Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Brain (1988) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
"Let's talk about teenage alienation." It's a great early line, and when delivered on television by a silver haired self-help guru in certain kind of Eighties movie, it promises a good time. Sure enough, minutes later the teenager upstairs is shrieking in terror as slimy tentacles smash through her bedroom walls to grab her. Confused Mom can't understand what's going on. It's all a hallucination, you see.
The man on the television is Dr Anthony Blakely (David Gale). He works at a psychiatric institute in a splendidly futuristic building on the edge of town. Hidden in its depths he keeps an alien life form known as the Brain which, somewhat obscurely, can control people's thoughts but has to communicate with its carers through what looks like a ZX Spectrum. It needs minds to feed on and has sinister plans for America, perhaps even the world. But when it meets leather jacketed teen rebel Jim (Tom Bresnahan), whose mind isn't always engaged, it finds itself in trouble.
Bresnahan, a graduate of the Stella Adler school, is really too good for this sort of thing but clearly loves it. His note-perfect B-movie performance is great fun to watch, even if Jim does sometimes come across as, well, just too nice to have been labelled with an attitude problem. Alongside him, Cynthia Preston is assured, albeit not quite as entertaining, as girlfriend Janet. Screaming on cue, she's a wholesome heroine, with a sultry turn by Christine Kossak relieving her of the need to strip for the VHS market. When you see her pullover, though, you might have an extra reason for wishing she would.
This film is Eighties to the max, right through to the amateurish electronic soundtrack that echoes (without equalling) the work of John Carpenter. Like a high school version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, it's cheerfully lurid throughout, self-aware but never tediously ironic. The concept of having the hallucinations happen only to people who can't receive the Brain's intended signal is an interesting one, playing out like a sort of reverse Videodrome, and some scenes clearly show the influence of Cronenberg. The low budget is apparent in every shot but good editng makes the best of what's available, giving even the cheesiest action sequences a degree of tension.
"We've got no budget - let's make a horror comedy" is a common idea in filmmaking and its results are usually dismal. The Brain, for all its crudity, is one of the ones that got away. Whilst it won't be everybody's thing, fans of the sub-genre will find it a treat.Reviewed on: 18 Jun 2012