Director – Bruce Campbell
Cast – Bruce Campbell, Tamara Gorski, Ted Raimi, Antoinette Byron, Stacy Keach, Vladimir Kolev
Release Year – 2005
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have remained a long-time fan of Bruce Campbell due to his love for the genre, love for sticking “it” to Hollywood suits, and his uncanny ability to make me laugh my arse off. I first heard of Man with the Screaming Brain several years ago, but I constantly passed the film over for other flicks that I regretably was more interested in, and after finally viewing this Bruce Campbell written/directed effort I must offer a sincere apology to Bruce. Why? Because Man with the Screaming Brain is much better than I expected it to be, and gives us a quality B-movie effort that we almost never get these days.
Wealthy industrialist William Cole(Bruce Campbell; The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness) embarks to Bulgaria to implement a subway system that is guaranteed to ring him additional fortune to his fortune. When his adulterous tendencies leave him dead on the street, a mad scientist on the bring of a giant medical breakthrough brings William back to life, but with one dire difference: only half of his brain is his own. The other half of his brain came from his moronic taxi driver who was also killed by the same woman. Forced to coexist inside the mind of William, both men must work together, physically and mentally, to catch the nemesis who left each of them for dead only to wake up to an even greater hell.
When you think of a film icon doing a film for this fans, that is definitely the case with Bruce’s Man with the Screaming Brain. Despite 19 years of setbacks, Bruce was finally able to give us his film child that he came up with years back with a little help from Sam Raimi. Because this is definitely a “fan film”, you can expect plenty of cheeze and low-budget antics, which will force some to balk at this piece, and others to love it for what it is.
The storyline is a genius one, mostly due to how unique it is overall and the zany antics that take place. We have all most likely come across films regarding a mad scientist, Re-Animator being one of them, but I had never seen a film where a man was resurrected with a brain who’s halves came from two different people, and resulted in a being who not only has the mindset of two people but must also share his body with his bickering “other half”. This made for some fun comedic scenes that bled classic Bruce and allowed him to do his thing as an actor. Sure the screenplay won’t win any awards unless there is some B-movie awards ceremony that I am unaware of, but Campbell’s screenplay does much with how simple the story is thanks to the unique elements that are thrown in. We are not exposed to any useless characters, and everyone involved contributes their part regardless of how high or low their screen time is. This does not mean that the story is without fault, as we are also exposed to some scenes that dragged a bit and could have been cut down to improve pacing. I found this to mostly be the case with our lead antagonist Tatoya, the constant thorn in the side of William and Yegor who seemed to somehow cheat death every 15 minutes. There were numerous times when I found the scenes with her to be a bit too long and leaning on borderline boring at times, but with cutting down those scenes the film would have come in as an 80something minute effort, and maybe Bruce did not want that.
While I love Bruce and feel that his directing was “good enough”, his direction was the weakest point of the film. That does not necessarily mean that his direction was weak, it was just the biggest detractor of this experience. It is obvious that the budget is low ($2,000,000) the very second the opening scene kicks in, and the weak sets used in the film are a testament to that. The high cost of filming in LA lead Bruce to film this piece in Bulgaria, which seems to have sadly detrimented what could have been a phenomenal effort. Also negative regarding Campbell’s direction was his execution during the scenes involving Tatoya, who I found completely unlikable (I like likeable antagonists) and downright cheezy (not the “good” kind) in her performance and her usage. As mentioned earlier, some of the scenes involving her were overdrawn and lead me to feel uneasy as they over-welcomed their stay, but thankfully most of the film does not revolve around her as it does for Bruce’s character, William. We also get Ted Raimi starring as the assistant to the mad scientist, and Ted did very well at providing good comedy when Bruce was not around. Bruce’s execution of the comedy was great, and I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. While we do come across several kill sequence, we get very little gore in this piece, with the majority of the gore (which isn’t much) coming during the operation scene where William’s brain is spliced with Yegor. I really did not find this to be a problem thanks to everything else that was going on, but had we been given a fair amount of gore I would have found this more enjoyable given the tone and silly nature the flick carries. We also get some pretty creative ideas that were also very well executed, such as the robot scenes involving William’s resurrected wife, which I was surprised I liked given how downright cheezy and stupid they looked. Thankfully, Bruce is one who knows how to make stupid look good, and he got it right in Man with the Screaming Brain.
Overall, Man with the Screaming Brain is a fun watch for fans of Bruce Campbell, so long as you know what you are getting into. The cheeze is high, the budget and execution are not up to par with better-produced efforts, but the level of enjoyment is worthwhile for those who can appreciate these types of films. If not, it may be best that you stay away from this one.