Fright Fest 2016 Review #7 – Coma (1978)

Suspended animation

Subgenre:  Thriller

Summary:  Healthy patients at the same hospital begin dropping into comas for no apparent reason.

Review:  Susan is a well-respected doctor at Boston’s premier hospital.  She enjoys her job, though she sometimes gets fed up with office politics, especially those of her boyfriend and co-worker Mark.

One day Susan witnesses a patient slip into a coma during a routine operation, with no apparent cause.  At first she writes it off as a rare case of an extreme reaction to anesthesia, but this becomes harder to believe as other patients – including a friend of hers – suffer the same fate. Against the wishes of her superiors, she grows obsessive over the cases, searching for some kind of connection.

Though more of a thriller than a horror movie, Coma certainly has its share of scary moments.  The final reveal of what’s happening to the patients isn’t all that shocking, but it’s disturbing in just how believable it feels – especially during a climax that’s nothing short of nightmarish.  Coma questions the inherent trust we put in doctors, and reminds us that they’re just as human – and corruptible – as anyone else.

The Verdict:  Coma is a smart, creepy, and well-acted medical thriller.  I give it seven-and-a-half victimized vegetables out of ten.

Fright Fest 2016 Review #6 – Brain Damage (1988)

They didn’t sink much money into the effects budget.

Subgenre:  Body Horror / Monster

Summary:  A young man is tormented by a brain-altering parasite.

Review:  Brian (get it?) is a guy with a good head on his shoulders, but a rather mundane life.  But that all changes when he meets Aylmer, a phallic, purple parasite. Aylmer, who speaks in a pleasant, TV-announcer voice, attaches himself to Brian’s brain and provides him with euphoric, synesthesia-inducing head-trips.  The only catch is that Aylmer needs a steady diet of brains to feed on.  By the time Brian realizes Aylmer’s malicious intentions, he’s already become hopelessly addicted to the parasite’s drug-like effects.

Brain Damage is initially entertaining as a piece of camp horror, but it quickly runs out of steam.  It has its enjoyable, funny moments – namely, any time the rubber puppet that is Aylmer is talking – but they’re not enough to sustain the movie’s running time.  It’s too bad, because there are things to like here, including some memorable gross-out scenes and creative special effects.  Unfortunately, these moments are in the minority, and the bulk of the movie is boring and repetitive.

The Verdict:  Brain Damage is good for a few laughs, but not much else.  I give it three-and-a-half cerebrum suckers out of ten – watch the director’s superior Basket Case instead.