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Movie Review: The Borrower

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Despite what countless law enforcement officials and psychiatric professionals have to say on the matter, I wholeheartedly believe that the Earth is an interplanetary dumping ground for convicted alien psychopaths. This theory would certainly help to explain the steady increase of worldwide insanity, from suicidal terrorist organizations to the stuffy white clowns currently churning out unconstitutional laws like so much rancid butter. Oh, and the next time you catch your kooky neighbor performing naked pagan rituals in his or her backyard, ask yourself the following question: Do all human beings come equipped with twenty-seven lactating nipples and fourteen sets of slimy genitalia?

I think not, Mr. Psychological Expert.

John McNaughton's cheesy 1991 sci-fi comedy The Borrower is the perfect cinematic representation of my daunting xenophobia, a breezy 90-minute burst of gory alien paranoia. Even if it fails to provide you and your twisted kin with an evening's worth of demented entertainment, the film should definitely help push sales of Rodney Amateau's The Garbage Pail Kids Movie through the proverbial roof. Assuming, of course, that someone is willing to give McNaughton's misunderstood gem a proper Region 1 DVD release. Come on, Warner Home Video! I know you can do it!

When insectoid aliens need to quietly dispose of their unwanted serial killers, they simply transmutate these sadistic prisoners into hulking human beings and release them on the outskirts of New York City. However, the process used to conceal their extraterrestrial ancestry is an imperfect one, forcing these earthbound inmates to procure a new head whenever theirs happens to suddenly explode. Needless to say, the latest addition to the psychotic herd is having quite a few discouraging problems with his recently acquired craniums, issues which leave a large string of horribly disfigured bodies twitching in his wake. Only a seasoned female cop (Rae Dawn Chong) and her elderly partner can put an end to this creature's bloody reign of terror.

McNaughton's decision to helm The Borrower as his follow-up to the harrowing Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is an odd one, for sure. Perhaps the man needed a humorous project to thoroughly cleanse his palate of the nauseating atrocities sprinkled generously throughout his 1986 horror masterpiece. The Borrower, much to my giggling schoolgirl surprise, was much funnier than I had anticipated, extracting several nervous fits of genuine laughter from yours truly when most people would have run screaming for the STOP button. What can I say — decapitations are pretty hilarious.

However, since this is a John McNaughton picture, The Borrower has its fair share of uncomfortable graphic violence, most of which is aimed squarely at the Caucasian female population. The inclusion of a sexual predator subplot ultimately undermines the film's light-hearted tone, especially considering it adds up to nothing more than a few uneven scenes of needless cruelty and humiliation. It's almost as if McNaughton felt obligated to present something brutally shocking and oh so disturbing to prove to everyone that he hadn't gone soft. A simple suggestion for the inevitable Unrated Director's Cut Two-Disc Special Edition: Ditch the rapist, add more Tom Towles.

Seriously.

The cast, to the gasping delight of absolutely no one, is fairly basic. Rae Dawn Chong is the film's supposed lead, her latchkey performance careening wildly between simply tolerable and horribly melodramatic. In fact, the only people you'll really care about are Antonio Fargas and Tom Towles, though their combined screen time doesn't exactly runneth over. Again, the film could have been tightened considerably with the addition of more Towles/Fargas interaction and less touchy-feely moments of womanly melodrama.

The Borrower is fun, not fantastic. I'm assuming its absence on DVD is due to an overall lack of interest from the movie-going public, though I'm willing to bet there are people not unlike myself who would surely appreciate a crisp, clean widescreen transfer. As a follow-up to Henry, it's surprisingly pedestrian and lackluster, a drastic step backwards for the talented director. Furthermore, the prospective viewer is visually assaulted with several icky moments of unnecessary violence towards women, all of which seem out of place in a picture featuring an alien who steals human heads to stay alive. Naturally, only a select few will enjoy something as flawed and inconsistent as The Borrower.

And I'm willing to bet they're all from outer space.

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