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John’s Horror Corner: The Borrower (1989), a goofy B-movie replay of The Hidden (1987) about a body-swapping alien.

November 23, 2019

MY CALL: If you tossed a big bag of The Hidden (1987) into a low budget B-movie vat with a light sprig of seasoning from The Terminator (1984), this would be the cheesy-fun result. MORE MOVIES LIKE The Borrower: Seemingly the inspiration for this movie, The Hidden (1987) was much better.

A criminal among an insectoid alien race is sentenced to a punishment worse than death—he is remanded to a devolved (i.e., human) form and exiled to Earth. Like a socially awkward T-800 he learns how dress and behave from the people he meets on the streets.

From its cheesy opening exposition dump to the hokey opening credits scoring, you probably wouldn’t expect much from this movie. But right out of the gates we get a hammed-up transformation scene showing many transitional phases from disfigured man to slimy-clawed, pulsating face, head-exploding monster. Despite its humble budget, this B-flick swings for the fences. The movie isn’t particularly good, but it’s every bit as entertaining as it needs to be to keep the attention of a B-movie fan, and then some. Pulsating faces abound as our alien felon rips off and swaps one head for another… even the head of a dog!

Hot on his murderous trail is a tough detective (Rae Dawn Chong; Tales from the Darkside: The Movie). But we never really identify with the character—she just happens to be investigating the homicidal bread crumbs. So, the “protagonist” is basically the murderous, head-swapping alien. He may not be “good” or have a sympathetic cause, but we have no real hero at all. Rather we watch as our extraplanar felon encounters one hapless passerby after another, often rips off and commandeers their head, and continues to the next victim (including Tony Amendola; Annabelle, The Curse of La Llorona).

Unfortunately, after an energetically paced first half, the movie does the opposite of most horror—it slows down as if suddenly caring about resolving the plot. And while overall this movie is perfectly entertaining, I must admit that the drop in pacing and special effects definitely down-shifted my impression.

Anyone desiring truly over-the-top horror-comedy would agree that The Borrower is doesn’t hold a candle to Blood Diner (1987), Frankenhooker (1990) or Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (1991). But overall, I think director John McNaughton (Wild Things, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) did right by B-movie fans.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2019 3:41 pm

    John McNaughton was hired to direct this after Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer and I’m pretty sure he’s said it ran into money problems during production. Which would explain the sudden change in pace.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 23, 2019 4:57 pm

      That makes sense if they shot the scenes in order. Fun flick in either case. Definitely deserving of an Arrow or Vinegar Syndrome release.

      • November 23, 2019 5:40 pm

        I’m trying to remember it from an interview in Fangoria at the time but I’m fairly sure that’s why the film really doesn’t have a proper ending and some effects were never filmed.

        Atlantic went broke while it was filming and it was picked up by Cannon who were having their own issues by then so it was just tossed out there “as is” I’d love to see it get a proper release

  2. November 26, 2019 8:29 am

    I seem to remember this one. There was so many from the 80’s that so many years later they all seem to run together except for the stand outs. Thanks for the review, I love reading about these from my teenage years.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 26, 2019 8:14 pm

      I actually just saw this little weirdo gem for the first time for this review. A bit clunky, but I’m glad I came across the thing. lol

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