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  Borrower, The Heads You Lose
Year: 1991
Director: John McNaughton
Stars: Rae Dawn Chong, Don Gordon, Tom Towles, Antonio Fargas, Neil Giuntioli, Larry Pennell, Pam Gordon, Tony Amendola, Robert Dryer, Richard Wharton, Bentley Mitchum, Zoe Trilling, Tamara Clatterbuck, Tom Allard, Tracy Arnold, Mädchen Amick
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: This alien criminal has been found guilty of terrible crimes, and has to be punished, so the next time he awakens he realises there's something different about him: he has been given a new, human body so he can blend in with the natives as he is banished to that primitive outpost of savagery, Planet Earth. He is furious with this decision, and even more furious that this new body has a tendency to destabilise, so when he is beamed down onto somewhere in the woods outside Los Angeles he does his best to beat up his guard - but then has a helping hand from a couple of hunters.

After he directed the notoriously grim cult classic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer John McNaughton it wasn't given a proper release for a year or so, therefore in the interim he helmed this sci-fi horror flick for Cannon. Unfortunately for him, The Borrower was caught up in the morass of that studio's financial worries come the end of the eighties, and when it finally did get out two years after filming it was to a handful of late night cinema dates and a limited release on home video. Yet such was the power of his Henry movie that fans of that were understandably curious to see where he had gone next, making this a must-see for some movie buffs.

What they would find if they actually did track it down was not something that lived up to the promise of his previous effort, but curiously you could perceive echoes of the social conscience and concern for the forgotten members of society here, as had been the harrowing focus of Henry. Yet at the same time, this was a daft, splashy gore movie who raison d'etre was apparently to offer the audience the sight of an alien monster who tears the heads off his victims to replace the faulty one which he has formerly been wearing, and wearing out for that matter. The limitations of this being the only way to achieve that effect was to have a different actor play the Borrower depending on whose head he was wearing.

There was a sort of similarity to The Hidden, a bigger cult movie of the eighties, and no similarity whatsoever to Mary Norton's classic children's book about tiny people The Borrowers, but as it played this was as much a patchwork of elements as the title character. Fortunately there was a tough cop on the case, and she was Diana Pierce (Rae Dawn Chong) who we first meet dressed in a bright red power suit to show she means business, as if shooting a sleazebag criminal in the leg during her first scene wasn't evidence enough. However, most of the time we were watching whichever actor was playing the monster as he wandered weirdly around downtown L.A., to all intents and purposes a random homeless guy with some kind of difficulty.

Making this something of an ensemble piece, but if that cast was not the only reason to watch, at least you had the novelty of Antonio Fargas and Tom Towles sharing scenes together when they could have been brothers if they weren't different races. And then Towles takes his head off and replaces it with Fargas's, to add to the strangeness. But what of that serious mentality, at odds with the cheesy headripping? That entered into it at regular intervals as say, one witness's crazy testimony about what they have seen happening is treated by McNaughton as if the problem of telling someone that there really is something unbelievable that has freaked them out was up there (or down there) with the troubles of the homeless. The mood of a community, a country even, which was heading down the dumper and few were willing to try and stem the flow was emphasised, but was an ungainly fit with the running about and bloodshed, offering a film that may have been easy to categorise on the surface, but was otherwise an oddity.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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