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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Brain (Blu-ray)
The Brain (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // April 30, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted May 22, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
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Recommended
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The Brain:

Yet another movie in my storied list of titles I saw sitting on the video rental store shelf back in the day but could never bring myself to pull the trigger and rent, is The Brain, something like a David Cronenberg movie as written, produced, and directed by Full Moon Features' Charles Band. A cool image on the cover of the VHS box was enough to tell me what to expect back then, but 30 years on, the lure of that image finally reveals the goofy, minor splat-fest I always expected. This release, with a slate of nice extras, earns a Recommended rating for those who appreciate movies like Ghoulies, if you know what I mean.

Jim Majelewski (Tom Bresnahan) is a long-in-the-tooth high-schooler; too smart for his own good, he amuses himself with pranks and vandalism, earning a trip to the Psychiatric Research Institute, run by TV Shrink Dr. Blakely (the always amusing David Gale). Unfortunately, Jim soon learns Blakely is using his show, and the institute, to project into the brains of his fellow Canadians the psychic waves of an evil space brain. It's a fool-proof plan, clearly. Jim is framed for The Brain's murders, and chased through the city by PRI fixer Verna (played with grit and gravity totally unbefitting of the movie by George Buza).

The Brain struggles for a while to find a proper tonal balance before giving in to a groove of light peril and chainsaw murders. The title creature, ever-growing as its kills give it energy, is a bit on the rubbery side, but gives great face. It eventually gets so big it looks to be a giant Halloween mask strapped to a forklift. Tedious psychic tentacles bursting out of walls also finally cede the floor to unexpected gore and compelling chase scenes.

The Brain wants to be one thing, but is decidedly the other. Seeing itself as a cautionary horror tale, the movie comes off like Cronenberg-lite. Mind-control and thoughts made flesh (sort of) coupled with lots of modernist/brutalist Toronto architecture and empty spaces certainly influence that feeling, but the presence of genre-wacko David Gale, a giant rubber brain with a ghoulish face, and the use of triangle wipes to show the beastie's face in the scariest light, push the movie firmly into unintentional camp territory. Throw in a bunch of awesome ‘80s style and a handful of gory murders and you've got a movie that would have gone down perfectly on Night Flight, accompanied by a bunch of ditch-weed and Labatt's Blue. A healthy slate of extras and a good-looking transfer mean this release is Recommended for fans of bad horror.


The DVD

Video:
The Brain flies out at you from a terrifying triangle wipe in a 1.85:1 ratio 2k scan of the only surviving film elements. From the looks of it, those film elements were surviving on a trust fund somewhere on the French Riviera. A beautiful film-look sports natural grain, and bold, saturated colors. Details are sharp in the foreground, while softening normally back into the depths. Compression artifacts and other mastering problems can't be found, and the print elements themselves don't appear to have any damage.

Sound:
Audio is presented in a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track which is serviceable enough but not on a par with the film elements. Dialog is on the quiet side, while sometimes getting really quiet, which is irritating when some other element comes in really loudly, for no particular reason. (This doesn't happen often, but when it does, it's jarring.) Paul Zaza's score stands out nicely, and somehow manages to bridge the gap between the serious and more-outlandish plot elements. A little bit of hiss and damage can be heard at times throughout the movie.

Extras:
Extras are limited in breadth but substantive in scope. Four Interview Segments are presented, seemingly of the DIY variety (with no interviewer present, just the subject sitting in front of whatever camera they could muster). The interviews run from just about 12 to 13 minutes each, and include insights from John Campopiano, a super fan and film archivist, lead actress Cynthia Preston, film-heavy George Buza, and Michael Borthwick, the 1st assistant director. From those who worked on the movie, it becomes apparent why the film has the uneven tone it does. All interviews are otherwise compelling and well-worth the look.

A 3-minute Stills Gallery delivers the BTS shots, while Three Commentary Tracks deliver the rest! Individual tracks feature director Ed Hunt, composer Paul Zaza, and lead actor Tom Bresnahan. Each track is moderated, and each carefully prizes out much information about the individuals' lives and careers, as well as details about their involvement in The Brain. Each track is also fun and enlightening in the function of revealing different personalities, and approaches to the movie.

Final Thoughts:
The Brain wants to be one thing, but is decidedly the other. Seeing itself as a cautionary horror tale, the movie comes off like Cronenberg-lite. Mind-control and thoughts made flesh (sort of) coupled with lots of modernist/brutalist Toronto architecture and empty spaces certainly influence that feeling, but the presence of genre-wacko David Gale, a giant rubber brain with a ghoulish face, and the use of triangle wipes to show the beastie's face in the scariest light, push the movie firmly into unintentional camp territory. Throw in a bunch of awesome ‘80s style and a handful of gory murders and you've got a movie that would have gone down perfectly on Night Flight, accompanied by a bunch of ditch-weed and Labatt's Blue. A healthy slate of extras and a good-looking transfer mean this release is Recommended for fans of bad horror.

- Kurt Dahlke

~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com

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