On a summer night in the late 80s and early 90s, when television was offering nothing but repeats, you’d rent movies like Brain Dead and Transformations, sit in front of a fan set to high, then blast the TV so you could hear over the noise. Turns out, the fan was the best part of movie night….
Rex Smith spends most of Transformations shirtless, is mounted by a slimy alien, then begins to turn into an alien as he bangs all the women in an outer space prison colony. Hey, after scoring a top 10 hit with “You Take My Breath Away,” hosting Solid Gold after Andy Gibb died, and starring in The Pirates of Penzance with Linda Ronstadt, the only way was up.
There’s barely anything left to say to pump up this classic. The alien is ooey gooey awesome but we don’t see enough of it (it turns into a beautiful woman before seducing Rex, then sort of transforms again in gross bits and pieces while his eyes are closed in ecstasy). Rex’s spaceship then crash lands, he falls in love with some scientist chick in the prison colony, he begins to transform, and he fucks women he picks up in a totally 80s version of the Star Wars cantina.
Meanwhile, Patrick Macnee of The Howling, Waxwork, and The Avengers (60s TV show, not the superhero movies) hits rock bottom as a space priest babbling some prophecy shit, a gang of prisoners escapes, and finally Rex Smith rips all their guts out before a final chase scene with the woman he loves.
So, yeah, the last 10 minutes of the movie are awesome.
BRAIN DEAD (1990)
Watch Brain Dead strictly for the phenomenon of having the Bills—Pullman and Paxton—on screen at the same time, the opportunity to never be wrong when asked which Bill P. was in Brain Dead.
Pullman is a brain scientist, fucking around with that stretched face thing on the poster art. That face, BTW, plays no other role in the film after that initial lab scene. Paxton, a buddy who works at a big corporation, shows up and tells Pullman their company has this former brilliant mathematician—now a paranoid mental patient—that he can offer as a live specimen, so Pullman won’t have to talk to brains in jars anymore for his research. All he needs to do is reignite the mental patient’s lost memories.
Soon after Pullman begins poking at the patient’s brain, this film takes one of those “what’s real, what’s not” turns. Pullman begins to see a crazy doctor covered in blood everywhere he goes—a doctor from the mental patient’s mind!
This possibly scary scenario is soon watered down into a hodgepodge of dream-like situations that leave Pullman and us unsure if he’s really a scientist or if he is the mental patient. All the reveal at the end of the movie reveals is that this should have been a half-hour episode of Tales from the Crypt rather than a full-length movie.
The highlight of Brain Dead is the closing credits, which features the song “Brain Dance” by the 80s electronic new wave duo Martini Ranch. A member of this band happens to be Bill Paxton (the other is not Bill Pullman) and their awesome lone album features collaborations with Devo and Cindy Wilson of The B-52s—but not the song from this movie. Argh.