Friday, July 20, 2012

Brain Dead (1990)

I’ll give credit where credit is due. Adam Simon is able to handle Charles Beaumont’s trippy script and make sure the plot makes sense. “Brain Dead” is one of those films that is a mind warp. It’s intention is to send the viewer on a psychedelic journey into madness and it does just that. Best of all, Simon is able to confuse the audience, but make everything tie together nicely. Most directors simply hurl content haphazardly at the audience simply because they can.

The only problem is I didn’t care. By the time the craziness strolled around, I myself felt like I was going through a lobotomy. I’ll admit, Simon did his best to hook me back in. I went from a comatose state of boredom to a drifting stupor. Not much of an improvement, but at least I was paying attention. That’s better than nothing, I suppose.

The film opens with Dr. Rex Martin (Bill Pullman) being approached by his old college roommate, Jim Reston (Bill Paxton), to help him out with a case at the Hillside Mental Institution. That’s right, both Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton are in a film together. Those of the belief that they are the same person will have their minds blown (at least somebody will). One of Jim’s partners, Jack Halsey (Bud Cort), went insane and murdered his wife and children. Reston doesn’t care about this, but of the information he’s holding in his brain for a project he was working on. He needs Rex, a successful brain surgeon, to perform a lobotomy on him and extract the information from him.

Sounds simple enough. For the first half of the film, it is. Nothing kooky or strange occurs. Bill Pullman slogs his way through the proceedings, seeming bored out of his mind (I could relate). Bill Paxton seems as if he’d rather be anywhere else. Bud Cort, on the other hand, brings an eccentric charm to his performance. He’s the only person who seemingly wants to be on set and livens up the proceedings. Granted, Pullman does get energized once the wackiness kicks in. By then, it’s too little too late.

Which is the best way to describe how I felt once said wackiness occurred. I won’t go into full detail of what transpires, as to not ruin it for those of you who still want to see this film. Let’s just say Rex Martin isn’t who he thinks he is and Jack Halsey may or may not exist. Jim Reston is still portrayed as a slimy bastard, though.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t appreciate this half of the film. I applaud Adam Simon for making the trip bizarre, yet comprehensible. I also applaud him for harkening back to events from earlier in the film. I know he found Beaumont’s script at a garage sale, so I’m pretty certain he tweaked to his liking. Whether or not that is the case, he’s responsible for wisely connecting every twist, all the while putting the viewer in Martin’s shoes. When he’s confused, we’re confused. We never know anything more than he does.

I’ll even admit that the ending is exceptional. It’s slightly unpredictable and makes sense in the grand scheme of things. This too is a task many directors fail to accomplish when dealing with a mindfuck such as this. As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, I’ll give credit where credit is due.

All the credit in the world still won’t allow me to give this film a positive review. This isn’t a highly negative review, mind you. Simply a lukewarm one. For all that’s good in the second half, there was nothing in the first half to hook me. If you can’t hook me from the start, it’ll be an uphill battle to draw me in near the end. Simon gives a valiant effort, but slips and falls.

MVT: Bud Cort. He’s the only actor in the film who felt he wanted to be there (the entire time). I enjoyed his performance and he was a welcome surprise.

Make or Break: The first half itself. It all drags and did nothing but push me away. Simon may have grabbed me from falling, but he never fully pulled me back in.

Final Score: 5.5/10

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