October Horrorshow: Brain Twisters

Brain Twisters movie posterDr. Phillip Rothman (Terry Londeree) has a problem. The electronics company backing his neurological research isn’t happy with its pace, so they’re pulling his funding. The research involves showing flashing images to people to stimulate certain areas of the brain. The idea is that the company will incorporate the fruits of this research into its videogames, to give players a mental kick while playing, or possibly to get them hooked on it. The whys of the research are less important than the fact the experiments are turning Rothman’s student test subjects into murderous lunatics.

From way back in 1991, Brain Twisters is a horror/sci-fi cheapie from writer/director Jerry Sangiuliano. Potential viewers won’t find much in his IMDb page, and that’s common for just about everyone involved in this dog. This was Londeree’s first credit, and he wasn’t in another feature film until 2004. The only member of the cast who went on to have a career is Farrah Forke, who plays Laurie Stevens, one of Rothman’s students and work-study assistants. But, just because most of the people involved in a flick are rookies, doesn’t mean it will be bad. A general lack of talent and competence is enough.

The action gets going when one of Rothman’s test subjects, Ted (Shura McComb), strangles his girlfriend. When questioned the next day by detective Frank Turi (Joe Lombardo), Ted freaks out and jumps out of a window to his death. There’s something rotten going down in College Town, USA.

The remainder of the film is a cat and mouse game between Turi and Laurie on one side, and Rothman on the other. Then there’s the evil corporation part of the plot, which shows up on occasion. This aspect of the story is pushed to the periphery, almost to the point that it could be done away with completely. It was kept, possibly, because while Rothman is responsible for all the bad shit going down, he’s not a bad guy. He is horrified at the prospect his experiments could be harming his students. Because a movie like this has to have evil intent, the evil company stays in.

Veteran movie fans will know how this film plays out, and how it ends. What I’m more concerned with is this film’s almost total lack of spectacle. There’s hardly any blood, no gore at all, and not a trace of gratuitous nudity. It ignored the shitty movie trifecta. Sangiuliano had to have known he wasn’t making an Oscar winning flick. That would have been obvious the second Londeree delivered his first lines. When making a bad horror movie, it’s a good idea to go all-in on the spectacle. Laughing at the bad acting will only take the shitty movie fan so far. After a while it just gets tedious.

This is the type of film that will make a viewer’s mind wander. The middle is a long stretch of repeating situations and tropes that don’t do all that much to set up a climax. We all know it’s coming, and I just wanted the film to get there before I couldn’t stop myself from picking up my phone.

Still, there is some prime shitty stuff in this flick. For one, there’s the score by Larry Gelb. It’s a pounding synth track that will weasel its way into your brain and stay there for days. I mean that. The morning after watching this film, I woke up with the theme playing in my head. I had to Rickroll myself just to get it to stop.

Also, while I picked on Londeree’s performance above, it is the shitty highlight of the film. He comes across as very creepy, and I don’t mean mad scientist creepy, but lascivious middle-aged college professor creepy. And the thing about that is, he goes out of his way to not take advantage of his students. What a bizarre character.

Brain Twisters needed a whole lot more blood. Without it, it’s a mediocre shitty movie watch at best, and a total bore at worst. It tumbles down the Watchability Index, nestling in between other anonymous crap at #209, in between Alien Warfare and Starship Troopers 3. Stay away, just to avoid having that music tattoo itself on one’s brain.

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