Film (1989). Concorde/New Horizons. Directed Adam Simon. Written by Charles Beaumont. Cast includes Patricia Charbonneau, Bud Cort, George Kennedy, Bill Paxton, Nicholas Pryor and Bill Pullman. 81 minutes. Colour.
A neurosurgeon (Pullman) is asked to examine a genius (Cort) who has gone mad and killed his family. The surgeon soon finds that his own Identity is being alarmingly eaten away, with his friends, colleagues and wife supporting the process, gradually convincing him that he is the patient who needs brain surgery; the boundaries between the sane neurosurgeon and insane mathematician are gradually erased. Written for Roger Corman by Beaumont in 1963, this was filmed 22 years after screenwriter Charles Beaumont's death. The surprise is that so much of the writer's distinctive plotting – a mix of panicky humour and Paranoia – has survived rewrites which, for example, update him by tapping into the species of gory medical humour exemplified by Re-Animator (1985). Where recent horror films like the Nightmare on Elm Street sequence domesticate the dream/reality uncertainty for irrelevant shock scenes, Brain Dead allows the ambiguity itself to fragment and take over the film. [KN]
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