way there is still a sense that there is a more interesting film lying underneath the surface, beyond the screen. Musings on organised religion and controlling the masses pop up but disappear again as another gut wrenching yet humourless action scene takes its place.
Marta Martin makes for a likeable lead pushed to her limit both physically and mentally throughout the movie with Angus Scrimm proving excellent as the films malicious messiah like villain. It may be odd for those only used to Bruce Campbell playing anarchic horror comedy characters to see him be so serious in the role of Stover however he delivers a great performance with what he has to work with showing his true skills as an actor which don’t get credited enough.
With some decent design and thought provoking ideas Mindwarp has its appeal although the main argument and virtual reality world is disappointingly under explored in favour of gruesome gore and post-apocalyptic nastiness. Although it is not the best simulated reality movie it deserves its place amongst the rest of the genre for Sci-Horror fans to plug into and have their mind warped.