Saturday, 17 November 2012

Brain Dead

"Brain Dead" (1990, Adam Simon, Concorde, Charles Beaumont) is not to be confused with "Braindead", the zombie film from 1992 by Peter Jackson! This "Brain Dead" is more of a psychological brain trip.

A strange film, it stars Bill Pullman as Dr. Rex Martin, a neurosurgeon with a passion for brains and personalities, but not really for people themselves. He's studying causes of mental illness through brain analysis. It involves a lot of brains in jars and strange electric probes.

His good friend Jim Reston (Bill Paxton), a businessman for a large corporation called Eunice, manages to talk him into operating on a genius, John Halsey (Bud Cort), who has lost his mind and now resides in a mental asylum after murdering his family. Eunice want to retrieve some information from Halsey, or failing that, reduce Halsey to a state where he is unable to accidentally let this information slip; i.e. they want him brain dead.

It isn't until Martin begins to delve into the mind of Halsey that he begins to question his own mental state, which could result in dire consequences! From there on in the film goes from a 'mad scientist plot' to more of a 'descending into madness' plot, as we follow Martin on his trip from surety of reality, to questioning his very existence!

This film is very odd and dreamlike, keeping you kind of in a guessing state as you try to decipher what the hell is going on, but it has a fair amount of gruesome qualities and some seriously questionable medical practices! These include some open head surgery, brains in jars, murder, lobotomies, brutality in mental asylums, vintage insanity treatments and paraphernalia... There is enough to this film to keep it going as a 'horror' as well as a psychological thriller. Although the plot wanders a bit and it falls into the constantly waking from a dream trap which often plagues outlandish horror plots.

It comes from the mind of the writer from "The Twilight Zone", and this shows. But he'd been deceased for a while by the time this film was made, so you can't be sure how true to his script the finished product really was! Dated (it feels very 80s) and relatively low budget, this odd film really entertained me, however.

Pullman, Paxton and Cort really give a great performance as eccentric and slightly morally corrupt 'good' guy, cold hearted corporate puppet and completely screwy genius. Cort also appears sometimes as a sane man, giving his insane performance something to compare against. Which I enjoyed. The two Bills are excellent in their respective roles and really make this film watchable.

The effects and props are quite low budget but effective and some of the 'surgery' scenes made me squirm. Although strange and trippy, I would definitely watch this again. It's in the same vain as "The Man With The Screaming Brain", but with less of the purposefully outrageous plot lines (not that this film isn't in its own way, outrageous! There's just no robots or rapping Russians.).

Worth a try, but prepare to be confused and find yourself second guessing your own thoughts on the story!

Hani