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The Brain (Blu-ray Review)

The cult classic, science fiction horror film hybrid from the 1980s known as The Brain is getting its Blu-ray due from the folks over at Scream Factory. While not officially labeled or brand stamped a “collector’s edition”, this release come loaded with new commentaries and interviews with cast and crew produced by Justin Beahm’s Reverend Entertainment. This release is even showcasing a brand new 4K transfer from the original film negative. They appear to have gone to pretty good lengths to make this Blu-ray pretty special. You’ll be able to add this to your collection when it arrives April 30th!

 

Film 

Imagine a pulsating mass of grey matter, exploding in size in size and strength as takes control of human minds and devours human bodies. It could never happen, right? Just watch Independent Thinking, starring Dr. Anthony Blakely (Gale), a hot new TV program. But as the show’s ratings continue to soar, so does the suicide and murder rate among its viewers. What they don’t know is that Dr. Blake has teamed with an alien brain and plans to gain control of all humanity.

The Brain is a tried and true cult classic. Its a perfect capsule of everything one loves about 80s horror films while also lovingly looking to the horror yesteryear for its story. From some chilling thrills to monster action to gore to a masterful display of practical effects, the movie really is EVERYTHING. And overall, its just a pretty solid horror film.

Ed Hunts film has a hand in some radioactive-esque terror to go along with the evil behind the authority that used to be common among classic horror films many decades before it. It has a little bit of a Body Snatchers kinda vibe to its thematics. The film plays quite good and has all the trappings and nail-biiting/angering fun that come with a paranoia tale. The film is  very short, but there is a little bit of time somewhere around the first hour mark that gets a little plodding. It does finish strong though.

What really rocks about the film is the impressive gore and creature effects on display for the film and its unrelenting spirit to take whatever out on whoever. Yes, the film is all practical and sure there are times where you might be able to “tell”, but this film has done an incredibly great job in belief and making the audience buy into everything that’s going on and the work being done really does feel like its come to life and is living, breathing. The Brain definitely has been studying up on Cronenberg and compliments his craft in only the best of ways.

For me, The Brain is in the hall of fame as one of those video store oddities in the horror section from the golden days of rentals. The surprising thing is that as campy or outrageous as it can be, its pretty compelling too and a very competently made film. Its not only a lot of fun, its pretty effective in its many areas as well. In a time where a lot of questionable stuff was coming out that we retroactively find fun now, this one gets to be the best of both.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Scream Factory’s debut of The Brain boasts a 4K scan of the original negative. This is a beautiful looking image and I was pretty impressed right from the get go. It hangs out right up there with the Scream Factory transfer done on Silent Night Deadly Night. The image is quite clear and crisp. Details are very rampant with a wonderful palette on display. People will probably scoff reading this review at the praise until its available for everyone to check out on their own, however 😉

Depth:  The Brain’s image is very spacious, with a surprising 3 dimensional look to it. The backgrounds look pushed back plenty far and there is good spacing between characters and objects and backdrops. Motion is smooth and natural with no motion distortions showing in rapid action sequences.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and very close to natural looking for a standard Blu-ray. Rarely are details ever lost and no crushing was witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors are plenty bold and really jump off the screen if they feel right. Blues and reds are quite strong. Blood comes on really rich.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent start to finish. Facial features and textures come through clear as day from any given distance. Details The Brain itself are slimy and impressive.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: When you click play on The Brain, you hear the sound like a needle hitting vinyl record to start. It does carry a bit of an analog hiss with some slight pops throughout like a record would. Overall this is a bit of a lighter end track, but its has a nice balance on it, and it gets the job done well enough with a solid layering and overall full sound on the effects.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and do come with a little bit of a hiss on them. Set a hair low in the mix but nothing to truly complain about.

Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With director Ed Hunt
  • With composer Paul Zaza
  • With actor Tom Bresnahan

Food for Thought: A Love Letter to The Brain (HD, 11:21) – The director of the Pet Sematary documentary (Unearthed & Untold), Joe Campopiano, gives us his story about his lifelong passion for The Brain. From obsessively renting it as a kid, learning more of the movie from badmovies.org to getting in touch with Ed Hunt and becoming pen pals (Netting him some sweet production memorabilia). This isn’t just a “this guy likes this movie” type thing. He LOOOOOOVES this movie and shares many of his collectibles to go with his stories of searching for more from is favorite film.

Canada on the Mind: Cynthia Preston On The Brain (HD, 11:17) – An interview with actress Cynthia Preston. She opens by sharing her love for drawing and warms up with going over her modeling career and start of her acting career (A TV movie with Tom Skeritt).  Through the production, she had a lot of fun and talks of a time where she gave director Ed Hunt “sass” about a crying scene. Preston talks the impressive practical effects and how fun and funny they were to work with. She’s pretty grateful for both the film and its fans.

From Monster Kid to Monster Man: George Buza on The Brain (HD, 12:33) – An interview with actor George Buza. Sometimes petting his cat during the interview, Buza starts where he found his love of acting and where he studied. He talks about working on the film and mentioned their final “day” of shooting was actually 36 hours of straight shooting so no one could pull the plug on a technicality. He shares plenty of on set stories (Like finding fake blood still in his inner ear weeks after filming) and some good laughs.

Brain Art (HD, 12:52) – An interview with 1st assistant art director Michael Borthwick. He talks growing up loving monsters during the “monster culture” that was going on back in the day. His discovery of art direction is touched up (Citing Logan’s Run and some other television shows as where he took notice). Borthwick talks his first job and reaches to doing his own Six Million Dollar Man episodes with friends as a kid. I found that neat, because many point toward their first professional job. And of course he talks all things The Brain as well.

Still Gallery (HD, 3:49)

Summary 

The Brain is a fun, gooey and at times surprisingly thrilling and compelling little horror film. This Blu-ray debut from Scream Factory packs quite a whallop too. The film looks fantastic with its new 4K transfer. Also, the bonus material here provides great interviews and commentaries that really give a full picture of this film’s production and the careers of those involved. Funnily enough, the one I seemed to enjoy most was the Joe Campopiano interview and seeing all his different collectibles and hearing his story of his passion for the movie and all the places its taken him. For those interested, this release is worth the price being asked, easily!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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