THE BORROWER (1989)
So the first time I watched The Borrower it was listed as "1991" on IMDb and I went in expecting a horror flick. The second time I viewed it, the film's IMDb release date had changed to 1989 and I went in remembering it was a horror-COMEDY. I had much more fun with it on the re-watch. The Borrower is a horror-comedy from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer director John McNaughton and features some gross-out effects and an original, if not gonzo, premise.
PLOT: A murderous alien is de-evolved into a human and banished to earth as punishment for his crimes. Once on earth his head explodes and he begins killing and stealing people's heads. A female detective (COMMANDO's Rae Dawn Chong) and her partner begin a wild investigation into the decapitation murders plaguing the city. Eventually the borrower steals the head of a sex-crime criminal...who also happens to be the detective's enemy.
The Borrower is a gonzo, over the top alien horror comedy that features a fun cast and some memorable moments. Like the scene where the borrower steals the head off a dog and becomes a weird dog monster. The film's trailer compares it to Re-Animator (1986)...and that's an accurate comparison because it straddles that same horror/comedy tone. So the film was shot and completed in 1988 but sat on the shelf until 1991 after the film's original distributor went under. For some reason knowing this was shot in 1988 made a lot more sense to me. The film's style, tone, and aesthetics definitely seem more late 80's then early 90's. I highly doubt thought that this film would have made an impact in 1988 compared to 1991...but in '88 the horror genre was still popular and big hits were getting released when compared to the abysmal early 90's. So you never know.
Rae Dawn Chong stars as the female detective and I found her to be likable and decent in the lead. Some reviewers remarked she's a bad actress but I've always found her to be fine. And she's fine here in my opinion. I think her subplot involving a sex-criminal is a bit misplaced and doesn't really fall into place until the film's last 15 minutes...but she is fine in the acting department. Tom Towles is great as the redneck who becomes the borrower's first victim. He is an underrated character actor and is amusing as hell in the film. The rest of the cast does a capable job and there's a few interesting cameos.
The Borrower seems like an odd follow up from McNaughton after Henry. But he does seem to be having fun with the over the top gore and ridiculous premise. The special effects by Kevin Yagher are solid and there are some gory moments. The biggest negative about the flick is that it feels very episodic. Like a bunch of scenes just cut together. The alien just wanders around the grimy city and interacts with a bunch of odd characters. He never has any motivation beyond changing out heads and he has no master plan. Which makes the whole proceedings feel a bit redundant. The film's finale is rushed and it honestly feels like they ran out of money or time because it just ends on a weak cliffhanger.
Now I may be making this sound like The Borrower isn't entertaining but this is one fun, cheesy, and engrossing flick. It's just not narratively the most cohessive movie. I had a lot of fun with this one...despite feeling it ripped off The Hidden (1987) a bit. The soundtrack is awesome and the comedy is pretty good as well. I laughed out a loud a few times. Like when the borrower steals his homeless buddy's head and the reaction of a third homeless guy to the beheading had me chuckling out loud. If you go in expecting a weird horror-comedy you're gonna have fun with it. Just don't expect a lot of out-right terror/horror.