MINDWARP opens to an advertisement for a virtual reality service called Infinisynth. This promises its user the opportunity to live out the life of their choosing from the comfort of their own bed. As the commercial ends, our heroine Judy (Marta Martin, appearing on the credits here under the alternate name Marta Alicia) appears on screen to declare "bullshit!".

The year is 2037, and the world is a post-apocalyptic one where the ozone layer has been destroyed by aeons of human recklessness. Those who exist on the Earth's surface are known as OutWorlders and are quickly subject to radiation poisoning, madness and disease. The more fortunate members of society live in relative luxury in sterile pods in a faraway place called InWorld. Unable to venture outside of their pods, they live their lives vicariously via Infinisynth.

Judy is an InWorlder, as is her mother (Mary Becker). As intimated right from the start, Judy has grown restless with this existence and wants more from life. After inadvertently causing her mother's death when she somehow manages to infiltrate mom's latest Infinisynth fantasy, Judy is visited upon by the system's supervisory enigma, a masked presence known only as the Systems Operator. The System Operator agrees to give Judy what she craves - the opportunity to see how the other half lives.

With this, she's flung back into the reality of her sterile pod dwelling, where she awakes to discover her mother dead beside her. Moments later, masked guards storm the room and drag Judy away screaming. When she next stirs, she's buried beneath a thin layer of sand. Climbing out of her shallow grave, Judy finds herself stranded in a cold, barren wasteland where skeletons of former curious InWorlders are erected on crucifixes as a warning to those foolish enough to negotiate this land.

Judy's very quickly attacked by hideously deformed mutants known as Crawlers, who over time have become cannibalistic in order to survive on the planet's fucked-up surface. Judy narrowly escapes becoming their next meal, thanks to the intervention of crossbow-bearing nomad Stover (Bruce Campbell).

Stover takes Judy back to his camp where she'll be protected from the outside air which, in time, would turn her demented and diseased. It's here that he fills our oblivious heroine in with what's being on outside of InWorld in recent years. She desperately wants to return to the security of InWorld, but Stover suspects that would most likely involve traversing through some very rough, Crawler-ridden territory. Following a bout of passionate lovemaking, however, he may just be in the mood to help her get back home safely.

It's a shame, then, that Judy's captured by Crawlers a short while later and dragged to their underground lair, where their cultish leader The Seer (Angus Scrimm) reveals his nefarious plans for her.

Can Stover save the day once again?

MINDWARP was released in 1991. It was one of three films presented by Fangoria magazine, as they briefly flirted with the notion of becoming a film production house (the other two films were CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT and SEVERED TIES). This effort, directed by Steve Barnett, is easily the most enjoyable film produced by the short-lived Fangoria Films label.

Other than Barnett's economic approach to storytelling, resulting in MINDWARP cracking along at an agreeable flab-free pace, the script by John Brancato and Michael Ferris (working under the shared pseudonym of Henry Dominik) flirts entertainingly between sci-fi pulp, eco-drama and dystopian MAD MAX-style class wars while never compromising the frequent bursts of action.

Thrown into this already heady mix are an uncharacteristically straight lead from Campbell, wherein he totally abandons his mugging to camera and cheesy wisecracks in favour of playing a serious-minded and beleaguered hero. It works. Then there's the sterling support from PHANTASM icon Scrimm, who conversely gets to chew scenery as the evil dictator of a fallen society. In comparison, Martin was a relative unknown but takes on the female lead with admirable confidence and energy: she's a highly likeable presence, breathing real warmth and plausibility into a role that provides the film's heart.

A lost girl named Judy trying to find her way back home after being transported to an alien world may sound like an allusion to THE WIZARD OF OZ, but that's pretty much where the connections end. This starts off as dystopian sci-fi drama, then moves early-on into MAD MAX 2 territory once Judy reaches the OutWorld. By the time she's been abducted and dragged to The Seer, Barnett throws all caution to the wind and fills the film's latter half with oodles of splashy practical gore FX.

Speaking of which, the grizzly special effects are the handiwork of the always-excellent KNB-EFX Group - so be sure to expect plenty of well-lit set-pieces detailing head-mashing, arterial blood spraying, throat lacerating, gut-spilling, and so much more. It's all presented in a very fantastical, almost cartoonish, manner ... but this fits with the pulpy aesthetics of Kim Hix's lurid red-hued production design perfectly.

Benefitting further from Mark Governor's ambient score, Adam Wolfe's adroit editing and Peter Fernberger's frequently striking cinematography, MINDWARP can be seen either as a guilty pleasure or a real triumph of low-budget limitations being embraced and put to good use, rather than overcome.

The plot may take a while to explain itself (it made more sense to me from the start upon a second viewing), and the twist is not only predictable but really weak dramatically too. These are minor quibbles, however: MINDWARP is great gory fun on the whole.

MINDWARP makes its UK blu-ray debut courtesy of those thoroughly decent people at Eureka! Video. The film is part of their Eureka Classics range. We were sent a screener disc to review.

Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture is 16x9 enhanced and brought to us as an MPEG4-AVC file. The full 1080p HD transfer is struck from an extremely clean print, allowing for very detailed and crisp imagery throughout. Colours are bold and striking, while a keen filmic texture lends events further depth. With deep blacks, smooth motion and authentic flesh-tones, there's nothing to moan about here. At 95 minutes and 48 seconds long, the film is presented fully uncut.

English audio is proffered to us in a similarly clean and consistent, evenly balance 2.0 LPCM track. Optional English subtitles are also on hand for the hard-of-hearing.

A static main menu page doesn't include a scene selection option, but you can navigate your way through the film with your remote control by way of 9 chapters.

The first bonus feature on offer is a deeply satisfying audio commentary track from Fangoria's former long-time editor Tony Timpone, moderated by film scholar Jarret Gahan. I say "commentary track" as that's how it's listed in on the disc's main menu page. However, both the press release and the audio sub-menu describe it more accurately as an "audio interview" (i.e. it's a feature-length interview with Timpone, spanning far more subjects than just MINDWARP, and rarely bearing any relation to what's occurring on-screen).

Recorded during the pandemic, the audio is very clear throughout, though from the sounds of it I'd guess it was recorded at Gahan's end, and Timpone is speaking to him through Skype. The pair share a fine rapport from the off, with a nicely chatty flow being swiftly established. We learn that the bulk of the film was shot in Wisconsin, with one major setting actually formerly having been a girl scout's camp. Timpone discusses how key cast and crew members were brought on board with the project, in particular revealing how he and his co-producers actively sought to recruit technicians from Roger Corman Studios for their combination of experience and ethics. His anecdotes from visiting various film sets (though, curiously, he didn't get to visit MINDWARP's shoot) are highly engaging, including a funny story about witnessing Oliver Reed's infamous temper while shooting SEVERED TIES. In fact, this chat track goes off on many tangents - enjoyably so. There's a fair amount of time devoted to Timpone giving us a fairly thorough recounting of his term editing Fangoria, which in turn leads to Gahan 's own reminiscing over how he discovered the magazine as a young lad in Australia. Resultantly, there's hardly any scene-specific chat here, though I was given the impression Gahan was watching MINDWARP while recording this track. It's a good, matey talk, one that's well worth a listen.

We also get some priceless archival footage shot during the promotion of the recently-shot MINDWARP at 1990's Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention. This is divided into two segments. The first is an audience Q&A session with ever-popular convention guest Campbell. True to form, he's in fine fettle as he speaks jovially with his audience over the course of 48 amiable minutes. He runs a reel of test footage from the film for his onlookers, even going so far as to offer tongue-in-cheek commentary over the action. Campbell also confirms that EVIL DEAD 3 (as ARMY OF DARKNESS was originally known) is about to get made, sending the crowd into a predictable tizzy. This is followed by an equally genial, mirth-filled 21-minute Q&A with Scrimm - who opens proceedings in fine style with a bellowing rendition of his immortal "booooyy!!" line from PHANTASM.

Finally, in terms of what's on the disc, we're treated to the film's original theatrical trailer. This runs for 88 entertaining seconds and does a good job of focusing more on the sci-fi aspects and totally ignoring any hint of gore.

The Q&A featurettes and the trailer are all presented in standard definition and in their original pillar-boxed 1.33:1 ratios.

Although not made available for review purposes, this release comes with double-sided reversible cover artwork. The reverse art is the international poster design, bearing the film's alternative title BRAIN SLASHER.

The first print run of this release, 2,000 copies, also come with an O-card slipcase and a 20-page colour collectors' booklet. The booklet opens with "Shattered Dreams", a new essay by film scholar and author Craig Ian Mann. Mann begins by offering a potted history of Fangoria magazine (how it started life as a sister piece to Starlog and was initially more fantasy-based, but would soon go on to establish itself as more exclusively horror-devoted etc). He then goes on to cover the backgrounds of MINDWARP's key players and elaborates somewhat on the film's production. The booklet also contains a colourful reproduction of an article originally published in an issue of Fangoria's own sister magazine, Gorezone. The focus of this article is an enjoyable interview with Campbell. The booklet is lovingly put together and looks great.

MINDWARP is lively, gory and unpretentious fun. It benefits from a toned-down Campbell and plenty of inventive cheap FX work. It looks mighty fine here and is boosted by some most welcome extra features.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Eureka! Entertainment