This revival of 1962 sci-fi horror The Brain That Wouldn’t Die explores the question “has science gone too far?”. After Dr. Bill Cortner (Patrick D. Green) loses his fiancee Jan Compton (Rachael Perrell Fosket) in a car crash, he revives her severed head in the hopes of finding her a new body. But Jan is less than impressed with Bill’s plans, begging him to let her die.
Despite not seeing the original, I was curious to see how this story would work in 2020. Interestingly, director Derek Carl chose to shoot this in a similar vein to its predecessor, keeping in the same dramatic score, comical overacting, and cheesiness associated with older horror films. It sounds like it wouldn’t work, but it was actually a triumph.
The key difference is that the 2020 version utilises humour, whereas the classic film was intended to be a lot more serious. Reviving an old film for a modern audience is no easy task, and it’s something that not everyone would be 100% on board with.
However, I was thoroughly entertained by The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, and loved the way it paid homage to the classic era of horror whilst also pointing fun at it, as horror has certainly evolved and adapted over the years. Seeing this style in the modern day is jarring at first, but after a few minutes it’s easy to be fully engrossed.
Bill Cortner is a very interesting character, and incredibly unlikeable. He’s very self-indulgent and tends to put his own needs above everyone else’s, which is no doubt what sparked his decision to revive his fiancee’s head. Despite her protests, he’s insistent on keeping her alive and finding a new body to attach her head onto.
He’s a great villain because we’re encouraged to hate him, yet there’s this morbid curiosity about what would happen if he did succeed in his mission to reattach Jan’s head. As he goes on his search for a new body, he’s motivated entirely by looks, and women become objects to him.
Whilst Bill is trying to find a new body, Jan’s head is left in his lair with his assistant Kurt (Jason Reynolds) and a mysterious ‘project’ that’s hiding behind a door. Kurt is nothing like Bill, and frankly, deserves better. But he lives in hope that the doctor will be able to help him, as he has a mutated hand that causes him daily problems.
The longer Jan is kept in Bill’s lair, the more frustrated she becomes, and she soon realises she can communicate with whatever’s hiding behind the mysterious door. Despite not being able to move, she occupies her time by talking to whatever it is. The film does a really great job of building suspense here, as we’re eager to find out who she’s talking to.
While all this is going on, a detective is trying to piece together what happened during the car accident and where Jan’s head has gone, as her decapitated body is still sitting in the passenger seat. Detective Mancini (Robert Blanche) brings a lot of the jokes, as he comes across as one of those hard-boiled film noir detectives, only a lot stupider.
The performances are really impressive, and it seems the actors had a lot of fun overacting and mirroring the classic styles. It’s a brilliant watch from start to finish. Since it was a first time watch for me, I also had no idea where the story was going, so I thoroughly enjoyed all the twists and turns. It’s been such a long time since I’ve had this much fun with a horror film and I can’t recommend it enough.