Adam Simon (Carnosaur) made his directoral debut with this mind game of a movie. Based on a decades-old screenplay by former Twilight Zone contributor Charles Beaumont, Simon dusted off and updated the script about an e... more »xperimental brain researcher (Bill Pullman) who agrees to dig into the gray matter of a schizophrenic scientist (Bud Cort), only to fall prey to his patient's psychosis. Or maybe he's just plain nuts. Spiced with a bizarre sense of humor (Pullman wrestles over a brain specimen in a jar with a homeless man who tries to grab it: "That's my brain!"), Pullman's ordeal takes one hairpin turn after another as he becomes lost in a maze of alternate realities, no longer able to sort fantasy from reality or paranoia from persecution. This clever puzzle of a film overcomes low-budget restrictions with a deviously inventive story that echoes Brazil and quotes from The Manchurian Candidate and North by Northwest. Bill Paxton costars as a smarmy corporate manipulator with slicked back hair and a get-rich-quick scheme for a chain of brain surgery boutiques ("The New You, by Eunice!"), and George Kennedy is his bottom-line boss. Director Simon may be most famous for playing himself in a jokey cameo in Robert Altman's The Player. --Sean Axmaker« less
Jonathan Schaper | London, Ontario Canada | 04/11/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This movie makes the point that everyone's experience of "reality" is based upon the functioning of the brain. Mess with the brain, and reality changes. Perception of reality can easily be altered through brain injury, electric stimulation, drugs, etc.For the length of the movie, we experience life through the eyes of a scientist played by Bill Pullman, who may be the victim of insanity, a brain injury, the manipulations of a supernatural figure or an evil corporation, etc. (you cannot be sure which until the end of the movie), and who may or may not have killed his family. Reality is constantly changing for him and no matter how real things may appear to be, it may all turn out to be an illusion at any second. Despite how disorienting this may be, the plot is very coherent and has a sense of continuity to it, and you feel as if the characters are moving towards a goal or some sort of resolution, unlike with many surreal films.Written by Charles Beaumont, one of the most frequent scripters for the Twilight Zone, this movie is like an extended episode of the show (which often dealt with characters suddenly finding themselves fallen out of normal life and into a disorienting situation). Unfortunately, as interesting as the ride is, the ending (which is merely o.k.) left me feeling cheated. If it were a half-hour show, this would be more bearable, but you expect more after sitting through a feature-length movie.It is a well-made, well-acted film worth watching at least once, maybe twice, but knowing the ending spoils it."
A nifty, rarely-seen little gem
A. Duralde | W. Hollywood, CA United States | 10/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Adam Simon once made a fascinating documentary about director Sam Fuller, and BRAIN DEAD can be read as his homage to Fuller's SHOCK CORRIDOR, since much of the plot has to do with who is and isn't insane, and what is and isn't reality.Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton -- admit it, you've always gotten them confused -- co-star in this low-budget gem that was barely released to theaters, but now gets a decent DVD release. The sound and picture are just fine -- alas, producer Roger Corman takes his trademark cheapness even to DVD: there are no commentaries, no extra features save some bios and a few trailers, and there's not even a booklet inside the case!In any event, this is a smart and suspenseful little movie, and one you'll enjoy trying to piece together long after it's over."
A twisted tale in the tradition of 'Twilight Zone'
KNO2skull | United States | 02/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Charles Beaumont wrote for the original "The Twilight Zone" TV series, and this is more than worthy for people with similar expectations. Starring Bill Pullman as scientist Rex Martin. Martin studies brains for a living, but soon finds himself in a bizarre and twisted excursion in his own brain. Is he working for the Eunice Corporation, or is the Eunice corporation working on him? The story is hard to explain, and the twists are non-stop. I had an e-mail conversation with the director, Adam Simon, who reported that Roger Corman called this film his 'art film'. Similar to the ideas of 'Vanilla Sky', a 'Clockwork Orange', 'Lost Highway' and 'Brazil', this film will not disappoint those looking for a wild ride through the ether of thought."
Cutter | New Jersey | 01/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Watch as Pullman and Bud Cort take you on a psychotic romp between insanity and reality...you wont be able to distinguish a difference. I remember I saw it in the theater by myself, and I mean literally , NO ONE ELSE was there! That made it even more memorable and freaky. "Am i a man dreaming he is a butterfly, or am I a butterfly dreaming he is a man?" This picture examines and answers that question...I THINK!"
Three brains out five
M. Ryan Fairbanks | Cleveland, Ohio | 06/25/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Bill Pullman, Bill Paxton...What's the difference? Find out once and for all with this movie, Brain Dead, which stars them both!
Adapted from an old Twilight Zone script, this is one is certainly a bit of a tongue twister for your mind featuring Pullman as a brain researcher Rex Martin, who finds himself unable to distinguish between dream and reality after a car accident. We witness Rex's descent into madness as he stumbles through an endless string of dream sequences. Is he the doctor or the patient? Dead or alive?
While the "is this fantasy or reality?" schtick does grow a little tiresome, Brain Dead is a nice little horror gem that transcends its low budget with it's dark comedy and great performances from the two Bill's. The Twilight Zone influence really shines through as well for those familiar with the series.
Not the stuff of classic, but a good time waster for horror/thriller fans."