Lucas Mangum’s Hidden Horror Gems: The Borrower (1991)

Look at that beautiful artwork!
Look at that beautiful artwork!

You’ve got to hand it to John McNaughton for following up his bleak, nihilistic (but brilliant!) crime thriller, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, with this bizarre, quirky sci-fi horror outing. The film is about a criminal alien sentenced to a be devolved into a human being and set loose on “savage planet Earth,” for his crimes. There’s just one problem, his head keeps exploding and he needs to borrow another one. This makes for some truly over-the-top shenanigans. Standing in his way is tough city cop (Rae Dawn Chong) whose beliefs in reality are challenged when headless bodies pile up and witness all give similar accounts of a strange alien creature.

This film has many wonderful elements, but I’ll give you the top five.

1. A tough, resourceful female protagonist who doesn’t spend half the film screaming, nor does she fall when she’s being chased. Chong plays the role with a hardened grace, delivering genuine humanity as well as badassery.

2. Tom Towles! You may know him as Otis from McNaughton’s previous film, or as Mr. Cooper in the 1990 version of Night of the Living Dead. Here he portrays the alien’s first host and we get to see him strolling around in girlie sunglasses, awkwardly imitating drug dealers and vagrants, and chewing on a dead mouse.

3. The lead singer of the band wearing a leather jacket with a skull and bones emblem right above a stitching of the peace sign.

4. The strange and wonderful opening scene with the lizard/insect thing informing the criminal, now in devolved human form, of his sentence.

5. In the climactic scene, the borrower grows tired of human heads and swaps out for a dog’s head.

That looks painful.
That looks painful.

I first saw this film on VHS, when I was working at the now defunct Hollywood Video, and clearly remember enjoying it. I also managed to score a copy on video when VHS was finally phased out of circulation. Recently, I had the pleasure of revisiting it and what a pleasure it was! The film is available on VHS still, for about $30, but if you don’t feel like spending that kind of money for an obsolete format, it’s streaming on YouTube. Regardless of how you see it, I recommend that you do see it. If you like horror/sci-fi comedies, you won’t be disappointed.

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