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Brain Dead

Year: 1990
Production Co: Concorde Pictures
Director: Adam Simon
Writer: Charles Beaumont/Adam Simon
Cast: Bill Pullman, Bill Paxton, Bud Cort, George Kennedy

A case of mistaken identity. I'd had Peter Jackson's zombie splatterfest on my list for years, watched it a long time ago as I write this review and forgotten to cross it off. So when I mistakenly came to search for it again, not realising I'd seen it, I instead called up this forgettable 90s thriller with Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton, both looking ridiculously young.

Pullman is Rex, a neurosurgeon who maintains a stock of brains in jars in his lab and – as he lectures a careless assistant – considers them all human beings with rights and rich inner lives that are worthy of protection and respect. It turns out to be a doom-laden foreshadowing of where the proceedings will all end up, but it's a very plodding journey to get there.

Paxton is Jim, Rex's former college friend and slimy corporate type, who wants Rex to help with plumbing the memories of former colleague, Halsey (Bud Cort), who had a high potential breakthrough but went mad and destroyed all his notes, ending up in an asylum convinced someone is out to kill him.

Against his better judgement, Rex agrees to operate on Halsey to use his research to try and restore the man's sanity so he can get the work back out of his mind and make the company millions in the process. But after the operation, walking out of Jim's office building Rex is hit by a car in the road.

He comes to back at work and the whole thing goes completely off the rails. First Rex gets kicked out of his lab because he's lost his grant. Then he ends up in the asylum Halsey was in, apparently a patient, his own familiar office now belonging to the doctor treating him. People in his life seem not to know him. His reality shifts and changes and he gets increasingly distraught, not knowing what's going on and doubting who he is.

I won't reveal the secret behind his increasingly erratic realities, but it has a lot to do with other films like Stay or Jacob's Ladder, where you learn you've been somewhere quite different from where you thought you were.

The problem is that there's no real horror or sci-fi in what's billed as a horror/sci-fi horror film. It could have been bloodier, scarier or even more profane and it would have made more of an impact. It's just dreadfully middle of the road.

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