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Brand Upon the Brain

Canada / USA 2006
produced by
Amy Jacobson, Gregg Lachow, A.J. Epstein (executive), Jody Shapiro (executive), Philip Wohlstetter (executive) for The Film Company
directed by Guy Maddin
starring Gretchen Krich, Sullivan Brown, Maya Lawson, Katherine E.Scharhon, Todd Moore, Andrew Loviska, Kellan Larson, Erik Steffen Maahs, Cathleen O'Malley, Clayton Corzatte, Megan Murphy, Annette Toutonghi, David Lobo, Eric Lobo, Sarah Harlett, Dan Tierney
written by Guy Maddin, George Toles, music by Jason Staczek

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Little Guy Maddin (Sullivan Brown) is brought up in a lighthouse in which his mother (Getchen Krich) runs an orphanage, while his father seems to be forever working in his lab, inventing all kinds of surreal gadgets (like the aerophone, a sort of radio that works via the power of love). One day, a celebrity visits the island the lighthouse is at, Wendy Hale (Katherine E. Scharhon), one of the Lightbulb Kids, a juvenile detective club. Wendy tells him she is going to investigate some weird goings-on in the orphanage and thinks Guy's parents are criminals, yet the boy falls head over heels in love with her.

Wendy though figures it will be easier to conduct investigations as a boy, so she dresses up as her own brother Chance - which leaves Guy totally confused, since on the one hand he misses Wendy, on the other he feels totally drawn to Chance, just like his sister (Maya Lawson) actually - and interestingly, Wendy as Chance feels more drawn to sis than she does to Guy, even on a sexual level ... but she has to make up all kinds of stupid games to prevent Sis from finding out she's a girl as well - not necessary though, because Guy's mother has brought her kids up to be chaste so sSis can't even tell the difference between girl and boy ...

Eventually, Wendy/Chance finds out Wendy's father uses the kids from the orphanage to produce the nectar of youth by sucking it directly from the kids' brains - to make his wife a young woman (Cathleen O'Malley) again. But her youth tends to be only temporal since fits of rage always return her to her natural age. But mother is so desperate to become a young woman again, father eventually tries to suck the nectar from Sis, who kills him in a panic attack. He doesn't remain dead long because mother almost immediately has him revived again to continue to work for her.

Eventually, Wendy/Chance and Sis start a riot against mother and father and have them thrown off the island, much to the dismay of Guy, whose relationship to his mother bordered incest. Then Guy himself is thrown off the island because Wendy/Chance and Sis have found a foster family for him ...

Wendy/Chance and Sis though run the orphanage just as cruel as father and mother did, and they themselves are soon booted off the island as well ...

30 years later: At the request of his mother, Guy (Erik Steffen Maahs), now a housepainter, returns to the island for the first time, to paint the lighthouse. There, he is visited by phantoms of Wendy and Chance (whom he still considers two seperate persons) as well as his sister, plus he is reunited with his parents (now played by Clayton and Susan Corzatte). He seeks to find maternal bliss in the arms of his mother, but this is cut short when on her death-bed, the spirit of Wendy/Chance appears to her and she dies gravely disappointed of her son, while Guy's dad is burned to a cinder by the two oarsmen who took them to the island, both former orphans who have lived here ... leaving Guy all alone in the world once more ...


Guy Maddin has done it again!

He has made yet another hommage to silent cinema, and has produced another masterpiece that despite its almost antiquated mise-en-scene seems to be as fresh as can be. This is due to a rather clever directorial effort by Maddin, who doesn't just try to emulate the style of silent cinema and regard it as a sort of bible but enrichens it with weird directorial ideas of his own and surreal elements aplenty. Add to this a story that heavily draws from juvenile detective stories from the beginning of the 20th century but opens the floodgates to all sexuality supressed in the source material, many a pulp cliché and the director's own tongue-in-cheek approach to pretty much everything and you've got, well, a masterpiece.


By the way, originally, this film was shown in theatres in its silent version with a live orchestra, a sound effects man, a falsetto singer and a narrator - Isabella Rossellini at its premiere but among others Crispin Clover at other performances.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD