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Note: The following essay deals with what I will call “straight” horror, i.e., horror films not intended to be tongue-in-cheek and do not contain elements of self-parody or intentional humor (with the possible exception of the reference to Dead Alive). So, none of the Bruce Campbell Evil Dead movies or the various aging slasher franchises will be dealt with. Nor will it deal with television/net-based series.
If you have at all seen the American horror movie The Brain that Would Not Die you probably saw it on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in which “Jan in a pan,” the decapitated head of the girlfriend of the mad scientist in the movie, kept alive through methods he perfected in his twisted perversion of medical science (he was a doctor specializing in transplant medicine and reconstructive surgery the set-up tells us) visits the bots and Mike from the Gizmonic Institute during intermissions. I was not so lucky. At the age of 10, maybe 11, I suffered through the film in all its stomach-turning awfulness, unmitigated by the quips and comments from the MST3K team, and was rescued from its twisted if ineptly executed story only by ads for the local car dealerships and some guy in Indianapolis who really, really wanted to sell you guns. Lots of them. And frankly, I was glad he did because I knew I would need them badly if that thing locked in the secret experimental operating theatre in the basement ever got out.
You see, that “thing” was the key to the horror of the whole film … er … movie. This piece of cinematic waste does not deserve that sometimes-noble appellation. Sure, the movie had key elements of the horror genre in the west, to wit: