4 More Days ’til Halloween: The Brain (1988)


“If we kill the brain, everything will go back to normal!”

Exactly! I recommend this therapeutic approach to watching today’s movie. In fact, I might be brain dead, but I happened to have had more fun watching this movie than any other I’ve posted this season. It has so many aesthetic elements I enjoy: bleak winter landscapes, suburban streets, natural lighting, strangely beautiful institutional architecture, an abundance of well framed long shots, and the color brown…lots of brown. At the same time, to my delight, it seamlessly combines this (very Canadian) aesthetic with a comparatively colorful homage to 50s/60s B-movies and 80s style teen comedies. Amazingly, it all works! Pure coziness on film! And a sweepy, fast paced narrative to boot, leaving no time but to feel good while watching…

The plot? An alien brain attempts to brainwash the people through a popular psychologist’s self-help television show and a teenage rebel with a high IQ is the only one who can stop him. That doesn’t do it justice though. Imagine David Cronenberg was hired to do a remake of THE BLOB, or an homage to 50s monster movies, during his late 70s heyday. That’s a better indication of what awaits you here. There are even direct references to VIDEODROME scattered throughout the movie. Indeed, as brainless as it wants to be, THE BRAIN is nonetheless inspired by the most intellectual of horror filmmakers.

Of course THE BRAIN is not nearly so brainless itself (such word play is abundant in the movie, get used to it). One could even call it prophetic in its depiction of a society that pathologizes teenagers as one would an illness (compared to casting them as alien enemies, or Commies, like a 50s B-movie). Of course teenagers and children are an “illness” that we exploit for entertainment, profit, and political leverage, but I can’t say that THE BRAIN gets into a more nuanced analysis of this issue (seeing as it was only just emerging in its current form around 1988).

I hesitate to mention it out of sensitivity to those who are currently suffering, but I prescribe a showing of THE BRAIN specifically in response to the most recent “school shooting” in Washington State. I haven’t been watching the news about it, but I’m sure everyone is going through their usual psychologically voyeuristic cycle of “tsk-tsk/isn’t it awful/my opinion matters/let’s control everyone/show me more blood” in order to “deal” with the tragic events. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the rate at which teenagers commit violence is going DOWN. The rate at which teenagers are getting pregnant is going DOWN. The rate at which teenagers use illegal drugs is going DOWN. Meanwhile, the rate at which teenagers are prescribed medication and subjected to a thousand other techniques for assuring their absolute submission to CONTROL is going up, up, UP!

Please, do not turn off THE BRAIN.


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