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  Brain, The Grey SplatterBuy this film here.
Year: 1988
Director: Ed Hunt
Stars: Tom Bresnahan, Cynthia Preston, David Gale, George Buza, Christine Kossak, Bret Pearson, Bernice Quiggan, Susannah Hoffman, Justine Campbell, Robert King, Kenneth McGregor, Vinetta Strombergs, Richard Gira, Wendy Springate, Harry Booker, Steve Mousseau
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: There's a local television programme called Independent Thinking hosted by expert Dr. Anthony Blakely (David Gale) which seeks to help its viewers by virtue of the power of the mind, and as he announces on today's show they are about to go nationwide in a few weeks' time. But this might not be entirely helpful, as what the authorities and public do not know is the recent deaths in the area of Meadowvale - including a teenage girl stabbing her mother to death then throwing herself out of her bedroom window - are actually linked to the broadcast. And the reason for that is something very alien indeed...

The Brain was a Canadian horror movie, one of the low budget but ambitious efforts by American director up North Ed Hunt. This was to be his last work before dropping off the movie radar entirely, but he left behind a legacy of not much watched yet at times quite diverting productions in the fantastical vein, as here where it was clear he was imitating David Cronenberg, Canada's most celebrated director of a standard Hunt could only dream of achieving, judging by the eager but variable quality of his movies. Except that while this could be seen as Cronenberg Lite, he would not have made the villain in his movie be a large - and growing larger - disembodied brain. Sadly, Re-Animator's Gale was overshadowed by a big, toothy puppet.

Which is what the teens had to contend with here, our hero being Jim Majelewski (patently twentysomething Tom Bresnahan) who was something of a delinquent, so when we meet him he is getting into trouble for blowing up a toilet with sodium. Obviously Jim has to be redeemed, but to do so we have to see him placed in peril, so it is decided he must be packed off to the institute where Blakely and his pet alien brain lives and works from, his parents thinking he will be offered a treatment which can make the best of Jim's high I.Q. while calming his criminal tendencies - if not, he is forbidden from graduating, much to his indignation. But their good intentions go rather awry when their son ends up labelled a murderer.

He hasn't really killed anyone, it's just the creature framing him when his higher intelligence means he can hold off the brainwashing, though he still hallucinates like the previous victims, including seeing the assistant (Christine Kossak) topless for motives of gratuitous nudity. But mostly what he is fooled into seeing are tentacles, as the effects were cheerfully rubbery to say the least, and if the thought of getting caught by the tentacles is enough to being tears to your eyes, then that's not the half of it. Jim manages to escape the building and find his girlfriend Janet (Cynthia Preston), whereupon this turns into a couple on the run flick, more Invasion of the Bodysnatchers than Alfred Hitchcock it has to be said as the brain's influence spreads across the community.

Considering where it hailed from, this shared the same chilly, artificial look to many Canadian horror films that set it apart from the more down and dirty gore movies of the eighties: you couldn't exactly call it intellectual as Cronenberg was, but there was a light intelligence at work which recognised this was silly stuff but had a serious message about the nature of mass media turning its consumers into unthinking drones. Not that this went any further than putting its protagonist through yet more danger, but it was something to consider as you awaited the next setpiece as Jim finds himself hunted by the police, an axe-wielding male nurse who looks like British glam rocker Roy Wood without the makeup, and the odd obstacle such as the wife of his hated high school principal who splits her husband in two with a chainsaw and puts the blame on Jim. One of those days, evidently. The main highlight was that ever-expanding brain, which explained why Hunt was so keen to keep returning to it, leaving an amusing but middling shocker. Music by Paul Zaza.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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