What do you get when you mix horror legend George A. Romero, a revenge fantasy, an existential study into the nature of identity, and an appearance by punk rockers The Misfits? You get Bruiser, one of the later efforts in Romero’s decorated career and one of his least recognized films. Maybe it’s because it didn’t have zombies in it. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t a high profile collaboration with Stephen King. For whatever reason, I rarely hear this film mentioned when discussing Romero’s many accomplishments with other fans. And what shame!
The film follows marginalized man, Henry Creedlow (Jason Flemyng). He’s got some of the worst luck you can imagine. His financial adviser is stealing money from him. His wife is cheating on him with his boss -who also happens to be a total dick. His own dog doesn’t even seem to respect him. Rather than confront these issues, he remains silent and rolls with the punches. That is, until he wakes up one morning without a face. With the physical removal of his identity, he seizes the opportunity for retribution.
And boy, does he ever. The entirety of the second act is revenge fantasy at its most effective. There are moments where, despite your more forgiving tendencies, you’ll feel compelled to cheer Henry along as he dishes out his brand of personal justice. Romero’s script and direction help it rise above these baser moments. He asks valuable questions about identity, how we’re defined as people, while still delivering the horror. Where the Dead films were sociological in their scope, Bruiser telescopes its focus on the psychology of an individual trying to exist in a world that has wronged him. Robbed of his essence by those around him, he has no choice but to become a slave to his animal tendency towards violence.
Compliments are due to the cast, especially Flemyng as Henry and Peter Stormare as his super douche-y boss. With a budget of approximately $5 million, Romero continues to prove his excellent record of getting so much out of so little. While admittedly, the climax seems a bit rushed, especially given how well everything is set up, Bruiser is one of Romero’s better efforts and I frankly don’t understand why it doesn’t get more attention. Check it out, if you haven’t already. If you have, I’d recommend revisiting it. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.