Although a headline on a local newspaper states that the film is set at a “midwestern university,” the 1991 low-budget indie feature Brain Twisters was actually filmed on locations throughout the Wilkes-Barre/Scarnton area. Shot throughout the month of August 1990, the production used such familiar locations as Marywood College, The Woodlands and Market Street Square.
The plot, such as it is, centers around a college co-ed (Farrah Forke) and a police dectective discovering that her professor (a somnambulant Terry Londeree) is performing brainwashing experiments on students at the behest of some corporation. (The why of it all is never explained. I guess it’s just because they’re evil or something…) Of course, the brainwashing has slightly unforeseen side effects- turning the participants into killers.
The only recognizable name in the cast is Forke, making her film debut, but still a few years away from her career height as helicopter pilot Alex Lambert on the sitcom Wings. There are some locals who round out the cast and crew. The Woodlands proprietor Mitch Kornfeld appears as one of the brainwashed victim’s boyfriend. Even WVIA’s old late night monster movie series Uncle Ted’s Monstermania gets a mention.
Of course, being familiar with some of the locations used lends itself to a moment or two of unintended comedy. An early scene in the film has Detective Tun interviewing the boyfriend of a murdered co-ed at the restaurant at Wilkes-Barre’s Market Street Square (Left, click to enlarge) where he works. Unfortunately the waiter’s brainwashing kicks in and he throws himself out a window. Tun looks out the window, and we see the waiter’s broken body floors below. The only problem is that Market Street Square is on the ground floor!
But how is Brain Twisters as a movie? Not very good, unfortunately. As a horror/slasher film, it lacks the usual trappings of the genre. The gore is almost nonexistent and there is no sex or nudity to speak of. With the exception of exactly two four letter words, it is impossible to see how this was ever given an “R” rating. Jerry Sanguiliano’s direction is fairly lifeless and the movie plods along, never building any tension. The synth score is leftover 80s cheese. The acting is uniformly bland, even from Lee Strausburg Institute graduate Forke.
I can’t find any indication that Brain Twisters was picked up for theatrical distribution in the United States. It did however make it to theaters in Argentina, Germany, Iceland, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea and Yugoslavia. More than likely, the film went straight to video here in the states. I’m actually a bit surprised that it never wound up on Mystery Science Theater 3000, as several other movies from its releasing company, Crown International, have, including Wild Rebels, Sidehackers and the MST3K classic Catalina Caper.
It is currently available on DVD in the Drive-In Cult Classics, Volume 4 collection.