Not Quite Horror: “Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy” (1996)

Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There more than one way to watch a movie.

Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy (1996)

The Monster: Roritor Pharmaceuticals rushes happiness-creating drug Gleemonex onto the market. When Gleemonex users fall into comas, forever remembering their happiest memory, Don Roritor (Mark McKinney) attempts to cover up the scandal by first hiding the victims and then bribing the victims’ family in exchange for silence.

The Horror: The Roritor company itself is a nightmare, where a person’s job can be lost in a moment. CEO Don Roritor is so egotistical the rugs in the company are changed so they match his socks. One scientist in the company is working on a drug for the exclusive purpose of giving drugs to ex-girlfriends.

The rest of the world isn’t much safer. The police are incompetent. Couples fight and lie about who they really are. A bird impales itself in a man’s eye. Hundreds gather to hear a droning metal singer denounce happiness. Miserable, these people turn to Gleemonex, only to end up in comas.

The choice presented in the comedic Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy is simple. Suffer, or die.

The Shared Fate: Most people who live in industrial societies depend on medication. Gleemonex may be a fictional product, but medical mistakes are a very real concern.

Then there’s the problem of happiness. Normally, a person’s best memory would make for the perfect Hollywood ending. However, for takers of Gleemonex, their Hollywood ending never actually ends. Imagined for longer than a moment, can this pleasant prison truly be considered happy, especially if there are no other emotions to compare it to?

The Kids in the Hall comedy troupe were never far away from horror (for example, watch this sketch). Brain Candy, on its surface, seems too silly and uneven to be frightening. Beneath the surface of the flawed film is a world where “life is shit and then you die.”

The preceding quote comes from a miserable cap driver (also played by Mark McKinney). He is so bitter he is almost unlikeable, but at the end of the movie he proclaims himself a hero for not pursuing happiness in his life. If he’s the hero, is there any doubt this movie takes place in a kind of hell?

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen