Macabre…ish Horror Review: Brain Dead



Brain Dead, 1990/ 85 min



Dr. Rex Martin (Bill Pullman), a neurosurgeon walks in on Dr. Berkovitz (David Sinaiko) who is supposed to be mapping facial movements of a specimen but he is instead playing with it. When he goes to retrieve another brain, he knocks another on the floor. Dr. Martin reminds him that these aren’t simply specimens but were once people.


Dr. Martin talks to the specimens and refers to them by their donor’s names. Later, he gets a visit from his high school friend, business man, Jim Reston (Bill Paxton). Jim confesses that he may lose his job. It has to do with a company employee, a genius mathematician named Jack Halsey (Bud Cort), who went mad, destroyed all his work at the company and butchered his family and three research assistants, after a psychotic break. He’s pleading insanity and is currently in a mental institution. Reston wants Dr. Martin to get into his brain and see if he’s faking it.


Dr. Martin agrees and finds Halsey doing a puzzle and he does seem very paranoid. Mr. Halsey now thinks that someone is trying to kill him. Dr. Martin asks his permission to do some tests on him. He is indeed found to be paranoid.


Reston tries to convince Rex to operate on Halsey’s brain, citing that his company, Eunice, is funding his research anyway and promises more leeway. Reston would like the company’s secrets to be unlocked from Halsey’s brain and failing that, make it impossible for him to share them.


After the meeting, Dr. Martin is hit by a vehicle with Conklin Mattress Company on the side of it, after being attacked by a homeless man who thinks the brain, the doctor’s carrying, is his own.


Rex comes to in the hallway, to the terrible news that he’s lost his grant and his job, he’s being evicted from his lab and all of the brains fall from their shelves as a man reaches for one.


Dr. Martin wakes up the next day and doesn’t tell his wife, Dana (Patricia Charbonneau) about the accident and can’t really remember when it happened. He revisits Halsey who is more jittery than the last time. Rex asks Halsey to trust him and asks permission to operate on the Halsey’s brain.


Dr. Martin the visits Eunice’s board with Reston and is shown an archaic video of a lobotomy. The board just wants to know if Halsey can be cured and their info recovered. Dr. Martin warns them that the opposite can also happen, his memory can be wiped clean.


In another room, while the board watches, Dr. Martin performs surgery on Halsey. Asking him questions as he goes. Halsey imagines himself in different places and talks to different people, including his family.


Mr. Martin asks if Halsey can see the man who killed his family. He can and he’s there now. The surgery seems to be a success, he no longer thinks he’s an accountant at Conklin mattress company. He remembers he’s a mathematician working on secret projects.


The board claps as Dr. Martin finishes and steps back into the room and Jim Reston pitches them an idea of brain surgery, much like cosmetic surgery. The offer is to surgically change their customers reality’s. As Dr. Martin looks back through the window, he sees a man who shouldn’t be there. He’s dressed in white, maniacally laughing and bloody.


Reston congratulates him and Dr. Martin barges back into the operating room and the bloody man (Nicholas Pryor) is gone. He’s unnerved. On his way out, Rex can’t get out of the gate because he doesn’t have his wallet and someone is following him.


He meets his wife, Dana, at a restaurant and sees the blood man in white again. He also sees some Eunice board chairman and Reston in another booth. But Dr. Martin says he doesn’t know them. Reston is pitching the center names, he comes up with The New You. Dr. Martin, calls them doc-in-the-box and says they’ll be on each corner.


Even on the ride home, the man in white is there, he seems to be everywhere. Rex tries diagnosing himself and when he gets home, the bloody man is there and he shows him his wife having sex with Reston on their dining table. And just the bloody man plunges a leucotome into Reston’s eye, as Dr. Martin walks in. As he steps inside, the bodies of his wife and Reston are still on the table, eyeless. The madman is gone.


The neighbor comes over to complain about noise and finds Dr. Martin holding the bloody surgical instrument.


Then Rex wakes up in the institution and thinks he dreamt the night before. The nurse informs him he’s been there a while and the experiences of the last few days were him in a fractured state. Halsey is not real and the doctor, though he looks like the bloody man, he’s actually his doctor, Dr. Ramsen (Nicholas Pryor).


Rex struggles to reaffirm his reality in front of the man who insists he is his doctor. Dr. Martin looks closer at what looks like his office. But he is informed that he is an accountant for a mattress company and that Conklin (Nicholas Pryor) has been paying his bill there. When Dr. Ramsen’s assistant comes in, it’s Reston! Dr. Martin is relieved to see him but when Reston is not who he says he is, Rex runs for it.


Dr. Martin hides in strange rooms, including a room full of people being tortured. Dr. Ramsen says it’s a museum but when he opens the door again, there are no people, just the implements of torture.


Rex is taken away for shock therapy and afterward, he wakes up again and a bandaged Halsey sneaks in. Halsey cuts him free and warns Rex to be whoever they want him to be. And whatever he does, don’t let them take him into surgery. He later finds Halsey in his closet, eyeless. The Rex wakes up again later and the scene repeats.


Rex discovers he is in a coma with brain damage and he sees himself in a hospital bed and Dana standing over him. Then Reston walks in to comfort her.


And it only gets more bizarre from there.