Who knew that 1988’s Canadian cult creature feature ‘The Brain’ was actually a hidden holiday horror gem? Yep this monster movie from the opening scene has got Christmas decorations strewn all over the place and keeps up this trend for the full duration of the film. Christmas lights, trees, tinsel and Santa decorations are carefully placed in view. People every year search for those lost holiday horror gems and I’d say we can put ‘The Brain’ firmly in the “Takes place during the Christmas season” movies & if ‘Die Hard’ qualifies as a holiday film then this one certainly does as well!
Well is it worth the trouble to track down and check out this 2020 holiday season? YES! The Brain has everything I love in an 80’s horror flick. Cool likable characters, a wild giant rubbery monster, plenty of action and a ridiculous plot reminiscent of those classic 1950’s sci-fi creature features. Creepy ass Dr. Blakely (the dude from Re-Animator who loses his head-and does in The Brain too!) runs a seemingly normal TV show called “Independent Thinkers”, a popular weekly “self-help” program. However he’s not making his audience any wiser, he secretly serves an alien organism called The Brain, that brainwashes (duh!) the viewers using it’s other-worldy mind control techniques. It’s also got a hunger for human flesh & as it consumes it’s victims it also increases in size. The only one who stands to save the city and possibly the Earth is a wise crackin’ teenage practical joker and his super cute stylin’ girlfriend.
The Brain is a fun filled totally 80’s horror romp with plenty of action, cool villains and a rad slightly idiotic looking monster that’s brought to life via puppetry and animatronics. He’s kind of like giant hulking “Madball” toy from the 1980s. He attacks his victims with limited mobility as he “cruises” around on his snake-y bod. There’s also some cool kills that are unexpectedly sprinkled about the holiday landscape and rarely a dull moment to behold.
Most of the movie features our two main characters on the run and some of the settings are pretty sweet. I’m always a sucker for hiding out inside of an empty closed school all night! Easily one of my favorite places for mayhem to ensue. As I mentioned before, there’s enough holiday decor strewn about to warrant this one a watch during the Christmas season if you’re looking for something different this year. Besides that The Brain is a solid, entertaining, charming little monster movie that’s got a sweet release on blu ray from Scream Factory that looks great and has some cool little extras to give you tons of useless information on the the movies origins!
Been a movie watchin’ fiend lately & luckily most of the flicks, most of which I’d call largely forgotten cinema, have been surprisingly damn good! So listen up I’m gonna throw a bunch of short reviews for some films that are worth the trouble to track down if like me you’re looking for some lost gems! Let’s get on with this shit today we’ve got some great what I like to coin ‘John Hughes Horror’ in…
Night Life (1989)
First up let it be known this cool ass little movie was never officially released on dvd so it’s a tuff one to track down. You can hunt down a copy on vhs or like I did buy a bootleg copy of it on dvd from Ioffer.com, a great site for stuff like this. Anyway I wanna start off saying that this movie has Scott Grimes, that red headed kid from Critters 1&2 so it instantly had me there as I love those two movies. It’s essentially an 80’s teen high school bully movie with zombies. Scott Grimes or “Archie” in the movie, who channels a bit of Michael J. Fox, works at a mortuary for his jerky uncle (John Astin) and is bullied by four assholes (two preppy jock-y couples) from his school. Turns out he’s totally infatuated with one of the girls and the bullies quickly devise a plan to set him up on a “date” that ultimately destroys him teenage life. He’s also got an older lady pal, a cute local mechanic that he hangs out with all the time that he’s also crushed out on, who’s clearly put him in the friend zone. Ahh to be a teenager again…
Well one day those same four prepster bullies meet their demise in a horrible car crash, and of course Archie has to take them back to the mortuary. It seems though he’s in high school he accompanies the police to crimes scenes and is oddly in charge of the “dirty work” of dealing with the dead, I guess that shit flew back in the 80’s huh? Only problem is the four assholes become zombies when a bolt of lightning strikes the roof of the mortuary, something clearly foreshadowed earlier when a dead frog’s legs twitch when given an electrical charge by his science teacher. The nice thing here is these Zombies aren’t your mindless walkers, they’re more ruthless, cunning & have one clear driving their every move: to turn Archie into mince meat!! This begins a totally outrageous game of cat and mouse that plays out like a great extended episode of Tales From The Crypt in the best way.
The movie’s got a light hearted feel to it but isn’t afraid to get down and dirty when it needs to either. The zombie bullies use their newly acquired blood lust to carry out some pretty inventive on screen kills too. This may not be a traditional zombie apocalypse flick, but it’s one of the most unique and who needs more of the apocalypse anyway. Even in the 80’s that shit was overdone. Even way back in 89′ Tony Timpone of Fangoria praised it “the most original, off-beat & entertaining zombie films in years, a must see!”. I gotta agree it’s a ton of fun, has great stunts, cool fx, gore, rad looking zombies, sets & characters. Pretty much everything I love about the 80’s all wrapped into one. This one deserves an official release it’s definitely a lost gem. I’m pretty floored at how this movie doesn’t have more love these days, hopefully someone will clean it up and give it a proper release if you’re a fan of 80’s horror and those John Hughs-esque flick of that era you’ll find a lot here to love!! One last interesting tidbit here is that director David Acomba was one the two directors responsible for the infamously bad 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special!! But hey don’t hold that against him!!
There are movies way back from when I was a kid that I never thought would see the light of day on dvd. I’ve fond memories of going to the video store (back in the 1980’s when everything was VHS or Beta!) on the weekend and picking out movies with my friends on our parents video store cards. Mostly what I remember most are the amazing VHS box cover art from the 1980’s and how excited I was to get back home and watch the movies! We had to be sneaky around our parents because a lot of these movies they would’ve never allowed us to watch. It’s funny to, looking back because most of these movies we were sneaking around with were incredibly cheezy horror, action or sci-fi flicks that most people today think are nothing more than laughable cinema. To us though that shit was fully legit!
So years have passed and many of those flicks have been forgotten right? WRONG!! Thanks to Shout! Factory we are getting a LOT of those classic movies released now on DVD! I recently had some extra money to blow and found two movies I’d thought would remain on VHS only forever. However not only did they have them both on DVD but they also came with three other movies each that I have never seen before, but fondly remember their cover art from back in the 1980’s!! First up is one of my faves as kid, The Eliminators!
This movie was featured a couple times at our Bad Movie Nights we have here in Pdx and it delivers the goods above and beyond every damn time! If you are looking for the ultimate movie to get wasted with your friends and laugh (and love at the same time) this is IT!
The DVD of this one also includes three other movies which I have never seen, “Arena” from 1989, America 3000 from 1986 & The Time Guardian from 1989. So for a mere $9.99 you’ve got quite an exciting quadruple feature!!
Second I found that they released “The Dungeonmaster” from 1985 which was also one of my all time favorite movies as a kid. Being eleven years old and seeing this one for the first time back then was a real treat. The movie is downright ridiculous but it’s jammed to the brim with stop motion monsters, puppets, animatronics, crazy action, adventure, Richard Moll in a cloak & a rock and roll battle against the heavy metal band W.A.S.P.!
This one should really be viewed as a double feature with Eliminators but the DVD also features 3 other flicks two of which I have never seen before! “Cellar Dweller” from 1988 which is a pretty cool little monster flick, “Catacombs” and “Contamination 7” from 1993. So if you love those old video store movies of the 1980’s as much as I do but don’t have a VHS player or access to these on video do yourself a favor and spend some time exploring the Shout! Factory website!