The Brain

By Adam Lippe

In the history of fantastic bad ideas, none may seem as foolhardy as the fact that Ed Hunt, the director of the schlocky Canadian horror film The Brain, originally intended for the titular character, an alien from outer space encased in gelatinous goo who wants to use TV to brainwash the human race, the ability to talk. This is not a comedic-musical featuring a giant Venus Flytrap such as in Little Shop of Horrors. This isn’t even a bunch of hyper-intelligent apes intent on taking over San Francisco (making sure they dress appropriately in a stylish sweater and jeans combo) as in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. No, The Brain is a movie where… Well, wait a minute. What if I had an opportunity to actually interview The Brain? Maybe he could talk all along and Ed Hunt thought better of it, or maybe believed that The Brain’s enormous intellect might overwhelm the audience…

Adam Lippe: So, Mr. Brain, I want to thank you for consenting to an interview. I know you’re a busy entity, and you have some mind control to get to.

The Brain: Indeed, I have many other things I could be doing, so you best hurry this along.

AL: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you the most basic question, because it isn’t at all clear in the film. What is it exactly that you want? What do you gain from having humans commit suicide and attacking each other? Is it because there are more of you waiting in the wings?

TB: As if I would tell you my plans! I gave strict instructions to keep my motivations vague in the film. Next question…

AL: Okay then. So, there isn’t much to go on in terms of your origins, other than that you were designed by the same team that put together the effects for Aliens and The Fly. You do look a lot more rubbery than I had expected though, especially during the sequences where you move around and-

TB: I resent the accusation that I was “created” by anyone! I may have been “inspired by” certain pre-existing elements in a similar way that you humans were. Of course, my composition is a lot more complex and infinitely more efficient.

AL: When you say inspired by, do you mean like the scenes where you attack the hero Jim Majelewski, rather, he has hallucinations while in his car that your tongue is controlling his steering wheel causing him to wreck? That seemed indebted to A Nightmare on Elm Street. And the whole notion of alien mind control using television as a middle man is not particularly new, whether it is from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome or John Carpenter’s They Live.

TB: First of all, Mr. Hunt had no knowledge of They Live, as that was released the same year as his biography of me. Second, I think you’re just using the fact that we shot in Canada and some of the crew members worked on The Fly to connect us to Cronenberg.

AL: No, I’d say that apart from the occasional accents that slip, there are other connections to Cronenberg. What did seem strange was for a film so obviously not made in the US, were the attempts to pretend it was. Like that dialogue where Jim is being chastised by his school’s principal (or was it his guidance counselor, a lot of the details are fudged in the early scenes), “you’re not an American. You’re a teenager.” Well, he’s neither a teenager nor an American.

TB: I don’t know much about how your schooling works, but on my planet we complete our studies long before we reach the age of 25, which appears to be the age Jim is. By the way, I found it unfortunate that Mr. Hunt spends so much time with Jim. It is my story, not his.

AL: I have to agree with that, Jim is an arrogant twerp, none-too-likable and I have to admit I was rooting for you throughout the film. As for what you asked earlier about Cronenberg, it’s not just the hospital sterility and the Canadian locations, but even the way the buildings are designed, it all looks and feels like Scanners or one of his very early shorts like Crimes of the Future. And the fact that the surrogate you use to communicate with the public is a figure played by Re-Animator’s David Gale, who seems clearly based on Videodrome’s Brian O’Blivion, especially with his very “un-realness.”

TB: Now you’re just spouting nonsense. Mr. Gale, who portrayed Dr. Blakely, wasn’t my surrogate, he was my vessel, but he was still a dope who could be convinced that running a show called Independent Thinking that was about the exact opposite wouldn’t seem suspicious. Well, suspicious to anyone with my brain power. Besides, Dr. Blakely is an exaggeration, a composite of real-life characters that Mr. Hunt had to combine for time.

AL: And for fear of a lawsuit?

TB: It never would have made it to trial. But to explain all of the little details would have expanded the running time to an interminable length for those with a human level of patience.

AL: But you said yourself that your kind was more concise than ours, which doesn’t explain why you let Mr. Hunt pad out the running time with so many chase scenes of people running down endless hallways.

TB: Well, I didn’t have final cut.

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By Adam Lippe

Whenever there’s a genre parody or ode to a specific era of films, such as Black Dynamite’s mocking of Blaxploitation films or Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, the second half of Grindhouse, the danger is that the film might fall into the trap of either being condescending without any particular insight, or so faithful that it becomes the very flawed thing it is emulating.

Black Dynamite has nothing new to say about Blaxploitation films, it just does a decent job of copying what an inept [...]

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Featured Quote (written by me)

On Cold Fish:

Though the 16 year old me described the 1994 weepie Angie, starring Geena Davis as a Brooklyn mother raising her new baby alone, as “maudlin and melodramatic,” Roger Ebert, during his TV review, referring to the multitude of soap-operaish problems piling up on the titular character, suggested that it was only in Hollywood where Angie would get a happy ending. “If they made this movie in France, Angie would have shot herself.”

Well Cold Fish was made in Japan, where Angie would have shot herself and that would have been the happy ending.