“I never killed anyone. I’m just a high school student!”
On the outskirts of the generic American suburb of Meadowvale (in actuality Mississauga, Ontario) sits the looming Psychological Research Institute, run by one Dr. Anthony Blake (David Gale of Re-Animator), an impassive authoritarian who also hosts a popular local TV show Independent Thinkers.
Dr. Blake espouses the cure for modern teen alienation to hundreds of stay-at-home Hausfrauen who religiously watch his show.
Unbeknownst to them, the doctor has a gigantic, slimy, tentacled brain swimming in a tank of fluorescent green fluid hidden deep in the catacombs of The Institute (the PRI) — one which is transmitting hypnotic waves over the airwaves in order to control and brainwash viewers into committing heinous acts. And of course, Meadowvale has experienced an inexplicable rash of murders and suicides of late. Plus, the mad-scientist-cum doc has plans to take his show national and then global! This nefarious plan forms the backbone of the delicious slice of 80s gruyère known as The Brain.
Jim Majalewski is your typical, rebellious high school senior. His grades are stellar but he just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. After a particularly messy prank, school administrators give Jim an ultimatum: either he gets suspended and doesn’t graduate or he goes to PRI to submit to the pseudo-science of Dr. Blake.
At PRI, a beautiful blonde doctor places electrodes onto Jim’s temples which are actually connected to the giant brain.
Blake enters the room and asks Jim what he sees. Supposedly, Jim is meant to see an apple as a baseball, but he is able to resist the hypnotic suggestion which infuriates the Brain. Instead, Jim sees the blonde doctor topless and has visions of a slimy face not dissimilar to the ones in the Ghoulies.
Back in the lab, the blonde doctor expresses reservations about the activities of Dr. Blake. In response to this insolence, the giant brain leaps out of its tank and onto her face. After a brief (and hilarious) struggle, the brain consumes the doctor whole, doubles in size and grows a face exactly like the one Jim envisioned.
Racing away from the lab, Jim hallucinates a tentacle reaching out from the steering wheel, causing his car to flip in mid-air. Jim is able to crawl out from the wreckage almost completely unscathed, save a trickle of blood from his forehead. He shambles to the burger shack where his girlfriend Janet and his best bud Willie work. Unfortunately, Blake’s hulking assistant is out looking for Jim and beheads a cop in the process. Due to hypnotic suggestion, the town believes Jim is responsible for that murder and others, so he must evade capture while also attempting to stop the mad Dr. Blake and his ever-growing, ever-more voracious Brain from brainwashing the town and ultimately the world! Plus he needs to graduate high school – and maybe get a little something on the side from Janet too…
The Brain is definitely a product of it’s times.
Good, goofy, straight-to-video fun with a healthy sense of its own ludicrousness. The enormous Brain is a practical effects wonder — all squishy latex and slime with a demonic face, gigantic spinal column and gnashing, razor teeth. The film borrows elements from the far superior Videodrome and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, not to mention 50s creature features, and purees it into something ridiculous but also ridiculously fun. Like many other films of its time, there’s a smattering of gore, but not enough to cause any serious revulsion.
They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
*** (out of 5)
[For more gray matter-related stuff, check out our podcast of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die ]