Mind melts, brain operations and some off-the-wall imagery is the name of the game in Brain Dead, a 1990 offering given the restoration treatment by 101 Films.

Based on a 60s script by Twilight Zone scribe Charles Beaumont (and given an update by director Adam Simon), Bill Pullman plays Dr Rex Martin, a brain specialist indulging in some offbeat experiments as to the brain’s capacity after death (among other things).

One of Martin’s old pals is Jim Reston (Bill Paxton), who works for a rival tech company and is supposedly keen to tempt Martin to come and work with/for him.

Part of that temptation is to get Martin to visit Halsey (Bud Cort), a paranoid, puzzle-solving individual locked up in a sort-of mental hospital – as Halsey may have some pretty important secrets stashed away in that mind of his.

Does he? Will Martin get Halsey to talk? And will Martin take this new job on offer?

I’m not going to give anything more away as, truth be told, I’m still not sure exactly what was going on for a lot of Brain Dead’s running time.

The first half hour or so is played relatively ‘straight’ (definitely weird, but straight), but the second half of the film plays hard and fast with what is reality and what is fantasy, with the lines blurred to dizzying effect.

We get Martin waking up from a supposed dream god knows how many times, the actors popping up in various guises and incarnations of their characters and plenty of strange imagery.

And this is where Simon’s film does score, as while the film struggles on a narrative level it does impress visually, with scenes of brain surgery, murder victims and plenty of surreal moments (Cort’s Halsey strapped to an operating chair on a beach being one standout).

The performances also help, whether it be Pullman’s oft-bewildered doctor, to Paxton’s sleazy exec or Cort’s paranoid, erratic recluse.

The whole thing is just very, very strange and while some may find the whole thing frustrating, I can at least appreciate that Simon and co set out to do something a bit different.


The disc snatches itself an extra half-star with a solid haul of extras.

To start with we have two documentaries, featuring contributions not only from those involved in the production (Simon etc) but also British genre experts Jonathan Rigby and Jake West, that take a look at the backdrop to the film and its making.

Simon gives us a director’s commentary, while there also deleted scenes and an original trailer.

Blu-ray Review: Brain Dead (1990)
3.0Overall Score
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About The Author

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Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle