If somebody came up to you and started describing a sci-fi film where people plug themselves in to a virtual reality through inputs located on the back of their neck, but then followed that up by saying that it wasn't The Matrix then you'd probably think that it was some sort of bad riddle. In retrospect, it probably is in a way but a little film called Mindwarp used this concept seven years before The Matrix did. While Mindwarp isn't nearly as flashy or anywhere near the same category of success as The Matrix (or as good), it can probably pass for one of those sci-fi films you catch sporadically during a fit of insomnia while flipping through channels during the infancy of the day and enjoying more than you thought you would.
The similarities to Total Recall will make themselves apparent right away, but Mindwarp doesn't take long to throw you into a post-apocalyptic world you'd expect to see The Road Warrior loitering around looking for an opportunity to relish what was thought to be a dried up natural resource. While Mindwarp can be considered a sci-fi film on the surface, it's most likely a horror film at its roots and that becomes apparent as soon as you realize who's a part of the cast. Bruce "don't call me Ash" Campbell plays the love interest for Marta Martin's Judy while The Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm, portrays the villainous Seer. While the uniting of these two actors in one film is exciting to horror fans, aficionados may be disappointed when they realize that both Campbell and Scrimm basically have glorified cameos in the film. Neither of their parts seem very large once the film ends, but at least you get to see Campbell get infested by leeches and basically no-sell throwing up his intestines.
Mindwarp is gloriously grotesque, as well. It doesn't even try to shy away from blood or gore, which is fantastic for bloodthirsty horror fans. A perfect example is the meat grinding device the Seer uses as punishment to individuals who disobey him. The device is made from parts you'd find in a garbage dump along with a plethora of human skulls. After the unfortunate victim goes through the machine, their blood is spewed into a bathtub where the Crawlers, a deformed cannibalistic civilization that lives underground, drink the victim's blood. But with all the comparisons to horror come many of the same downfalls many films of the genre have. Mindwarp was made in the early 90's and the leftover cheese from the 80's makes its way into the film practically effortlessly. That means the few attempts at humor in the film will probably make you verbally groan. The acting is also over the top, Campbell and Scrimm have their moments but the wild card is Marta Martin. Her acting is really terrible early on in the film, but slowly gets more tolerable as the film progresses.
Although you'd probably expect more from a film starring legendary horror icons Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm, Mindwarp blends the horror, sci-fi, and thriller genres fairly well. The film still has enough cheese injected into it to make it feel like it was made in the eighties; when horror films were at their peak. So while the acting sometimes leaves something to be desired, the concept is surprisingly great and would even go on to influence sci-fi films you're probably more familiar with like The Matrix. Mindwarp is half Mad Max and half The Hills Have Eyes with a little bit of Total Recall thrown in for good measure. This quirky, blood-soaked post-apocalyptic gem is worth unearthing if you're a hardcore fan of horror or sci-fi cinema.