VHS Spotlight: “The Brain”

Lots of great stuff in the very near future coming to LAHorror.com!  But until then, let’s take a look back to another classic VHS that still needs to be released on DVD!  Alex Ray has the scoop on “The Brain,” a horror flick that may be in your basement stash, and one that definitely deserves to be revisited!

VHS SPOTLIGHT: THE BRAIN

1988 * 94 minutes * International Video Entertainment * Directed by Edward Hunt

brain_01_150It’s often noted that politics seem to influence trends in horror. The Vietnam War ushered in an era of dark, cynical works like Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. George Dubya’s time in office saw the rise of torture porn. So what did the Reagan years give us? Films like Larry Cohen’s The Stuff and John Carpenter’s They Live were fairly obvious responses to rampant consumer culture and a general brainwashing of the masses. But there was another un-subtle jab that went under the radar of our thoroughly manipulated collective consciousness: The Brain.

Yep, I’m waxing allegorical about a movie featuring a giant, floating brain that chases teenagers down steam tunnels. While it disguises itself with all the B-horror tropes, it’s pretty easy to see the not-very-hidden message: David Gale (of Re-Animator and Syngenor—look it up!) hosts a TV show called “Independent Thinking,” while he colludes with an alien brain that, well, brainwashes people!

Tom Breznahan (of Ski School) plays a lovable troublemaker just trying to get through high school. Too bad his parents and teachers think he needs a little psychiatric intervention to get him on the right track. So our young prankster goes to Doc Gale, who seems to have just the prescription for all wayward teens (the brain hypnotizes them or something). But when he sees more than he’s supposed to, it’s Three Days of the Condor time for Tommy B.

It really does feel like more of a conspiracy thriller than a monster movie for a majority of the ninety-four minutes, but every so often there’s a slithering tentacle or a topless nurse to remind us of what we’re really watching—which I’m nearly sixty-seven percent sure was pitched as Nightmare on Elm Street meets Videodrome. From there it must have mutated a little (as did a lot of things in those two movies), until they settled on this wannabe Robert Redford vehicle with shades of hentai (maybe intentional; probably not).

Of course, the classics mentioned above aren’t the only ones brought to mind by The Brain (see what I did there?). It owes The Crazies at least half a doff of the cap, and there’s a great Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe to boot. Here’s a fun fact: M. Night Shyamalan took fifteen minutes of this movie and adapted it into his feature-length screenplay for The Happening, which, conversely, is one-sixth as entertaining.

Well, since I’ve now broken the record for number of movie titles referenced within a single review, I’ll hunker down and get serious. I really do like this movie. The story is compelling and generates a lot of momentum. Unlike with many teen horror flicks, we don’t spend the first act in a van, and the rest doesn’t hang on the suspense of guessing who will be next to hear a strange noise (not to cast aspersions; those movies are great, too). The characters are well-established early on, and then we’re off and running, all the way to the inevitable showdown with the brain—a proxy for any and all puppet masters behind politicians and spokespeople and celebrities. Yeah, this is deep stuff.

Not too deep, though. The subtext is pretty close to the surface at all times, and that’s kinda what makes it fun. The Brain really wears its heart on its sleeve—or its temporal lobe on its cerebral cortex, if you wanna get technical.

I proffer that this movie will only get more relevant, as our political and social landscapes get murkier and harder to navigate. It’s almost comforting to imagine that a big, alien, carnivorous brain might be responsible for all of society’s woes. Now that’s food for thought (yep, actual line!).

3 out of 4 stars

brain_02_150

VHS Spotlight is written by LAHorror.com contributor Alex Ray.

LA Horror Review: “Zombie Prom” – a FREE Horror Musical in Studio City, CA

Prom.  A night of wonder for some, and a night of horror for others!  And if you live in the Los Angeles area, then find a date and relive the memory at “Zombie Prom,” a totally kick ass late night horror musical that’s going on now!  We checked out the show and it’s ridiculous and hysterical.  It’s always great to see good horror theatre.

Zombie Prom Promo

The musical itself is…well, it’s “Zombie Prom.”  You feel me?  It’s upbeat, super energetic and has all of the stuff that makes a campy musical fun.  But director David Ruben doesn’t hold anything back and has created an interactive and ultra intimate theater experience that was an absolute pleasure to be watch.  The cast, lead by two heartthrobs in Reagan Osborne and Alli Miller, show some MAJOR chops with impeccable singing along with some serious choreography.  Each actor is fully committed and super talented – there really are some strong performances all around.  Some special props to actress Kate Bowman for being a ridiculously funny villain throughout.

Now, this is a musical, so expect a ton of singing and dancing and not much gore, but Director David Ruben definitely amps up the campiness with some classic horror influenced staging and direction.  Check out their promo video below to get a feel for the vibe!

We chatted with Director David Ruben to learn a bit more about the show, so check it horror lovers!

LAHorror:  David…”Zombie Prom.”  Where the hell did this come from?

David Ruben:  “Zombie Prom” is a hilarious, late night rock musical that premiered in the 90’s off Broadway with quite the underground following.  It spoofs B horror films, Hammer Films, and sci-fi flicks of the 50s and 60s with musical stylings of the period.   We decided to present the show because it’s just the type of material that develops into a nocturne/cult hit that audiences will eat up.

LAHorror:  What are your favorite zombie-related horror flicks?

DR:  I don’t have much of a background watching zombie flicks besides the original “Night of The Living Dead”, but I grew up watching a lot of the Hammer films and some of those old Roger Corman pictures.  Those films had an immense impact on how I approached a lot of the material in the musical.

LAHorror:  How is your cast?  Was your leading man excited to be playing a walking member of the undead?

DR:  The cast is 10 strong — 7 students, 1 zombie, a school principal, and a sleazy tabloid reporter.  All are local talent with immense enthusiasm and pluck.   The show is a whirlwind of theatrical efforts.  Shockingly, the musical is almost 80% sung.   I’ve yet to ask the leading man if he is excited to be a walking member of the undead, but I imagine he is.  He gets to be a zombie.  Who wouldn’t be excited?

LAHorror:  Why should horror fans come and check out your show??

DR:  A) Zombie.  B) Free.  C) Full Bar.  D) It’s awesome.  E) Did I mention zombie, free, and alcohol?

LAHorror:  Anything else you’d like to share about “Zombie Prom”?

DR:  We are doing the show free as a social experiment.  We asked the audiences to come and not pay because it’s a pain to pay for an event if you don’t know if you’ll like it or not.  At the end of the show we will ask our audiences to give us a few bucks if you liked what you say so we can continue to provide free theatre.  It’s our way of not pricing people out of seeing live entertainment.

The show is performing at Upstairs at Vittello’s in Studio City every Friday in March at 11:00 PM.   Tickets can be reserved my e-mailing zombiepromtickets@yahoo.com or by calling Vitello’s at (818) 769-0905.