-director Steve Barnett on his 1992 film Mindwarp
Judith (Marta Alicia) has ridden on the backs of dinosaurs. She's traveled to the most impossibly far-flung planets. She herself has created entire worlds. What Judy craves more than anything, though, is something real. She's from a future where what's left of civilization has barricaded itself inside the artificial reality of Infinisynth. Everything she's "experienced" -- if you want to call it that -- has been generated by the bank of computers she routinely jacks into via the 15-pin connector on the back of her neck. Like the rest of humanity, she only steps outside of Infinisynth long enough to serve base functions like eating and shitting. Judy knows nothing about the world outside her plain, sterile cleanroom, but one fatal mistake sends her diving headfirst into it.
There is no humanity beyond the walls of the Inworlders: just a toxic wasteland and the legions of cannibalistic mutant Crawlers that live beneath its silty surface. It's so desolate that Stover (Bruce Campbell) thought he might be the last man alive there, and...hell, he still may be. He does what he can to shepherd Judy through life in this unforgivingly hostile world until the Crawlers drag them kicking and screaming into their subterranean stronghold. Stover is put to work, clawing through the filth in search of "relics" like steering wheels and busted-up blenders. Judy, meanwhile, is targeted for breeding, a purpose the irradiated Crawler women can't possibly fulfill. ...and, well, Mindwarp was produced by Fangoria and all that, so you probably don't need me to tell you that when Stover and Judy break loose, they leave a trail of severed limbs and barrel drums of the red stuff behind 'em.
Mindwarp sounds like something that'd have me hammering out a five-star review right about now. I mean, you've got Bruce Campbell at his prime. Angus Scrimm, the once and future Tall Man, plays the razor-clawed leader that the Crawlers worship with religious fervor. The overall premise reads something like Mad Max-meets-The Matrix. I love the retrofuturistic look of the inner world, and the post-apocalyptic desolation doesn't look like anything I've ever seen before: part desert, part frozen wasteland. It's an unrepentantly violent movie too, with eye-gouging, gut-spilling, ear severing, throat slitting, and a little girl getting liquefied in an oversized juicer. Mindwarp is a movie I've been kind of desperate to see for ages, and now that I finally have it in my grubby little hands...yeah, not exactly worth the wait.
Mindwarp manages to feel rushed and excruciatingly slow at the same time. It does a poor job of world-building, at least as far as the Inworld goes. The virtual reality of Infinisynth and the endless possibilities it offers are basically a no-show, limited to a clunky opera fantasy and Judy standing in a black
Angus Scrimm gives it his all as the sinister Seer, his performance standing out as the single most memorable in the flick. Bruce Campbell gets to hack apart some mutants and really goes for it in the last few minutes, but it's a more straightforward, serious, traditional-hero-type part than most of The Chin's fans might've expected. Stover isn't written with much personality, something that plagues just about everyone and everything else in Mindwarp, up to and including its dead air lead. Marta Alicia's stilted, deer-in-headlights acting is jaw-droppingly bad, and Judy is devoid of any charisma, personality, or much of anything to make you want to endure her in just about every last scene for an hour and a half straight. The growling, grunting mutants are about as menacing as the subterranean critters in The Mole People, so, yeah, not at all. Something like half the movie is shot under dull, red lighting and gets really stale really quickly. Mindwarp's pacing is wildly uneven and too stop-and-go, bogged down by reams and reams and reams of exposition, incorrectly assuming that the movie's audience is as infatuated with its wafer-thin, tell-not-show mythology as it is. Even with a decent amount of action and KNB-supplied splatter, none of it ever manages to get my pulse racing. Mindwarp's ambition is at odds with a very lean budget, and the seams definitely show, especially with the awkwardly tight compositions where you can almost feel the cast clumsily trying to stay within the frame. You're also treated to a stream of tin-eared dialogue like "well, my little brainscrewed bitch -- this does change a few things!" Mindwarp starts off promisingly but quickly peters out, limping along in a miasma of standard issue sci-fi tropes until reaching a final reel that's littered with one unsatisfying twist after another. The whole thing is too sluggish and tedious to even accidentally be fun. Ack. Skip It.
For what it's worth, although the packaging says that this release of Mindwarp is rated R, Twilight Time reports that this is the extended version with 41 seconds of additional splatter. I guess Sony had the longer version recertified...? I dunno. It's definitely more grisly than I'd expect an R-rated flick from the class of 1992 to be. I may not be all that
When Judy first awakes in the Inworld, I was kind of astonished. The early stretches of Mindwarp are startlingly crisp, overflowing with fine detail, and robustly colorful. If not for the gritty, unmistakeably filmic texture (and, well, those bulky, monochromatic CRT computer monitors), I wouldn't have any trouble believing that its cameras were rolling last week rather than twentysomeodd years ago. The rest of the movie doesn't impress in quite the same way, still nicely defined but looking somewhat flatter and softer. I'm sure that's just the way Mindwarp was produced; damn near everything in the film outside of the Inworld is either location work or underlit interiors. I don't have any doubt that this presentation is exactly what it oughtta be, and I'm especially pleased to see how masterfully the pervasive, gritty texture has been preserved. Mindwarp is a very grainy movie, but that sheen is very fine and has been compressed about as flawlessly as I could ever have hoped to see. There's no speckling or assorted wear to get in the way either. Mindwarp has long had a reputation for being dark and muddy, so this cleaner, clearer presentation ought to be kind of a revelation for longtime fans of the flick.
Mindwarp scores a high bitrate AVC encode that spans both layers of this BD-50 disc. The presentation is matted to...well, what would've been its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 if Mindwarp hadn't made a beeline straight to video.
There's nothing even a little bit cinematic about the 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio stereo track on this Blu-ray disc. The sound effects scattered throughout Mindwarp -- even a colossal explosion early on -- don't pack any real wallop. Its score is about as anonymous as it gets, sounding like at least half of it was nicked from some forgettable '80s TV show and is often poorly paired with the action unfolding on-screen. Even worse, it fails to have any meaningful presence in the mix. The film's dialogue is reproduced reasonably well, and I get the sense that the lossless soundtrack is ekeing out every ounce of clarity and fidelity it can, but some sloppy post-production work a couple decades back just isn't giving it much to work with here.
Optional English (SDH) subtitles are also along for the ride.
Also featured here is a terrific set of liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
The Final Word
I was pretty much thrilled beyond words when Twilight Time first announced that they were rescuing Mindwarp from obscurity -- a movie that had never even clawed its way onto DVD! -- but...yeah, then I watched it. Even the combined cult cinema might of Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm can't salvage this slow, uninvolving, generally forgettable dreck. Not recommended sight-unseen, but there are fans of Mindwarp out there somewhere, and I'm sure they'll be thrilled to score an extended cut never before released on these shores as well as a very worthy presentation.