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Brain Dead is a 1990 psychological horror film directed by Adam Simon. It stars Bill Pullman, Bill Paxton and George Kennedy.

Brain Dead
Brain Dead (1990 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAdam Simon
Produced byJulie Corman
Lynn Whitney
Written byCharles Beaumont
Adam Simon
Music byPeter Rotter
CinematographyRonn Schmidt
Edited byCarol Oblath
Release date
  • January 19, 1990 (1990-01-19) (United States)
Running time
85 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.6 million[1]



Dr. Rex Martin is a top neurosurgeon, who is active in studying brain malfunctions that cause mental illnesses. The film opens with him walking into his office, the 8 on his laboratory turned on its side in an infinity symbol. His assistant, Berkovitch, is playing games with a removed brain, connected to a separated face, using his tool to map out the facial muscles in the brain. After Rex takes over, Berkovitch accidentally knocks over Philip Montag's brain, a parietal paralysis patient. Rex jokes that the place won't be the same without him.

High school friend Jim Reston, a successful businessman at Eunice, shows up at Rex's office. He requires Martin's aid in reaching the mind of John Halsey, a former genius mathematician who once worked for the company and is now a paranoid psychotic at a nearby asylum. Halsey destroyed his results before losing his mind and is thought to be faking his disorder to keep it out of the hands of his employer. When Dr. Martin meets with Halsey, who is convinced that a man named Conklin is spying on him and intends to kill him. Dr. Martin convinces Rex to go through his tests and it's revealed that he is indeed paranoid.

Jim Reston attempts to convince Martin to operate on Halsey to no real avail, revealing that Martin's work is already being funded by Eunice in the first place, so he'll have more leeway to operate on Halsey. Dr. Martin's surgery is intended to successfully alter the patient's mental attitude, either unlocking the corporate secrets within Halsey's brain or else leaving Halsey unable to accidentally share them with anyone else. However, after leaving his meeting with Reston, Martin is carrying a jarred brain home from the office, when a homeless man attacks him, convinced he's carrying his brain. In the struggle, Martin loses his grip on the brain, causing it to fly through the air. At the same moment, he's run over by a car -- revealed to be from the Conklin Mattress Company -- and hits his head on the windshield, cracking it in the process.

Martin comes to in his hallway, once again spinning the infinity symbol back to an upright 8. He finds that he's lost his grant and is losing his lab. He kicks out the scientists, only for one to pull down all the jars on the wall. Martin wakes up, but his wife doesn't know about the car accident. Even Martin isn't sure if it was earlier in the day or when it happened. We learn that Halsey killed his wife, two kids, and three research assistants. Martin convinces Halsey to undergo the procedure, which is set up in a boardroom. During the surgery, we see through Halsey's eyes what each stimulation changes, altering not only the location, sounds, and people involved while still allowing him to communicate through the psychosis. The surgery seems to be a success, restoring Halsey's sanity and getting him to recognize he's a mathematician.

After Martin finishes the surgical procedure, he starts to experience the same paranoid dreams as Halsey, seeing Conklin in the surgical room after the fact. These episodes grow in intensity until it becomes unclear whether Martin is a doctor imagining he's the patient, or a mental patient who succumbed to the delusion that he was a brain surgeon.

In the end, it is revealed that Martin died from the injuries sustained in the car wreck and is now a sentient brain in a jar, putting us right back where we started.



In the late 1980s, Julie Corman got summer interns to go through several hundred old scripts. The best one they discovered was one written by Charles Beaumont for Roger Corman in the 1960s. Director Adam Simon liked it and updated it for modern times.[2]


As of August 2018, the film held an overall score of 17% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews by 6 critics.[3]


  1. ^ "Brain Dead".
  2. ^ Julie Corman on Brain Dead at Trailers from Hell
  3. ^ "Brain Dead (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 25, 2018.

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