Mindwarp (1992)
Mindwarp (1992)

Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: August 12th, 1992 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Steve Barnett Actors: Bruce Campbell, Marta Alicia, Angus Scrimm, Elizabeth Kent, Mary Becker, Wendy Sandow, Brian Brill, Bekki Vallin

 


 

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here was no fixing it. There was nothing to be done. Nuclear destruction left Earth in shambles and chaos. So Infinisynth (The Happiness System) is created to allow the remaining wealthy citizens on the surface of the planet (known as “Inworld”) to experience a different kind of reality – something more fantastic than fantasy – by plugging into a machine that simulates a life and a world away from the atmospheric devastation. But Judith Apple (Marta Alicia) just can’t let her mind give in to the alternate state of consciousness, and continually detaches from the machine (pulling away from the metal rod that connects to the back of her neck) to mull over the real things taking place outside of her sterile little housing.

Judith’s mother Pamela (Mary Becker) only unhooks to eat the glowing green goop oozed from a nearby dispenser, unable to fathom why her daughter doesn’t wish to remain permanently connected in a dreamlike state, where anything imaginable can be realized. While “online,” Judy is routinely harassed by the Systems Operator (Angus Scrimm), as she refuses to play by the rules. When her malfeasance accidentally gets her mother killed, Judy is whisked away by masked men in white and buried alive in a shallow grave. But she soon awakes, abandoned in a living nightmare – exiled upon the edge of the Deadlands, the blistering remnants of a barren wilderness, filled with cannibalistic Crawlers (subterraneous mutants that communicate through grunts and groans), air suffused with poisonous chemicals, and flesh-burrowing leeches.

The initial similarities to “The Matrix” are astounding. From the refusal to accept a perpetual hibernation of the mind to the plugging in of a computer simulation jack directly into the brain, “Mindwarp” certainly appears to have inspired more than a few elements of that aforementioned sci-fi epic. But that setup quickly gives way to a “Mad Max” look, with desolate desert terrains (curiously bordering on an icy river) and bulky war machines cobbled together from random vehicles. Once the story finds its way to the underground caverns, the design borrows a bit from “Willow,” “Dune,” “The Beastmaster,” “Legend,” “Hardware,” “The Sword and the Sorcerer,” “Tank Girl,” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” – though with drastically more bloodshed. In numerous ways, “Mindwarp” is equivalent to a racier version of the equally obscure “Spacehunter.”

Nothing looks futuristic; instead, it all appears phony (until the climax, itself a series of deceptions). Locations, people, and costumes are too crisp and clean to convince of an atomically devastated planet brimming with desperate, cutthroat nomadic survivors. This detracts from the intended suspense of several otherworldly predicaments – especially fight sequences. The melodramatic, awkwardly romantic orchestral score also does the film no favors. And the revealing of weathered warrior Stover (Bruce Campbell), proceeding to ramble on about the brain sickness that causes trekkers to go crazy, is practically comical. The weak acting matches the general mediocrity, most noticeable in a problematically calm scene in which Marta’s character is nearly raped, yet she can barely muster fright or even acknowledgement of the direness of her situation. Campbell, though perfect as a hokey action hero, is comparably unable to evince sincerity when doing battle. This is particularly unfitting, considering that a few scenes later, an ear is severed, a prisoner disemboweled, an eye plucked out, and a child pureed for a ritualistic drink.

In its defense, “Mindwarp” possesses a uniquely outrageous amount of gore – debatably even ahead of its time. As a production from Fangoria Films, the focus is predominantly on gratuitous violence and repulsive carnage, with tremendous makeup effects, plenty of grisly imagery, and a decidedly bleak conclusion (which could have worked if not for the blandness of the dialogue and performances). But employing a tepid protagonist through which to experience a diabolical descent into a savage vision of postapocalyptic hell is entirely too detrimental to the potency of such barbarous artistry. In the end, it’s just not much fun.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10