October Horrorshow: The Brain (1988)

The Brain 1988 movie posterHere’s a movie so nice I had to watch it twice; so uproarious it’s glorious; so shitty I had to go and be witty.

Hailing from the Great White North, The Brain, screenwriter Barry Pearson and director Ed Hunt’s 1988 horror flick, is shitty gold. Let’s get that out of the way, first. This is a quality shitty movie. It’s cheap schlock — outrageous, ridiculous, hilarious, and very, very watchable. It’s the rare horror flick where the creature is shown at the very beginning, but this movie suffers nothing for it. Building tension through the unseen? Nope. None of that. That takes a back seat to sharing such an absurd cinematic creation with audiences right away, and it works. It’s a gigantic brain, with a face and huge teeth, and it eats people. Let me emphasize this. The monster in this movie is a brain the size of a mastiff that eats people.

Tom Bresnahan stars as Jim Majelewski. He’s a typical rebellious Canadian teenager, in that while he may blow up toilets with pure sodium and glue teachers’ pants to chairs, he doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, and gets straight A’s. But, the school has had enough of his shenanigans, and he is forced to undergo treatment at the Psychological Research Institute (exteriors were played by the Xerox Research Centre of Canada), run by the evil Dr. Blakely (David Gale) and his assistant, Verna (George Buza).

The giant brain is Blakely’s experiment. He’s been feeding it thoughts from the patients at the institute, in aid of a public access television show Blakely hosts called Independent Thinking. In that show, Blakely is placing Mississauga, Canada’s housewives under hypnotic control, hoping to eventually take over the world. So, Blakely is a dual-threat bad guy. He’s got his TV show and his monster brain, and woe be to anyone who stands in the way — that anyone, of course, being Jim and his loyal girlfriend, Janet (Cynthia Preston).

The brain eats its way through some of the townsfolk, and Jim finds himself the prime suspect. He now has to stop a worldwide psychic takeover and clear his name. No pressure.

The plot in this flick is a convoluted mess, and normally that would be a bad thing. This flick, though, is so damned entertaining that plot cohesion doesn’t matter. It’s pure joy watching the special effects crew ply their trade.

On top of that, the film is ersatz Cronenberg, showcasing the same type of paranoia and secret, ulterior motives that typify films like Shivers and Scanners. A creepy-looking building, a creepy-looking scientist, and mind control? Hunt had to be a fan. Cronenberg’s movies are all about sex, though. The Brain is about silliness.

The Brain is a film that is barely held together by a bunch of bailing wire and mud. As such, it lives and dies on its spectacle. Gale, as was his wont in the latter stages of his career, was up for anything. And the brain, well, it represents the fearlessness of the director. No filmmaker could look at it and think they were directing the next Alien or The Thing. Hunt had to know he was directing the next It Conquered the World, yet he persevered. We should all show such dedication.

More watchable than all expectations, The Brain enters the hallowed top fifty of the Watchability Index, taking over the #47 spot from Contamination. Check it out.

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