Post #7: On The Brain (Or What’s On Your Mind?)

First, minor announcement time. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month. Except I’m not writing a novel. Instead I’m putting together a book about a very specific horror subgenre that’s near and dear to my heart. Hopefully I can make their 50,000 word goal. I’m already behind, but hey, I’m plucky. Don’t wanna get any more specific for now, but wish me luck. Onward.

I had about 500 really unkind words about Kevin Stevenson’s On The Brain (2016). Originally, I thoroughly trashed it. But some other reviews and interviews revealed some things that radically altered my perspective.

Oh sure, this movie has its flaws, and I was more than ready to write On The Brain off as another sad example of a director setting some goals then failing to attain them. Sometimes the results are spectacular on and Ed Wood, Jr. level. Other times, I’m left with the impression that everyone gave up, shrugged their shoulders, and said, “Eh. Probably good enough.”

The story is based on an unpublished manuscript, The Dangerous Season, by Ina Gay Trask. I’d really like to read this–if for no other reason, just because the infestation only affects men. Interesting.

The plot gets a little bumpy. Some events and conversations do little to advance the action. There’s a parasitic infection, supposedly from contaminated meat, although there’s also an unresolved subplot that the protagonist, a new sheriff, brought the infestation to town with him.

The parasites’ transformational effects can apparently be staved off by a makeshift mask/inhaler MacGyvered together by the local doctor (I have it on the good authority of not one but two linguists that “MacGyvered” has one “r.” Hey, I do my research. I am, after all, a total professional)

It does become a bit unclear whether or not Kelly, our beleaguered sheriff with the dark past, even is the protagonist as we start to focus on Mariama, the quick-thinking doctor. Worth pointing out is Sharon Frederickson as the pushy, gun-brandishing mayor. There’s nary a stick of scenery left once she’s done gnawing on it which is always more than fun to watch.

So, like I said, I was ready to shred this On The Brain. But again, I do my research and try to find some other opinions, evaluations, and information about whatever movie I’ve picked to review. That’s how I discovered that this modestly budgeted effort was shot in 12 days.

Yup. 12.

The amount of things I can’t get done in a month, let alone less than half a month, is staggering. That in mind, the practical and makeup effects in the movie already held up pretty damn well, but with time and budget in mind, I find myself wondering, “Okay how’d the manage that??”

Stevenson also deserves credit for not extensively showing the parasites (other than through subcutaneous slithering). Imagining how they must look is, for many of us, far more effective and terrifying than showing them–an effect that rarely comes off as terrifying even in big-budget flicks.

Similarly, there’s never any explanation for where everyone has gone. The town seems deserted, a fact that is commented on a number of times. This could be looked at as a lack of resolution, but the lack of explanation also serves to amp up the dread so, again, credit where it’s due. So, thankfully, I do find myself looking at On The Brain as an enjoyable watch with an interesting spin on the infestation/infection idea. I’m anxious to check out more Stevenson stuff.

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