The Brain (1988)

the-brain-poster

Tagline: Mind over Matter.

Director: Edward Hunt

Writer: Barry Pearson

Starring: Tom Bresnahan, Cynthia Preston, David Gale, George Buza, Christine Kossak, Bret Pearson, Bernice Quiggan, Susannah Hoffmann, Justine Campbell, Robert King, Kenneth McGregor, Vinetta Strombergs, Richard Gira, Wendy Springate, Harry Booker, Steve Mousseau, Sarah Chapple,  Carol Lazare, Garry Brown

R | 1hr 34min | Horror/Sci-Fi

Budget: Unknown


Review

There is something about The Brain that is distinctly Cronenberg.

That may seem like a lofty comparison, and you would be right in thinking so, but with its drab palettes and grungy, low-key feel, early works like Shivers and Rabid immediately spring to mind. Whether those similarities are intentional is unclear, but what is abundantly clear are the movie’s aspirations as a social commentary, and the distinctly Cronenbergian manner in which they are pursued.

The Brain

The world’s first cannibalistic brain.

At it’s poorly defined core, The Brain is a satire on television as a tool for propaganda, and on that level it fails quite dramatically, not only because the topic was already well into middle age by the late 80s, but because it operates on such an unambitious scale. Sure, it has a minuscule budget to match, but so did Cronenberg, and the fact that director Edward Hunt borrows so heavily from his influence’s metaphysical oddity Videodrome makes an even bigger farce out of proceedings.

That being so, as an exercise in low-budget buffoonery, The Brain is a lot of fun. It is the story of a giant, carnivorous brain with the power to induce hallucinations and exert mind control over its human prey. Where the brain came from is never explained. Nor are its reasons for manipulating the local community and turning them into zombified killers, particularly when its sole intention is to eat them and grow bigger. Of course, none of this really matters.

The Brain 1988 Philosophy

The Brain – a creature who used the most sophisticated modern technology as a means for communication – was naturally a great philosopher.

The brain in question has come into the possession of psychologist Dr. Blake, whose increasingly popular TV show promotes independent thinking as a means to tackle society’s ills, but which in reality acts as a conduit for indoctrination. Blake’s malevolent aspirations seem to end at fame and popularity, and he refuses to accept the fact that The Brain’s activities and a spate of unexplained deaths are related, even when his sexy lab assistant is devoured for daring to insinuate that the brain has a mind of its own (yes, I see the irony).

The movie’s protagonist comes in the unlikely form of Jim, a local high school kid with a propensity to break the rules. Gormless pretty boy Jim is said to have an incredibly high IQ, so high that his sodium-in-the-toilet prank is foiled after he leaves behind an empty container labelled Pure Sodium: Will Explode in Water, and is shipped off to Dr Blake’s Psychological Research Institute for therapy, a punishment that our resident bad boy accepts without resistance, in spite of its completely overblown nature.

The Brain 1988 Pure Sodium

A dead giveaway.

Once at the institute, Jim is subjected to a series of tests which lead to mild hallucinations and cause him to flee, but by now his mind has been tapped by the insidious Brain, and a series of increasingly severe episodes turn him into a fugitive, a stigma worsened after he is framed for the murder of a local cop by Dr Blake’s ax-wielding henchman, a furry headed brute who masquerades as a doctor and receives total immunity by waving blank pieces of paper and successfully passing them off as release papers.

It soon becomes clear that the bigger The Brain becomes, the more powerful its abilities, and so Blake and his henchman set about beefing it up in order to gain control of the entire community. Unluckily for him, pseudo-genius Jim finally figures out that the cannibalistic brain is the reason why the townsfolk have been transformed into murderous zombies, and a frantic race to locate The Brain and release them from its neurological grip ensues.



Best Kill

After pulling teenage miscreant Jim to the side of the road for speeding, a local cop is brutally decapitated by Dr Blake’s ax-wielding henchman in an act of unanticipated savagery that is likely to leave you breathless with astonishment.

Most Absurd Moment

After seeing her teacher brutally chainsawed in half by his hypnotised wife, reluctant virgin Janet escapes to the local high school with boyfriend Jim and suddenly has a change of heart regarding her recent reluctance to copulate, insisting that the time is now right for her lose her virginity.

How romantic!

Most Absurd Dialogue

When Dr Blake’s sexy lab assistant suddenly decides to rebel, claiming that The Brain is not content with merely controlling the minds of his growing audience, our titular monster takes immediate offence, leaping from his tank of fluid and swallowing her whole. After watching his prized specimen grow to more than double its size in a matter of seconds, a perversely delighted Blake makes a rather witty observation.

Dr. Blake: Now, that’s food for thought!


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As a social commentary on TV as a tool for mind control, The Brain is about a quarter of a century too late, but the movie is not without merit. Laughable in both conception and execution, moments of stark brutality will nevertheless keep gore hounds happy, while a series of fun special effect set pieces and moments of priceless absurdity are enough to elevate it above the majority of mindless, B-movie pap.

Cedric Smarts




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