Brain Dead
Breaking Glass Pictures // Unrated // $21.99 // October 5, 2010
Review by Bill Gibron | posted December 24, 2010
M O V I E
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A U D I O
E X T R A S
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A D V I C E
Recommended
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
The Product:
Back when he more or less single-handedly invented the slapstick splatter horror comedy (with his brilliant Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn), Sam Raimi could not have imagined the impact his genre jumping gem would have. It influenced a generation of likeminded moviemakers, individuals who would go on to rule Middle Earth (and eventually, the cinematic world) and amiable outsiders like LBP's crazy Chris Seaver. Yet what even the most reverent follower sometimes forgets is that there is more to the filmic type than buckets of blood and bad jokes. It's all about attitude, about taking the piss out of the horror movie archetypes while staying solidly within their dread and doom dynamics. That's something a little flick like Brain Dead could and should have remembered. The otherwise interesting scary movie spends so much time on the sluice and satire that it completely forgets the most important part of the picture - the terror...as well as the careful consideration of all parts of the celluloid prototype.

The Plot:
A couple of rednecks are out fishing. A piece of space junk falls from the sky and imbeds itself in one of their heads. One jump cut later and we get a weird alien zombie thing gouging out eyes and hungry for brains. It heads to a local forest to go on a rampage. In the meantime, a pair of criminals are being transported to a prison outside of town. A flat tire gives them a chance to escape into - you guessed it...the same woods. Elsewhere, a preacher and his buxom assistant are trapped in said glen when their car "accidentally" crashes into a tree. Along the way, they all run into a lesbian hiker and her equally endowed pal, each one lost and looking for help. They all hole up in a remote cabin, bickering with each other until something more sinister arrives. They end up battling off what seems to be a bunch of head chomping monsters. Turns out, there is a thick black slug like ooze infecting the residents, an extraterrestrial beastie hell-bent on consuming as much gray matter as possible.

The DVD:
Don't get confused - this is not some long-awaited reissue update of the Peter Jackson classic Dead Alive. While they do share a similar title (Mr. LOTR had to change the name of his movie because of a bland Bill Pullman effort with a similar moniker) and love of all things bloody, this indie effort couldn't be more different. For one, writer Dale Gelineau and director Kevin Tenney are not out to make a scary splatterfest. No, instead, they have crafted a halfway decent comedy combining a love of all things gratuitous and gory with a quip filled experiment in black humor. In between the decapitations and vivisections, the black ooze and fake boobs, we get characters who press all the proper urbane irony buttons, building an agreeable case of goodwill for a film that often forgets to be something other than a resume reel for all involved. There are passages in this 90 minute exercise in unevenness where the grue just disappears and, in its place, we get endless conversations where cutesy smarm substitutes for intrigue. In some ways, Brain Dead plays like Patton Oswalt riffing on fake silicon gazongas while Gallagher sits off to the sidelines and smashed skulls all over the audience.

One does have to point out that the head wounds are wonderfully icky, well done and as autopsy like as a Tom Savini circa Day of the Dead. Thanks to the advances in technology, amputated limbs and other injuries also have a relatively realistic feel. Sure, the fright mask make-up is straight out of Dick Smith's school of pancake and appliances, but for the most part, we don't care about the creatures. We just want more and more gore, and when it decides to deliver, Brain Dead does not let us down. But unlike the aforementioned work of Mr. Jackson, Tenney and company believe that less is more - a lot less. They meter out the mess in small dribs and drabs, never giving us the kind of Grand Guignol grandeur of something like Lionel Cosgrove running around his zombie-filled home with a running upturned lawn mower. In fact, when juxtaposed against some of the better splatter epics of the last decade, this movie comes up short. Sure, it has some very impressive sequences - very impressive indeed. It's just a shame that there are so few of them.

And then there is the boobies. Look, let's get one thing straight right up front - when you have actresses more than willing to drop blou (and in one case, trou) for the camera, why not monopolize on said exploitation. A couple of carnal glimpses is fine, but in a genre that aches for as much blood, beasts, and bosoms as possible, a small amount of skin just won't cut it. We want ample flesh - and as much of it as possible. Even if they are over-inflated by a high paid surgeon, the 'snatches' of Mommy Bags we see here has one screaming for further explorations. But just like the gore, Tenney takes the opportunity to substitute jokes for jugs, and our onanistic urges are once again thwarted. Honestly, the comedy here is very fresh and funny, coming across as playful and part of the overall concept for the narrative. But we would like a little variety with our punchlines, and the infrequent nipple or random head splat is not enough. If it's a question of balance, Brain Dead is all out of whack. It's more concerned about being humorous than horrifying, and in many cases, that can work. Here, there's so much ancillary potential that the focus on the funny business causes a creative inequity. It's still a good time. It could have been so much better.

The Video:
Though Brain Dead is currently available on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures, the company decided to send a Screener to DVD Talk. Therefore, without final specs in both the technical and added content areas of the packaging, no score can or will be given. If final product ever does arrive, it will be graded in accordance with site guidelines.

The Audio:
Though Brain Dead is currently available on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures, the company decided to send a Screener to DVD Talk. Therefore, without final specs in both the technical and added content areas of the packaging, no score can or will be given. If final product ever does arrive, it will be graded in accordance with site guidelines.

The Extras:
Though Brain Dead is currently available on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures, the company decided to send a Screener to DVD Talk. Therefore, without final specs in both the technical and added content areas of the packaging, no score can or will be given. If final product ever does arrive, it will be graded in accordance with site guidelines.

Final Thoughts:
While it may not be fair to criticize a horror comedy for being too clever and comical, that's the big issue with Brain Dead. The jokes comes a mile a minute. The gore and girlies - not so much. In fact, had it found a way to put all the elements of a successful splatter satire in perfect equilibrium, the filmmakers would find themselves wallowing dangerously close to "classic" territory - that's how much unused potential this movie possesses. Still, even in a Screener setting, the overall experience earns an easy Recommended rating. You'll want more breasts and blood, but the final product will be more pleasing than problematic. Nearly thirty years ago (yeah...THAT long ago), a mild mannered Michigan kid and his pals came up with a Three Stooges-inspired way of making horror hilarious. Since then, we've had to put up with a lot of imitators and inspirations. Brain Dead is a bit of both. Too bad it wasn't more of a couple other things as well.



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