Plagued by financial troubles and released some two years after its completion, THE BORROWER is the follow-up of the team of producer Steven A. Jones, screenwriter Richard Fire and director John McNaughton to HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, an icy study of a sociopathic murderer.
In a white room suffused with light, a man (Robert Dryer) and a giant, insectoid alien pilot talk. The man, it ensues, is also an alien, a savage murderer who has been given the most dreadful sentence his peers can imagine: he has been genetically "devolved" into a human being and will be
abandoned to fend for himself on Earth. "A word of caution," warns the alien warder as they approach their destination. "Guard your body well. Damage to it may result in painful metamorphosis or worse."
Things go badly from the moment they arrive on Earth. Poachers Bob Laney (Tom Towles) and his son Kip (Bentley Mitchum) see the arrival of the spaceship, and open fire. Both aliens are injured, and the humanoid convict's head explodes in a welter of gore. He borrows Laney's. Meanwhile, Detectives
Diana Pierce (Rae Dawn Chong) and Charles Krieger (Don Gordon) arrest a vicious rapist/murderer named Scully (Neil Giuntoli), who vows revenge. When Laney's headless body is found, they're called in to investigate.
The Borrower, bloodied and disoriented, hitches a ride into town and wanders the streets, where he's befriended by the homeless Julius Caesar Roosvevelt (Antonio Fargas). Julius's head soon finds itself on the Borrower's shoulders; it in its turn is replaced by the head of lecherous Dr. Cheever
(Tony Amendola). As the headless bodies pile up, Pierce and Krieger realize they're not investigating a run-of-the-mill serial murder, though they have trouble believing the wild stories they're hearing about a space monster tearing off people's heads. They finally confront the Borrower at the
morgue, only to have its body--which they now know only looks dead--whisked away by the FBI. The Borrower rises again, and rips off the head of an FBI agent.
Though THE BORROWER shares several cast members with HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, including Tom Towles (Henry's menacing sidekick Otis), it's a less ambitious project, an old-fashioned monster movie at heart. Even on that level it's not altogether successful. It drags in the middle, after
the "borrowing" has lost its novelty (though the Borrower's later acquisition of a dog's head provides an unexpected jolt) and the parallel police manhunts--for the decapitation killer and the escaped Scully--seem arbitrarily juxtaposed. Worse still, the film has no ending. It's not so much that
it's left open-ended for a sequel as it is that the movie just grinds to a halt.
Still, THE BORROWER stands out from the run of genre movies in a number of ways. McNaughton originally wanted to shoot in Chicago, and when forced to relocate to Los Angeles made what may well be the darkest film (both literally and metaphorically) ever shot in Southern California. The location
is deliberately vague, a metropolis of mental institutions, coffee shops, missions, alleyways, bars, emergency rooms and dirty downtown streets--if there is a nice part of town, we never get to see it. The pervasive violence and brutality of its citizens suggest that the alien jury was right:
exile to Earth is the worst thing that could happen to anyone.
The quality of the performances is erratic--Rae Dawn Chong is particularly weak in a key role--but Towles, Giuntoli and Mitchum are surprisingly intense, and many of the supporting cast do creepy, distinctive turns. Very effective special effects by Kevin Yagher, of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
fame, also contribute to the film's overall disturbing atmosphere. (Violence, profanity, sexual situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: Plagued by financial troubles and released some two years after its completion, THE BORROWER is the follow-up of the team of producer Steven A. Jones, screenwriter Richard Fire and director John McNaughton to HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, an icy stud… (more)