Andy Nehl has had an extremely successful career as a producer with credits like The Chaser’s War on Everything and Hungry Beast to his name. But in 1987, Nehl gave the world (or at least a handful of people in Australia) something very different. He gave us junkies, dodgy video effects, and a guy in a frog suit making out with a woman.
Australia, 1987, Andy Nehl
Sally (Julie Mitchell) and Robert (Bryn Giles), two local junkies, are big time Intensity users, scoring their drugs from bespectacled, pale-faced shithead, the Burgher Meister (James Scanlon) and his goons. Robert takes one Intensity hit too many and finds himself dead in a public toilet.
Meanwhile, at the Institute of Brain Research, Liz (Cathy Jukes) and Margaret (Lisa-Jane Stockwell) are exploring the effects of a Videodrome-esque tape that gives a high to its audience — a high that’s even stronger than Intensity. The international authorities, worried about its effects on the global heroin trade, start to monitor Liz and Margaret’s activities. The Burgher Meister also catches wind of the mysterious tape and wants it for himself, so he performs some voodoo and plays guitar with his goons.
Brainblast is cheap, silly stuff with actors taking accidental peeks at the camera and stumbling over lines. But it’s also enormously entertaining with a fast pace and an undeniable energy. It particularly kicks into gear in its later half as we’re treated to a hyper-heroin party, a slow-motion knife throwing demonstration, and even an exploding head. The final confrontation between our heroes and the Burgher Meister’s gang is legitimately hilarious.
The effects that demonstrate the brainblasting abilities of the videotape are very much naff, but not without their charms. I choked out a befuddled scream of joy as we watch Sally, high on the video’s imagery, get busy with a person in a shockingly shoddy frog suit. I also have a soft spot for the particular brand of colourful video effects it uses.
Nehl fills Brainblast with an almost never-ending soundtrack of appropriately loud music. The noisy score, consisting of local acts like Love Party and Craven Fops, combined with footage of dirty looking cars and vans zooming through haggard Sydney streets bubbled up nostalgia for late 80s Australia.
Brainblast is by no means a lost classic of Australian cinema, but it’s a lot of fun. Its ideas are ambitious for a film of its budget. Nehl’s leanings towards political comedy can already be seen, especially in the television reporter character he plays himself. Though its pantomime performances and awkward dialogue elicits the occasional cringe, Brainblast is worth a whirl. Just sit back and enjoy the colours…