The most severe cinematic definition of the phrase “be careful what you wish for” is graphically demonstrated in 1992's MINDWARP, a limited edition splatter-platter, now on Blu-Ray from the folks at Twilight Time/Fangoria Films.
A futuristic revisionist version of The Wizard of Oz by way of Jeffrey Dahmer, MINDWARP is a gooey-chewy concoction of malice craftily prepared by the evil geniuses who ran Fangoria Magazine. MINDWARP's purpose and target audience was the built-in focus group who ravenously devoured the colorfully disgusting publication. You can almost see the embryonic mandrake taking root: why merely promote and make money for (often) second-rate gore-fests produced by chowder-heads when we can do it sicker and slicker on our own. And so it came to pass.
MINDWARP isn't just some stupid, festering knock-off. Well, it IS, but a lot of fan-thought was put into it. The cast is led by two of the genre's most undisputed celebs: Evil Dead's Bruce Campbell and Phantasm's Angus Scrimm – an iconic couple of creepy crawlers who can actually act while in the process of hurling internal plumbing.
The sexy red meat female lead is tossed to a newcomer with the enticing moniker of Marta Alicia; suffice to say, she does butchery proud with very little fat, but just right amount of pork.
Henry Dominick’s sanguinary script (Dominick being the pseudonym for John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris) covers a splatter-puss'/video gamer's ultimate fantasy – and does so with a hefty salting of jokey referential one-liners, thereby allowing the sure-to-be grossed-out viewers to be in on the gag. And gags there are – and gag you will.
MINDWARP opens in the post-apocalyptic sterile antiseptic environ known as Infinisynth. Here immaculately sweatsuit-adorned inhabitants (aka Dreamers) spend their lives hooked up (a la neck-implanted digital jacks) to computer terminals – living out their every fantasy. Naturally, there's a bump in the road – and that human, busty nub is Judy (the aforementioned Alicia). Judy yearns for two things: to experience real life (the fool!) and to find her beloved and benevolent father...who, ages ago, too wanted to taste true freedom...and was never heard from again.
Now right away there's a problem – I mean at least for me. Personally, I can think of no better way to spend the rest of my days than in perpetual comfort exploring each and every desire my pliant cerebellum can conceive. As Judy later explains, in Infinisynth the only breaks one gets is to eat and go to the toilet (come on, girl, this just gets better and better!) In fact, I know of what I speak, having enjoyed years of barely-conscious artificially-induced euphoric stimuli way before it was termed Infinisynth and simply called college.
But it's Judy's turn to cry – so, after killing her would-be opera-singing mother (Mary Becker), the lass is banished to the outside foreboding trash-strewn wasteland. Case in point, one of the first things she sees is an emaciated nuptial-gowned female corpse on a cross which, I suppose, for glass-half-full optimists, might be construed as Kate Moss' wedding day. But these ethereal images are to be short-lived.
Within nanoseconds of her being butt-kicked into reality, Judy is under attack by a gaggle of football-helmet-wearing mutants resembling the cast of Swamp People.
MINDWARP would end right here – if it wasn't for the convenient appearance of Stover (Campbell), perhaps the last vegan survivor of the great outdoors. Stover, who looks like he copped his rags off the Empire Strikes Back wardrobe rack, literally makes mincemeat out of Judy's hunters, and, before you can say “Judy-booty” is tapping the babe like Fred Astaire on a ceiling.
Judy, who's done this sort of thing “online” (along with exploring planets and riding dinosaurs) is nevertheless intrigued by the genuine article – and offers up squeals of joy, since she has yet to discover the foibles – to say nothing of the smells – refreshingly absent from make-believe relationships.
These tender moments are brought to an abrupt end when the mutants stage an uninvited raid upon Stover's hovel. Before Judy knows it, she's in the presence of tichel-wrapped Claude (Wendy Sandow), a doe-like cannibal and Cornelia (Elizabeth Kent) – the girl's violent lesbian warrior lover. Proving that they mean business, they cut off a couple of prisoners' ears for their collection, and are about to play doctor with Judy when things start to perk up.
No sooner than you can say “Guess who's becoming yo’ dinner?” everyone in Outworld is in the Munchy-Bunchy Fritos theme park equivalent of the Magic Kingdom, presided over by its psycho-masked wizard. He, too, means business and is pissed at Cornelia because A) she's barren and he wants to repopulate the world with non-mutants (who doesn't?) and B) she jealously hid the tasty newly arrived (and likely fertile) female morsel, prone to elevating the words “cutie pie” to saliva-dripping frightening proportions.
In a rather extreme display of punishment, Claude is blinded and tossed into a Rube Goldberg Cuisinart (in essence a Lez Dispenser) where she is turned into a chunky puree smoothie. Poured into human skulls, her remains are downed by the cheering mutants, and force-fed to an understandably upset Cornelia and a repulsed Judy.
This is followed by an even more revolting revelation: this malevolent scumbag who orchestrated all this is none other than Judy's wandering dad...Fangorian proof that absolute power not only DOES corrupt absolutely, but is a bitch to clean up.
Meanwhile, Stover is being held captive with thousands of deformed monstrosities, toiling in Outworld's labyrinthian mines – where cherished recreation comprises examining gruesome ancient artifacts (sort of a Stuart Gordon version of Antiques Roadshow). It is here where MINDWARP becomes intrinsically political; while many may simply think this is a clever pitch of Logan's Run meets Planet of the Apes, I prefer to take the high road and dub it a prophetic union of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets The Ryan Plan (although I suspect the latter would object to the usage of the word “union”). These beleaguered and pathetic disfigured horrors are not only the future 99% but represent what can only be classified as the Occupy Hell movement; furthermore, I'm pretty sure they don't have a healthcare plan. Crunching on undisclosed snack treats, which I presume to be Entrail Mix, a brain-polluted Stover and his brethren are transported to an emergency court hearing.
Here Judy's dad makes a stupendously audacious announcement. Due to his daughter being so babe-a-licious, he has decided to procreate with her and populate the planet with their seed – while all menial tasks will be siphoned eternally to the mutants; thus simultaneously promoting both inbreeding and outsourcing. How's THAT for revolutionary?
Judy's thought balloon response expresses itself in another Star Wars nod – a silent but potent facial paraphrase of “(Puke), you are my father!” Daddy duly counters this with her death sentence, the standard Fangoria way-of-all-flesh edict; she, too, is to become a power drink: “I never thought I could devour my own child, but here I can do anything. It's wonderful!”
Add a diseased female substance injected into the orifices of the hosts (ye Gods – a Kardashian larvae!) and one can only imagine the riotous, wacky wind-up which (SPOILER ALERT) encompasses turning the tables on Daddy Gore-bucks (won't say nothing more except “Pater-Ade”).
As one might discern, MINDWARP delivers the goods and then some. The performances aren't really as campy as one might suspect. That said, Campbell is the most “out there,” pop-eyed and screaming – not unlike his Evil Dead efforts. Scrimm, however, plays it like a demonic Arthur Hill – quietly dignified, who, like so many of us, is merely a lonely soul in search of love and willing to eat anyone to prove it. Like 7-Up’s effervescent un-Cola, Alicia is mercifully un-bimbo – albeit looking remarkably like Jennifer Beals; I suspect this might be intentional – especially when victim to a nasty bloodbath shower of slimy remains...a rude parody of the 80s starlet’s famous Flashdance moment. Still Alicia's shouting at her sadistic tormentors, “Let go of me, you idiots!” concurrently alleviates the unpleasantness of the situation with much-appreciated comedy...and realism (I've uttered the identical request on many a rush-hour subway ride).
Steve Barnett keeps the near non-stop action a-hoppin and a-choppin' with a slice ‘n’ dice pace that would warm the cockles of Ron Popeil’s heart.
MINDWARP looks exactly like it should – as if every scene were a cover of Fangoria, a credit to d.p. Peter Fernberger; the minimal art direction exposes the sparse budget, but creatively utilizes the then-high tech floppy disk-friendly computers. Factor in the opening sequences spandex apparel and you have an early 1990s vision of 2037 (when this freak-show unfolds)...basically mirroring the era's syndicated TV fare that usually starred William Shatner or John Saxon.
KNB EFX Group created the grisly imagery which admittedly is genuinely repugnant – but nowhere near that of its competing KFC Fast Food Group.
Big surprise: the 1080p Blu-Ray looks better than any rendition of this title EVER looked. So much so you'll wanna get that old Swiffer couple to do an organ sweep of your media room once the lights get turned on.
There is a music score by Mark Governor, but the Ultra-Stereo tracks are probably going to be more remembered for their dismembered depiction of eye-gouging, limb-ripping and hooks-in-the-brain squishing, gurgling and spurting.
Finally, it is significant to note that whenever Twilight Time releases a horror/sci-fi title, it rapidly sells out its 3000-disc run. So, if MINDWARP floats your boat, better set sail today. L'chiam!
MINDWARP. Color. Letterboxed [1.85:1 1080p High Definition]. Stereo-surround 2.0 DTS-HD MA. Twilight Time/Fangoria Films, Inc. SRP: $29.95.
Available exclusively through Screen Archives Entertainment [www.screenarchives.com].