Review: The Brain (1988)

Review: The Brain (1988)

The Christmas horror movie fest continues, this time with THE BRAIN, courtesy of Joe Bob’s Creepy Christmas on The Last Drive-In. This is a movie I have seen the VHS cover in the store for years but somehow never rented it. I think a few times because it was out and other times because I wasn’t sure how it was going to be. I wish I could go back and kick past-Eric in the butt though because I’ve been missing out on a wonderful Christmas horror film.

In a small Canadian town, there have been a rash of murder suicides, which was see firsthand when a teenage girl starts hallucinating that tentacles and monstrous hands are coming to get her. She ends up stabbing her mother and then throws herself out the window, all the while down on the TV, a psychologist named Dr. Blakely (David Gale) is doing his regular show. When the town prankster, Jim Majelewski (Tom Bresnahan) gets busted at school and is sent to Dr. Blakely for counseling, he discovers that the source of the murders might just be out of this world and he. Now he and his friends must try to stop it before Dr. Blakely’s show goes nationwide and turns the entire country into his slaves.

It’s a lot to unpack for a film, but it works. THE BRAIN is a lot like INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, where someone knows the threat but nobody believes them, in this instance because the townsfolk watch the show Independent Thinking and have been brainwashed by it. When those who resist are discovered like Jim, the Brain tries to destroy them with hallucinations. If that doesn’t work, it pins a lot of murders on the poor kid. 

The Brain itself is the centerpiece of the film and is pretty cool. At first it just looks like a giant brain in a tank, but as it evolves, it acquires the face we all know and love from the box art. How does it evolve? Does it feed on fear or minds? Not quite! It eats people whole! In the beginning it does this by sucking them in, but once it gets a mouth the creature can really chow down on its victims. It has a gnarly, mean look to it and you can tell it is up to no good with one glance at it. The eyes are big, black and dead and the mouth is filled with teeth and the creature glistens with a goopy sheen. 

The cast is pretty solid. Tom Bresnahan I’ve always liked from SKI SCHOOL and he’s likable as the slightly dickish Jim. Cynthai Preston as Janet, his girlfriend does well too though she’s mostly reacting to the odd things Jim is going through and gets sidelined for most of the end of the movie. Character actor George Buza shows up as an orderly and it’s always fun to see him. The real standout is David Gale, of course, who is delightfully psychotic and charming as Dr. Blakely. It’s not hard to believe he would have people watching him when he flashes his smile. 

I like that the movie is slightly prescient with the obsession of watching doctors on TV. It’s ahead of its time! You could remake it with the same exact plot and people would probably go, “Huh, that makes a lot of sense why people keep watching all of these quacks.” Come to think of it, has anyone checked to see if these guys have giant brains from outer space hiding out somewhere?

Director Ed Hunt keeps the movie moving along and the film is honestly about 80% chase scenes and it works. Some are on foot, some are in cars but they are there. There’s some decent gore as the Brain munches people and we get a decapitation and a chainsaw attack to boot. 

The Christmas element is admittedly small in the movie, limited to some decorations here and there. Outside of that, it doesn’t get mentioned but hey, it still counts! I’ve counted other movies for less and it’s appropriately snowy and cold.

THE BRAIN isn’t a perfect movie but it is a fun one. So grab some popcorn and your favorite beverage and settle in for some campy, goopy fun. It’s on Shudder at the time of this writing, along with Joe Bob’s fun facts and background on the production. Check it out.

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