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Worms on the Brain!

Man, it's been too long since I've sat down to write an article for you kids.  You know what else I haven't done in a while?  Had a theme night.  If you've stuck around for a while, you've read movie marathons themed after everything from disgusting creatures to killer appliances.  Tonight's marathon?  It's time to talk about killer brain-eating worms.  It's a classic genre we all hold dear to our hearts, I'm sure.  The following three flicks are all pretty different from one another, but they all have something serious to do with brain worms.  You know, because that headache isn't going to go away on its own.  Because it's eating your brain.  From within.  Creepy, yes?

Get ready for a super-quick walk through Brain Damage, Night of the Creeps, and the totally awesome and fairly new Slither.  Ready?  Let the migraine begin.

Brain Damage (1988)

I think this film might actually be more fun to rent than watch, if only for the joy of telling the clerk that you need brain damage right away.  Brain Damage, directed by Frank Henenlotter (the genius behind Basketcase and Frankenhooker), is a weird film about a killer brain monster that might just be a moral tale about why you shouldn't do drugs.  "Just Say No" was one thing, but "Just Say No or a smiling monster will climb into your skull and eat out your brain" would probably have been more effective to the cause, even if it was too long to put on a t-shirt.  Brain Damage is about an "almost" cute brain monster named Aylmer that gets people high so it can eat the brains of....the people who aren't high.  If you're heavily into symbolism you could make an argument that Aylmer represents the dire consequence and destruction that drug abuse brings upon a person, but if you're heavily into symbolism you probably aren't the kind of person who goes for brain worms in the first place.  Meet Aylmer:

 

Yes, Aylmer is a goofy-looking muppet.  It's also voiced by the horror-veteran Zacherley, this crazy old guy that makes a lot of cameos in horror movies despite the fact that few people under the age of forty know who the heck he is. 

Aylmer recruits Brian, a hopeless loser who gives the him his own bucket to live in...and a few other things.  Now, if you wound a talking brain worm living in your apartment, I don't think you'd take it in stride as much as Brian does.  He pretty much is super happy about having a new roommate and that's about as far as the horror goes for him until he finds out Aylmer likes to eat human brains.  Aylmer pays his rent by unhinging his jaw (revealing lots of muppet-teeth) and injecting Brian with "Aylmer Sauce" which gets him really, really high.  Eventually this turns Brian into a mentally-deficient junkie that has to do what Aylmer says.  Oh, the symbolism.  Don't do drugs kids.  And don't let brain worms fill your body with brain-altering neurotoxins.

 

To his credit, Aylmer does a good job of providing a fairly good drug trip....if you define "a fairly good drug trip" as a Skittles commercial.  Brian runs around like a happy lunatic, seeing colors that aren't there and pretty much licking anything that could possibly be interesting.  Aylmer rides around on Brian's neck, which only becomes important when the drug trip goes downhill.  You know what kills my buzz?

Watching my new friend (who happens to be a brain worm) burrow into the skull of the first person I meet.  Seriously....nothing ruins a good drug trip like watching someone try to pull an invertebrate out of their cranial cavity.  Not that I, er, have personal experience with this sort of thing.  Speaking of things I don't have experience with, here's a quick reason why you should never have sex with someone you meet at a nightclub. 

Brian ends up being really screwed up and finds his way to a nightclub.  Of course, because he's the sexy 1980's stud that he is, a drunk girl decides he's the best she'll be able to do for the evening.  Not a good decision when you realize that Brian was making out with the speaker just before she showed up.  The drugged-out couple grope each other until she leads our poor, innocent brain-worm smuggling Brian into the best place to fool around with a stranger:  an abandoned boiler room.  I'm sorry, but even with the promise of sex, that sends up a red flag.  Of course, this is THE most messed up scene in the movie for a completely different reason.

Oh.  She's getting on her knees and playing with his pants.  Whatever could she be planning on doing?  (Remember kids, Oral Sex is still illegal in many places in America.  Just say No.)

"Oh Brian, it feels so big.  Do you want it baby?"

"Um, Baby, why is your crotch staring back at me?"

Yes, there is an extended "blowjob" scene involving a brain worm eating her brain from inside her mouth.  I think the above text pretty much says it all.

When Brian comes to, he wonders why he has so much blood on his underwear.  It really doesn't get worse than this.  "Oh man, I can't remember what I did last night....and why are their chunky bits of bar slut all over my briefs?"  :shudder:

I'm really giving a super-simplified version of Brain Damage here, mostly because I wanted an excuse to share that last scene with you, but also because everything else that happens pretty much just happens again...and again.  Brian gets high, someone dies.  Eventually the last owner of Aylmer shows up, wants him back, and brain-eating ensues.  Aylmer ends up getting squeezed to death while he's injecting Brian with Aylmer Sauce...as such, he injects WAY too much into his roommate.  So much in fact, that it proves that getting high CAN be a spiritual experience.

Apparently, if you get high enough, the Ark of the Covenant manifests itself inside the place where your brain used to be.  This is pretty much the film's conclusion, as Brian's head becomes filled with divine light (due to a magic drug overdose) while the police are closing in.  So don't do drugs.  Sure, it'll help you have random sex with people you meet at clubs, but the sex will NOT be what you were looking for (unless you're into brain eating, that is).  Before we move on, let me share one last thing:

Trivia Time!  At one point in the movie, Brian is wandering around on the NY subway looking for someone to kill.  Sitting across from him is Duane Bradley, the character from Basketcase (a film also written and directed by Henenlotter).  This is only really a fun bit of trivia because, if you've seen Basketcase, you know that Duane has his mutant brother inside that basket, just as Brian has Alymer under his shirt (or in his pants, depending).  I don't know why subtle film-crossovers bring me as much joy as they do, but I had to share.  Let's move on.

Night of the Creeps (1986)

Oh my.  It doesn't get more classic than this.  Directed by Fred Dekker, the man behind the equally classic Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps is like a weird amalgam of a lot of horror movie clichés and features a LOT of brain worms.  Of course, the brain worms look a hell of a lot like mobile bowel movements, but the less said about that the better.  NotC has a pretty good start.  Check this bit of madness out:

 

Believe it or not, both those scenes happen within the very same five minutes.  How many films involve a pudgy zombie alien (who's naked) with a laser rifle shooting brain worms out of an alien ship that then land in 1950's black-and-white America?  A fraternity brother ends up getting possessed by a brain worm (while an escaped mental patient with an ax kills his girlfriend).  All in all, it's a surreal opening for a horror film.  It plays off science fiction and old-school horror genres...and then decides to personify 1980's horror.  Considering the film came out in 1986, that's not as impressive as it might sound.  The film is definitely meant to be a reference to horror of the past, because almost every character is named after a classic horror movie director.  We've got Romero, Hooper, Cronenberg, Landis, Raimi, Cameron (before Titanic, damn you)....and the university is named after Roger Corman.  It's kind of sad to think that the same names are STILL the given names in horror...but a few of this generation's (or the generation's that actually came after those old guys) best are starting to make an impression...even if the majority of them are from Japan.  But that's a tangent for another time.  Plus, it's not quite so valid when you look at the third movie I'll be rambling on about today.

You could summarize all the problems the characters face within Night of the Creeps with one phrase:  Never, ever join a Fraternity or a Sorority.  These things are just breeding grounds for not only stupidity but also cranial-burrowing aliens.  Take these two examples: 

The young "heroes" of the film end up releasing the brain worms when the fraternity tells them to steal a dead body from a top-secret government research facility.  You know, as a prank.  They end up getting scared and leaving the body there...but it gets up on its own just enough to start impregnating people's heads with its children.  But let's not forget the stupidity of the sorority: 

"Hey, I'm doing a scientific study on human brains...do you Sorority sisters mind if I store this crate filled with HUMAN BRAINS in the basement?  Did I mention that I'm going to be putting HUMAN BRAINS, as in BRAINS that belong to HUMANS, in the basement?  Alone and unsupervised.  I sure hope no alien decides to eat them, or my science project is ruined.  Which science project?  You know, the one about HUMAN BRAINS."

Maybe it's time to explain exactly what kind of brain worms this film has in store for us.

Yep.  They look like poop.  Unless you actually see it move, you'd totally think that this film was all about killer turds from space.  Hell, maybe that IS the premise.  I really don't know.  The way these guys work is that they jump in your mouth (which is most unsettling considering how they look like "lincoln logs") and they lay eggs in your brain.  While this is happening you can't die and the body pretty much does what it would normally do...as well as spit out alien turds into the face of whoever's around.  When the eggs hatch, your zombie head explodes, showering the world with little alien crap babies.

This is why I don't use public bathrooms.  Every time I do some janitor stumbles in like a zombie and craps brain worms out of his forehead all over the floor. 

Trivia Time:  Dekker also would direct Monster Squad next...so if you're the kind of guy who likes to read graffiti then you're the same kind of guy who needed to see the above image.  Considering how he went directly from this little brain worm nightmare to Monster Squad, I'm totally surprised we didn't have "Wolfman has a turd in his mouth" or something equally grotesque in it.  Then again, we did have massive genital mutilation and a cross-dressing Frankenstein, and that's got to count for something.

If you like to see people choking on really disgusting phallic worms, then this film is totally the one for you.  The climax of the film involves a bunch of frat boys getting infested with turd worms of the brain and instinctively heading over to the sorority house to pick up/infect their dates. 

I'm sorry, but if you can't tell that you boyfriend is a zombie, then you deserve to have his worm in your mouth.  Man, that sentence is much more implicative than I meant it to be.  The film pretty much wraps up with the boy getting the girl and setting frat boys on fire... 

Maybe it's just the geek in me, but any film that ends with an entire fraternity being horribly burned alive as their heads explode (with worms) gets a lot of extra points in my book. 

 

Of course the "frat death by flamethrower" is almost balanced by a finale involving a sorority house being completely destroyed.  I really don't know where the aggression towards fraternities and sororities comes from.  Maybe it's the cultural stereotype we see in movies, where every single fraternity/sorority is populated by people who emulate the very worst parts of High School.  Or maybe it's the fact that they're by definition elitist.  Or maybe I just watched Revenge of the Nerds too many times.  :shrug:  The rugged antihero that I didn't bother to mention until now sacrifices himself (played by Tom Atkins, you know...the guy from Halloween 3, the Halloween movie that never happened) to destroy the motherload of brain worms that did, in fact, eat all those brains the sorority sister put in the basement for some morbid science project of hers.  It's all very quick and tidy....until a zombie dog spits a brain worm into the heroine's mouth.  And the film ends that way.  You have to appreciate surprise endings that show that evil wins.  I know I do.

By the way, the "zombie dog" I mentioned?  It's the scariest damn thing in the movie.

If only you could buy zombie dogs as pets.  If only.

Night of the Creeps is your classic "we know this is a bad horror movie" movie.  It's got a weird combination of overused plot devices (already overused decades ago when this film came out) and legitimate horror movie coolness.  That still doesn't make the turd worms any less revolting.

Slither (2006)

Oh, man.  Slither is one of those movies you watch and immediately say "Wow, they don't make movies like that anymore."  Of course, then you realize just how wrong you are when you notice when this little flick came out.  Slither was directed by James Gunn, who's quickly become one of my personal heroes, and it's an homage to classic horror, while at the same time representing something completely new.  Well, maybe not completely new....but the modern formula for instilling comedy in a non-comedy genre is pretty simple.  People act like real people (for the most part).  Characters freak out when normal people would, heroes aren't invincible, and people make jokes instead of acting super-serious all the time.  So Slither is a horror movie that happens to be really, really funny. The movie stars Nathan Fillion, who I swear is playing the same character he was playing on the show Firefly.  If you've seen the show, you already understand what I mean by "real world humor" being inserted into a non-comedic genre.  (By the way, you might find it surprising that I'm a Firefly fan...I really wanted to make fun of a show that's about cowboys in space and was shocked to actually get sucked into it...but that story is for another time, mostly because it requires me to make fun of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by association.)  Nathan Fillion plays the heroic sheriff...who, besides one tiny thing at the end, does absolutely nothing during the entire course of the film.  And that's part of why it's hilarious.  There are entire plot archs about him getting a grenade to kill the alien invader and when he finally pulls the pin....it gets immediately knocked out of his hand.  It's all very untraditional for stories like this and it's really refreshing to have a weird slice of reality in a movie about an alien that put worms in your brain to control you body.  Speaking of which, let's dive in.

You're drunk.  You're out in the woods with a younger woman that wants to rock your little casbah raw against a tree.  For some reason, your ADD kicks in and you've got the mysterious drunken urge to follow a mysterious slime trail that happens to be next to your make-out spot.  Following the trail, you find a pus-covered alien pupae quivering underneath a moonlit sky.  What do you do?

If you said "I poke it with a stick", then you go to the head of the class.  That's exactly what Grant Grant (uncreative parents apparently) does instead of having sex.  (Grant Grant is played by Michael Rooker, who is sadly most well known for playing the evil cockblocking TV executive father from Kevin Smith's Mallrats.)  The alien pupae responds to the stick poking appropriately by...

...crawling into Grant's brain.  So now there's an alien (an insect of some kind) in control of one of the main characters.  A lot of rules about aliens taking over people's bodies exist, even if you don't think about it.  The alien can almost immediately walk, talk, and drive...in fact, it is in many ways still Grant...only now it's Grant as an alien monster.  This is sort of important, as it becomes clear that "alien Grant" still loves his wife, even though he's secretly making preparations to take over and destroy the world.  Remember that, as it'll be relevant later.  Of course, when Grant starts mutating into something horrible, we learn something important:  Aliens are the worst liars ever.  Check this out.

"Oh no honey, I'm not sick.  I got stung by a bee.  I'll be fine."

It's funnier in the actually film, I swear.  There is one thing that's very funny, but NOT at the same time and dear Lord when it first shows up in Slither a little part of your soul withers away to nothingness.  It's still awesome but I can't articulate what I'm talking about without typing the phrase "Grant grows two alien penises out of his chest."  Because it's 100% true.

Talk about pornographic nightmare fuel.  I'm sure those aren't penises at all.  They're alien...appendages... that stab you and then pump alien seed into your body.  Listening to the commentary track on my Slither DVD, I learned that originally there was only one chest tentacle...but the censors thought that it looked too much like a penis.  What a magnificent solution.  "Oh, you think it looks like a penis?  Well, what if we give him two of them?  Penises don't grow in pairs, after all!"  Which is exactly why it's so freaking disturbing.  Grant ends up going back to the girl he didn't have sex with earlier (because he had important things to poke with a stick) and infecting her by filling the poor lass with his babies....so I guess it's technically rape.  I mean, if you watched a Japanese film where a monster penetrated a girl with tentacles and filled her with alien spoo, you'd think the same thing, right?  Dear God, I may actually have just watched a live-action tentacle rape sequence.  I feel so dirty.

Trivia Time:  Very much like Night of the Creeps, Slither is filled with cute little references to other horror movies.  We've got characters from Rosemary's baby, a school named after a character from Tremors, and a mayor named after one of the psycho's from John Carpenter's The Thing.  Crazily enough, there's even a bar called the Henelotter...named after the director of Brain Damage, the first film I mentioned today.  Alright enough goofy trivia.

Say hello to Brenda:

Apparently, if you're filled with alien sperm, you swell up like a giant pregnant balloon.  For those keeping score, this may well be the most disgusting "nude" scene I've ever seen in a film.  The other side-effect of being filled with alien babies is that it makes you insanely hungry.  So if you want to see a film where a woman gets penetrated by an alien, gets ridiculously obese, and begs for a bite of roadkill...Slither is the film for you.

So where the hell are the brain worms?

In case you didn't see it coming, Brenda explodes and baby brain-worms fly all over the place shoving themselves down people's throats left and right.  So how are the worms from Slither different from the worms in Night of the Creeps and the worm from Brain Damage?

First off, you have to admit the worms don't look like turds anymore.  Well, the shape's sort of right, but at least they're not brown anymore.  These worms still crawl around and want to get inside your head...but instead of eating you from within they just want to take control. 

  

So they're zombies...only not.  You see, the worms are actually still only one part of Alien Grant.  So all the bodies are actually part of the hive mind...which is really only the mind of Grant.  What that means (because I know that doesn't make sense) is that all the creatures that the Alien infects with brain worms become part of itself, acting as its eyes, ears, and hands (as opposed to tentacles).  So Alien Grant's running the whole show.  Let's see how our antagonist is doing:

  

Grant got very ugly very quickly.  For those of you with good eyes, I commend you for noticing that his two alien peni are now monstrously huge and, well, still very phallic.  It's not many movies where a monster's junk grows exponentially as the film progresses...Slither is nothing if not groundbreaking in the "giant monster cock" category. 

Which sort of ties into what this film COULD have been.  Sort of.

Believe it or not, one slight change to the film's ending would have made this movie ultimately a romance.  You see, Alien Grant still loves his wife, even though he's an evil alien that has to take over the world.  She ends up pretending to still love him so she can stab him (to no effect) but if only she'd ACTUALLY been able to accept the love of her life as being a big tentacle beast, this film would have ended up playing very, very differently.  Not that I condone hot tentacle loving, or anything.  It's just actually interesting that the alien inside Grant has destroyed entire worlds and when he comes to Earth he finds love for the first time...a theme that's almost touching.  Almost.  I could go on, but if you end up watching this film yourself you'll know what I'm talking about.

WARNING:  Nathan Fillion fans should look away right now.

Thank you Slither, for showing Nathan Fillion coughing up alien sperm that's been pumped into him.  I always like seeing the main character gag on invader baby batter.  :shudder:  In the end, Nathan does get sort of pumped full of alien babies, but instead of just taking it he does this goofy trick where he attaches the alien phallus to a gas tank causing explosive gas to go back into the appendage and.....I'll put it simply.

Nathan makes the alien penis fill up with gas until it explodes.  Attacking an alien's urethra?  That's got to be new.

Again, I love happy endings that aren't.  None of these brain worm films end with what would traditionally be called cheery.  As the credits begin to roll, we see that everyone infected with a brain worm in Slither is now lying there dead, since Alien Grant doesn't exist anymore.  Our heroes walk off into the sunrise (because most horror movies end at dawn for some reason...it's a union thing) as corpses litter the ground about them.  Even worse, there's a stinger after the credits showing that the alien invader isn't really dead and that good hasn't won at all.  Woo hoo. 

After sitting through so many movies about brain worms, I've come the conclusion that if I ever find myself in one of these films I might as well kiss my butt goodbye.  Very few people survive these things and if they do, they're only guaranteed to meet a grisly fate as soon as the camera stops rolling. 

So let's recap:

Rules of the Brain Worm:

#1:  Don't do drugs.

#1a:  Don't perform oral sex on people with an alien in their pants.

#2:  Don't ever join a Fraternity or a Sorority.

#2a:  Never store mass quantities of human brains in your basement.

#3:  Do not poke alien larva with a stick.

#4:  Do not poke alien larva with a stick.

#5:  See that stick?  It's not for poking alien larva.

 

Rules to live by, to be certain.

-jared

 

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Copyright Jared von Hindman, Head Injury Theatre...except for those snazzy images which are use for review purposes via Fair Use law.  Please don't sue me and plant your alien babies in my brain. 

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