R Dir: Ed Hunt | Shout! Factory | 1h 34min
Plot: What’s it about?
Our northern neighbors in Canada have given the States a lot to enjoy over the years. Some of our brightest comedic talents (Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, Martin Short, John Candy) and dramatic talents (Ryan Gosling) came to the States from up north. Just as importantly, Canada gave us director David Cronenberg – the master of body horror. Using Cronenberg as a reference point – Canadian horror films are fun to watch because they tend to be a little bit askew from your standard American horror film. When I saw that Shout!Factory was releasing the low budget Canadian sci-fi horror film The Brain, I couldn’t resist picking up a copy. It was right up my alley.
The film begins in the small town of Meadowvale. A teenage girl begins seeing some strange hallucinations after watching a television show in her house. Soon enough, she has accidentally stabbed her mother to death and fallen to her death trying to avoid the tentacles of a creature that seems to be coming through the walls of her room. She is just the latest of numerous teen deaths in town since the Psychiatric Research Institution has started airing their local television show Independent Thinking. Led by the charismatic Dr. Blake (David Gale,) the show is literally hypnotizing its viewers. At the local high school, wisecracking troublemaker Jim Majelewski (Tom Bresnahan) gets in trouble for a prank. His school counselors recommend that Jim be sent to PRI for some testing and counseling. If Jim refuses counseling, he will be suspended. His parents agree to let him get some counseling there. What they don’t know is that PRI is really just a front for an evil alien organism – a giant brain – that wants to take over the brains of everyone on the planet. When Jim goes in for testing, the evil brain begins to use the television waves of the testing video to cause Jim to see hallucinations. Jim resists the brain’s hallucinatory powers and leaves the center. The brain begins to send Jim hallucinatory attacks which put Jim in danger. Grouping up with his girlfriend Janet (Cindy Preston) and his friends, he tries to take down the brain. It isn’t long before the brain has hypnotized the residents of Meadowvale into believing Jim is a murderer.
I should go ahead and go on record as saying that I am the core demographic for this type of movie. I find these types of movies compulsively watchable and entertaining. This movie is pretty much exactly what I expected and what I wanted. If you don’t like cheap schlock campy Eighties horror, I cant recommend checking this film out. For fans of what I described, the film is a treat.
The film has a lot of heart and it features a large rubbery looking alien brain. The film does a good job of making a funny commentary on how talk show television is brainwashing the masses without making the film come off as incredibly contrived. The brainwashing is central to the plot of the film, but the film allows the television appearances by Dr. Bruce to be very funny if your brand of humor is bone dry. I laughed at every slogan in the film and basically every scene featuring David Gale (of Re-Animator fame.) I also could not stop laughing at the film’s axe wielding psychiatric help played by George Buza. I IMDB-ed him and it turns out he was the voice for Beast on X-Men: The Animated Series. In other words, George Buza is the man. I also enjoyed the presence of the pretty actress in the film Cynthia Preston. She is definitely one of the best-looking scream queens from that era. Tom Bresnahan turns in a fun and over the top performance that is definitely not a master class on believability.
The film is not what I would call competently made – but this type of no-budget filmmaking is very fun to watch. The editing is not perfect. The acting by Tom Bresnahan is definitely over indulgent and sometimes just plain bad, but that does not hurt the film. It actually enhances the allure of the film for me. The chase scenes in the film are poorly done and repetitive. The lack of money for basic window smashing effects from the bullets fired at cars only adds another fun layer to the film. The creature effects are of the rubber variety that has been abandoned in the age of CGI. The violence in the film is never very bloody or gruesome and some of it made me laugh out loud (most notably a scene with a policeman and the axe-wielding George Buza.) The film also had a clever idea for how to add in gratuitous nudity in a way that actually serves the plot. It still feels like it is in the film to satisfy some sort of Eighties horror film prerequisite, but at least it was cleverly introduced in the film. Honestly, there is a lot to like if you are not the type to nitpick.
Video: How’s it look?
Shout!Factory presents The Brain with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer comes from a new 2K scan of the best existing materials. The transfer looks nice with film like grain complementing the presentation. Considering that this film was shot inexpensively, this new transfer looks sharp. That said, this film is not any type of visual masterpiece. I think it is safe to say that this is the best the film has ever looked, but I would not anticipate much in terms of cinematography or visual flair here.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The Brain has been given a DTS-HD MA Mono track that won’t necessarily challenge the limits of your system. Though as we might expect, the film is not incredibly immersive. That said, the score by Paul Zaza is an absolute blast. Like the film itself, the track is a little bit overly confident and not just a little ridiculous. I really enjoyed it. Dialogue is presented clearly and I did not detect many problems with the track in regards to hiss or pops. The track is solid overall.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Ed Hunt gives a good history of how the film came together and also discusses some of his other work. A good track for fans of the film or his other features.
- Audio Commentary – Composer Paul Zaza discusses composing in films.
- Audio Commentary – Actor Tom Bresnahan discusses his start in the film business, working for Zemeckis and Spielberg as his first gigs, and how he got the role for The Brain.
- Food for Thought: A Love Letter to The Brain – Superfan John Campopiano discusses his long love affair with the movie and displays all of the publicity materials that he acquired over the years.
- Canada on the Mind – Actress Cynthia Preston discusses her career beginnings and her work on The Brain. She still looks stunning thirty one years later!
- From Monster Kid to Monster Man – Actor George Buza discusses his memories of working on The Brain and how he became a Canadian actor from his humble Cleveland, Ohio roots.
- Brain Art – 1st Assistant Art Director Michael Borthwick discusses working on the film and goes into detail about the 36 hour “day” of shooting they endured to finish the film.
- Stills Gallery
The Bottom Line
The Brain deserves to be a cult classic. It is exactly the type of goofy creature feature that people like myself can not watch enough times. As long as you know what to expect, there is a lot of fun to be had watching the film. Shout!Factory have supplied some enjoyable supplementary features and three audio commentary tracks. The transfer itself looks and sounds great. Fans of campy Eighties horror will find a lot to enjoy here.