The Brain (1988) – Blu-Ray Review

There’s a bit of a They Live vibe to The Brain, a film that draws on stuff like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Videodrome. Sadly, it’s not as good as any of those.

Dr. Blakely runs this TV show called Independent Thinkers, a sort of Scientology-style self-programme. The aliens use the show to manipulate viewers minds., and a young guy, Jim (Tom Bresnahan), who’s trying to convince people that it’s all a brainwashing plot. These alien monsters keep popping in and out, and I found it kind of unnecessary, or maybe they could have just appeared at the end. The ideas were better than the monster. The aliens are brain-like in shape, hence the title. Dr Anthony Blakely is played by David Gale, a well-known actor in cult-film circles—he played Dr Carl Hill in Re-Animator, for example.

It was directed by Ed Hunt, who clearly did not have a glittering career. His back catalogue starts with soft-core porn and then end up with mainly knock-offs like Starship Invasions. His film Plague got some attention, but The Brain was his last movie for years, until the truly awful-looking Halloween Hell in 2014. This explains why The Brain is so derivative, although I would be shocked if it’s not Hunt’s best movie. I get why he has a bit of a cult following—the fake Scientology stuff is pretty fun (although Wild Palms is the pinnacle of that kind of storyline). Clearly they didn’t have much money, but they did what they could, so the effects are all over the place. Some are pretty cheesy, but others are quite impressive. There are some fun tentacle monsters and stuff. It feels very Canadian—it’s set in Ontario, and if Cronenberg wasn’t an intellectual, this is probably the type of thing he would have made.

The script isn’t great, so it doesn’t fulfil the promise of the plot. But at 89 minutes, it’s perfectly serviceable.

The limited-edition Blu-Ray from 101 Films was taken from a 2K scan of the original negative, and comes with plenty of extras. There’s a commentary with Hunt, another with Bresnahan, and a third with composer Paul Zaza, who also contributes a new documentary, Sounds of the Mind. Actress Cynthia Preston is interviewed, as are actor George Buza and assistant art director Michael Borthwick. Finally, there’s Food for Thought: A Love Letter to The Brain, a stills gallery, and a booklet with new writing on The Brain from Andrew Graves and Liam Hathaway.

★★★

Ian Schultz

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