Brain Dead (2008)
Reviewed by Serena Whitney
Starring Joshua Benton, David Crane, ah Grant Brendecke, Michelle Tomlinson, Andy Forrest,Cristina Tiberia
Directed by Kevin Tenney
After a long and tiresome night of slugging beer and hardly making any tips to show for it, I went home on a weekend night sober and exhausted and wanted to make the most of the wasted party night by putting in the beloved cult classic, Night of the Demons in my worn out DVD player. This movie is something I watch occasionally after a long night of partying and drinking, but since I was completely coherent and sober, I thought that watching Kevin Tenney’s new zombie film, Brain Dead, would have been far more productive. I have to admit, I was wary of watching this latest directorial effort from Tenney. The man is a horror legend in my eyes and I didn’t want that image to be tainted by watching a movie that was most likely going to be a disappointment. It turns out after viewing Brain Dead that I had reason to be worried.
It starts with a young man named Clarence (Benton) in jail and being questioned by a reporter. We then jump back in time to two men at an isolated fishing lodge. While the men are fishing, a meteorite hits one of them in the head, which rapidly turns him into a brain-starved zombie. Shortly after that, the film sets up each and every one of the characters with needless back-stories and far too much forced character development for a horror movie of this generic calibre. After that, the characters, which include two escaped convicts, two sorority sisters, and a perverted minister and his Linnea Quigley protégé secretary, all end up at the fishing lodge battling to stay alive from the brain-hungry undead. Gratuitous tit shots, cheap gore effects, and a hangover (at least for me anyways) ensue.
Once I pushed play and heard Dennis Michael Tenney’s nostalgic horror score open up the film, I felt exactly how I felt the day I lost my virginity: happy, excited, and forty-five seconds later realized I was in for a major disappointment. I’ll admit the biggest mistake I made was to watch this extremely low-budget horror film by myself. The second was to go into this film without a puffing a joint or a drop of alcohol in my system. However, I quickly fixed that slight problem ten minutes into the film, for it was able to send me to liquor cabinet quicker than Lindsay Lohan can change her sexual orientation. (Or actually raid a liquor cabinet herself…)
Shortly after my buzz kicked in, I was able to see the positive things Brain Dead had to offer that I wouldn’t have been able to see without an impaired judgment. First and foremost, the gore in is what essentially drives this zombie fest. For those of you who are tired of CG effects and long for the good ol’ days of practical make-up and special effects, you won’t be disappointed. Genre makeup artist Gabriel Bartalos delivers the puss-inducing bloody goods with exploding body parts, gouged out eyes and a highly memorable and applause-worthy kill that had me let out the most surprised gasp since first witnessing a shark swallow a boat in <>I>Shark Attack 3. (I mean really, who expected THAT from that movie?)
Now don’t get me wrong, majority of the gore effects were not award winning by any means; however it’s obvious that a lot of thought and work went into making these effects come to life, and that’s something to be appreciated.
Regrettably, Brain Dead suffers from what most low-budget horror films suffer from; little to no money in the casting department. Considering the “depth and range” a majority of the actors displayed onscreen, I was pretty sure they were mostly either found on Craigs List or were on hiatus from shooting soft-core porn for Pay-Tv. Asides from the film’s wisecracking star Joshua Benton and Sarah Grant Brendecke, the actors were painful to watch, however they were not all to blame. The script was full of atrocious one-liners (a lot of them unfortunately had to be muttered by the film’s only credible actor) and although most will argue that the dialogue is simply a throwback to ol’ school horror, I can only say that the lines spoken throughout the film made the dialogue in Tenney’s Night of the Demons sound as deep as Shakespearean soliloquies; and remember, that’s a movie which a character shouts out, “Let’s open a bowl of fuck!”
Fans who are expecting Night of the Creeps or Slither (two movies which Brain Dead takes heavy influence from) may be slightly disappointed. However, if you go into this movie expecting something like The Ice Cream Man or last year’s indie slasher Simon Says, you’ll be in for a bloody treat. It may not have been my cup of cerebral tea, but that’s because I went into it with epic expectations simply because of my admiration for Tenney’s past work. Please be warned, this is not a movie to watch by yourself; if you have a group of friends and plenty of booze, this bloody affair will prove to be time well wasted.
2 1/2 out of 5
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