Starring: Tom Bresnahan, Cynthia Preston, David Gale
Directed by: Ed Hunt
Written by: Barry Pearson
Original Year of Release: 1988
Distributor: Scream Factory
Run Time: 1h 34min
I've seen a lot of horror movies. So many that I will seek out forgotten video store titles hoping to find a gem. When Scream Factory announced they were releasing 1988's The Brain, I quickly did a YouTube search for a clip. After seeing a large menacing brain, with a face, chase two teenagers through a warehouse, I knew I was in. After all, I had seen the cover art (to the right and above) for years but never pulled the trigger. It was high time that I did.
Yikes! There is a reason why many of you (and me, until recently) hadn't seen The Brain before. Is it terrible? Yes. It is so bad that it is good? Sort of. After all, as of 2018, The Brain was featured in MS3TK's traveling roadshow and for good reason. The film itself is the epitome of bad film making.
Dr. Anthony Blakely, played by Re-Animator's David Gale, is a doctor with a Scientology based practice and a local TV show called "Independent Thinkers". Unbeknownst to the public, he actually has a large brain in a jar that is sending out hypnotic messages to the audience. The weak-willed easily succumb to the brain's powers, however those that are unique are either able to withstand the brain's temptations or are driven into a fit of hysteria (see at the bottom of the review). Enter our would-be hero and high school prankster, Jim Majelewski (Tom Bresnahan). After getting caught in an elaborate prank, Jim's principal and parents believe the best course of action is for him to attend Dr. Blakely's "Independent Thinkers". Reluctantly, Jim agrees but is quickly able to deduce that there is more going on here than general therapy.
Everything that transpires is basically filmmaking 101, the “what not to do”. Which is what makes the film ripe for MST3K. You'll actually enjoy watching Jim and his friends run through the horror film tropes. We have all the staples of a rebel, Jim, his blonde and beautiful girlfriend, played by Cynthia Preston, and the vile villain bent on world domination, Gale. In watching the film today, with hindsight, you can see that director Ed Hunt may have only had Dave Gale for a few days of shooting. The budget was incredibly low as they didn't bother to remove the TV's wavelengths on the screen as they shot the TV at point blank range. We have a bit of nudity here as well, but none of it is of our main heroine (good for you, Preston).
I did have a lot of fun watching this up until one point in particular. In one scene, Jim is hallucinating that his car is out of control. We see his feet pump the brakes over and over again to no avail. Jim is wearing Converse Sneakers. When he escapes the fiery wreck we then see that his shoes are now high top Vans. Yes, this is a huge nitpick, but one that marked, for me, the end of the fun in watching this movie. Bresnahan's performance is not memorable, nor do we really care for Jim. In fact, he is more of ass in his first 10 minutes than someone we should root for. Many of the scenes could use faster cuts as well. I hate seeing makeup artists and creature effect teams reveal how much money they spent (or did not spend). Especially when it prolongs a scene and ruins the tension.
There are probably fans of The Brain out there, somewhere. You will love all the special features that Scream factory has included, which may be far more than this film deserves. The transfer is incredible. Now, if only the film was too.