FrightFest review – Cerebrum

My notes on Cerebrum


This is one of four films/TV projects using this title in the last four years – no idea where that trend came from.  It’s a slow-burning mad science mystery, something like a very tasteful, low-key remake of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die – a picture which has a very crass, high-energy remake a FrightFest or so back.

It opens strikingly in a forest at night with stage highlights on William (Tobi King Bakare), who has nightmares about the circumstances which led to a car crash that put him and his mother Amelia (Ramona von Pusch) into comas.  William wakes up, physically debilitated and unable to speak, and is taken home by his father, buttoned-down medical researcher Richard (Steve Oram) – but not told how serious his mother’s condition is, or even where she’s being looked after.  Overheard news stories mention mysterious disappearances and Richard has meetings with blonde women he claims are colleagues.  And, eventually, William recovers enough to creep into the basement laboratory – and discover exactly what Richard is doing to restore Amelia to health, and at what extreme cost.  Writer-director Sebastian Blanc teases a bit about the possibilities of mad science and there’s a feint with the sparkling, nude, zombiefaced apparition of Amelia William takes for a hallucination but which Richard also sometimes seems to notice.

Oram, underplaying effectively, is essentially pursuing the sort of project Bela Lugosi did in The Corpse Vanishes or Voodoo Man – on the principle that all these collateral deaths don’t matter just so long as he gets his wife back eventually – but the key to the story Bakare as the guilt-ridden, adopted son (he’s black, they’re white) who gets deeper into trouble because he can’t shrug off blame for the way things have turned out.  It may be a bit too po-faced for such a routine genre exercise, but the central performances are excellent and Blanc stages several set-pieces – the nightmarish moments – with a stylised flair that breaks from the very cool, detached look of the rest of the piece.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.




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