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FANTASTIC VOYAGE

Because of dazzling special effects and a funny, bloodcurdling villain called the Trickster (he looks like a Mohawk warrior freaked out on acid but talks like a Phi Beta Kappa), the witty techno-fantasy Brainscan could be the teen hit of the spring. But there's something else here, too--a distinction between the synthetic violence of high-tech "entertainment" and the real violence of murder in the neighborhood. Director John Flynn actually points out the difference between fantasy and reality--not a bad idea these days.

The film's sixteen-year-old hero, Michael (Edward Furlong), is a classic misfit--a shy, motherless kid with a limp who spends most of his time piddling around in his attic room, which looks like Radio Shack. Michael's a connoisseur of slasher flicks and interactive video, so when a new CD-ROM virtual-reality game called "Brainscan" comes his way, he's blase.

But wait. Upon plugging in the disc, Michael's instantly recast as a paranoiac serial killer bent on covering his tracks--even to the extreme of doing in his best friend, Kyle (Jamie Marsh), and the appealing girl next door (Amy Hargreaves). There's a big, bad cop (Frank Langella) in hot pursuit, and even the school principal is suspicious of him. Are the murders imaginary or real? Only the screenwriter (Andrew Kevin Walker) knows for sure. And maybe the menacing Trickster, who leaps right out of Michael's TV set to become his "Brainscan" guide...and to play havoc with his subconscious.

This is far more clever stuff than most teen fantasies, and young Furlong (Terminator 2) acquits himself well in the lead. But it is newcomer T. Ryder Smith, who portrays the Trickster with a startling Mohawk wig, long talons and a cackling laugh to match, who will really stir up the adolescent juices.

"Real? Unreal?" he taunts. "What's the difference? As long as you don't get caught." Luckily, the movie has the good sense to answer the question. The pounding soundtrack, meanwhile, features Dandelion, Pitchshifter, White Zombie, Stuttering John and the Butthole Surfers, among other practitioners of the musical arts.

 
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