Blu-ray Review: The Brain



During the Golden Age of VHS, the shelve that wrapped around the cassette tape was everything when it came to unknown titles. While browsing the shelves of Videorama or Dave’s Videodrome, the cover illustration would grab your attention. But people of the 20th Century didn’t have cellphones with internet access to figure out if the obscure horror movie was worth a $3 rental. There was no quick Googling the reviews for these films that hadn’t spent millions on TV advertising for their theatrical release. You hadn’t a clue if they even played theaters. You had to flip over to the back of the box to get the real information. The biggest thing that could make a person risk a rental was recognizing a familiar name and being able to relate it back to a similar film. In the case of The Brain, there could be no greater sign of approval that seeing that David Gale was playing the lead since he was in The Re-Animator. If Gale was involved, it had to be as equally messed up. And The Brain was.

Dr. Blake (Gale) is becoming the Dr. Phil of Canada with his TV series Independent Thinking. Families sit around the set and absorb his well meaning advice. But something is off. During the show a teen girl goes up to her room and freaks out. Tentacles bust through her tiny television. She stabs at the beast only to discover it’s really her mother trying to help her. Jim Majelewski (Tom Bresnahan) gets in trouble in high school when a prank goes right and causes a lot of damage. Instead of going to jail, the school sends him to Dr Blake’s Psychological Research Institute because they think his Independent Thinking technique is amazing. Turns out the Jim doesn’t respond well to the treatment and quickly discovers the disturbing secret to Dr. Blake’s technique. He’s harnessed the mind control power of an alien that looks like a giant green brain with eyes and mouth. Jim needs to escape and warn everyone. But how can he run from a creature that’s taken up space in his mind?

The Brain is the kind of film that would play beautifully in a triple feature with David Cronenberg’s Scanners and Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case. There’s plenty of paranoia and chasing to keep the tension going for the full running time. Like all of Cronenberg’s best, this Canadian film was made when there was snow on the ground. Like Basket Case, the monster at the core of The Brain ought to look goofy, but they figured out a way to make it look really creepy. You’re not laughing at it like a Corman creation from the ’50s. This is a messed up monster with nasty teeth and tentacles that controls your thoughts. The Brain is that it has a sense of humor without turning into campiness. The film has gained a certain sense of depth from when it debuted in 1988 because we’ve witnessed loved ones get addicted to certain TV channels that really do alter their outlook on life. You question their reality and group think desires as they remained glued to the same station all day long. The Brain is one of those films you took a chance with when you found it on the shelf and was repaid immediately when you could call up a buddy on a landline to say, “You can’t believe this movie I just saw with the guy from Re-Animator and a Brain monster!”

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer is a 4K Scan Of The Original Negative. You’ll get all the details in the creature and the snow all over the ground from the Canadian locations. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio Mono. The mix is right and clear so you can hear what the Brain is doing on screen. The movie is subtitled.

Audio Commentaries have three solo efforts with Director Ed Hunt, Composer Paul Zaza and actor Tom Bresnahan each tell their tales of what went on with The Brain.

Canada On The Mind (11:17) is an interview with actress Cynthia Preston. She started as a model. She overcame her shyness and has had a very long acting career in movies and television show. She recently appeared on Jack Ryan.

From Monster Kid To Monster Man (12:33) gets behind the career of actor George Buza. He’s been a mainstay of Canadian TV on Maniac Mansion and Red Green Show. What’s amazing is he’s from Cleveland. He charts his trek North of the border. He talks about how the final day of shoot lasted 36 hours because if they wrapped, they would have lost their production insurance. He speaks of working with David Gale.

Brain Art (12:52) gets a chat going with Assistant Art Director Michael Borthwick. He grew up loving monster movies. He used to build Classic Universal Monster models with his father. As a kid he made a 8mm film about Six Million Dollar Man with his pals and he got to work on one of the Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman reunion movies. He talks about getting to work in the art department for making the Brain works. He speaks about

Food For Thought: A Love Letter To The Brain (11:21) is the tale of how John Campopiano rented the VHS tape from American Video and re-rented it until he bought a copy. He goes beyond just forcing friends to watch when he started meeting the filmmakers and the locations.

Still Gallery (3:49) shows how The Brain was constructed.

Scream Factory presents The Brain. Directed by Edward Hunt. Screenplay by: Barry Pearson. Starring: David Gale, Tom Bresnahan, Cynthia Preston and George Buza. Rated: R. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: April 30, 2019.

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