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25 Things You Might Not Know About Brain Candy

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In 1996, the movie Brain Candy by The Kids in the Hall based its comedy on the funniest topic the Kids could think of: depression. In the movie, doctors devise a new antidepressant drug that locks the patient into his or her happiest moment, reliving it over and over. Unfortunately, the drug is rushed to market, and severe side effects become apparent only after the world is hooked on the drug.

While Brain Candy is a cult classic (and a huge favorite of mine), sadly it lost a bunch of money. It marked the beginning of a four-year hiatus (read: breakup) for The Kids in the Hall. Here's some trivia you can enjoy before dunking the drug.

1. It Was Supposed to Be Called "The Drug"

Brain Candy's working title was The Drug, but Paramount executives nixed it. Apparently Paramount doesn't share an ad team with Roritor Pharmaceuticals.

2. Cancer Boy's Marrow is Low

Paramount executives fought hard to have Cancer Boy removed from the film, but lost that battle. The Kids insisted that he remain, and that his song "Whistle When You're Low" remain as well. Maybe there's hope for him after all. Years later, Bruce McCulloch recalled:

Cancer Boy was, arguably, what kind of financially killed Brain Candy. I love Cancer Boy more than anybody. I was tired of the way that little kids with cancer were used by celebrities for photo ops. If the kid goes into remission, does Wayne Gretzky still visit him? It was about how cheery a sick little kid could be, and he was worried about everyone else around him. And, of course, that pissed off a lot of people, even though it was only a cameo.

Mark McKinney commented on the group's thought process:

[Cancer Boy] wasn't an issue for us, but it was for the powers-that-be, the heads of the studio, who wanted it out and then didn't understand why the neophyte comedy troupe from Canada, with only cult appeal, was not listening to them. We thought, "Great, we won the battle, and they're not going to ignore a $7 million movie, are they?" But they kind of can.

Here's the scene:

3. The Queen Approves

Cancer Boy wasn't the only pre-existing Kids in the Hall character to appear in the film. Bigot Cabbie, White Trash Couple, Raj, Lacey, Melanie, Nina Bedford (aka Nina Spudkneeyak), The Queen, and the Police Department cops are all in there.

4. The Movie was Surrounded by Death

For a comedy, the movie is pretty dark, focusing on themes of depression, alienation, suicide, sexual repression, corporate greed, loneliness, you name it. This is partly explained by all the real-life darkness that descended on the troupe before shooting. Scott Thompson explained:

"In the period of a month, Dave’s marriage broke up, one of Kevin’s parents died and my brother committed suicide. I was pretty much in shock. My brother died literally a week before we started shooting. All those things conspired to make it a dark time."

In the film's end credits, the producers note the death of Thompson's brother. The dedication reads, "For Dean Thompson and all the Deans in the world."

Getty Images

5. Dave Foley is No Lady

Dave Foley is the only member of the troupe who didn't play a female character in the movie. He was starting his sitcom NewsRadio; perhaps drag wasn't seen as a wise idea for a primetime star.

6. Dave Foley Was Supposed to Play the Lead Role

Getty Images

Kevin McDonald wasn't originally slated to play the role of Dr. Chris Cooper; that part was supposed to go to Dave Foley. But creative tensions were so high (read: Foley didn't want to do it) that McDonald had to step into the lead. McDonald later recalled (emphasis added):

"I felt great pressure playing the lead. It took away what I do best, which is being silly around the main person. The only time you see me alive in the movie is when I play the dad killing himself."

"Ow, my other foot" indeed.

7. Mark McKinney Played the Most Roles

Getty Images

As is typical for KITH projects, everybody played a lot of roles—but Mark McKinney played nine. Scott Thompson clocked in at eight, Bruce McCulloch at seven, Kevin McDonald played four (one being the lead), and Dave Foley also played four (one being the "Just a guy" guy with three lines).

8. Kevin McDonald Played His Own Father

In the scene where Dr. Chris Cooper's father shoots himself offscreen, Kevin McDonald plays Cooper's father. "Young Chris Cooper" is played by Jason Barr, an Ontario native who went on to work on The Howie Mandel Show and Sailor Moon. Here's the scene:

9. Dave Foley Quit

Dave Foley is the only member of the troupe who didn't receive a writing credit on the film—because he quit the group in the middle of writing to focus on his own TV and film efforts. Longtime KITH TV writer Norm Hiscock is the only non-Kid receive a writing credit, and went on to write for King of the Hill and Parks and Rec, among others.

10. GLeeMONEX Has a Fake "Real" Name

GLeeMONEX, the drug featured in the movie, has a pseudo-scientific name: Duoroflouriximinimum 602. This is briefly visible when The Queen declares the drug "approved."

11. Don Roritor Was Based on The Kids' Boss

Don Roritor, the head of the pharmaceutical firm in the film, has a characteristic speech pattern. It's based on Lorne Michaels, the group's producer and creator of Saturday Night Live. Michaels has also inspired other film characters, including Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies.

12. Roger Ebert Hated It

Roger Ebert called Brain Candy "awful, dreadful, terrible, stupid, idiotic, unfunny, labored, forced, painful, bad." He claimed he "didn't laugh once," and openly fought Gene Siskel on the air. Here's their video review:

13. ...But Gene Siskel Loved It

And conveniently, marketing for video store owners quoted only Siskel's portion of the review in their bizarre marketing video. Seriously, look at this crazy promo video trying to sell VHS tapes to video stores.

14. The Soundtrack Ruled

The Brain Candy soundtrack is a surprisingly impressive catalogue of 90s indie rock. It includes tracks from Pavement, Liz Phair, They Might Be Giants, Guided By Voices, Yo La Tengo, Matthew Sweet, Cibo Matto, and Stereolab, among others. Tragically, it's missing Cancer Boy's "Whistle When You're Low."

15. It Had a Very Different Ending

The movie had a dramatically different ending in an early cut. Floating around in collectors' circles, this alternate version of the film has entire characters and subplots that were removed from the final version. Here's a look at that ending, in super-crappy quality. Note that there are f-bombs in here:

16. The "Alternate Cut" Was Pretty Rough

As a huge fan of the movie in the '90s, I had (and have) one of those VHS dubs of the original cut. It just doesn't work as a movie, though. While the ending is arguably better, the rest of the film is crammed with goofy extra plot lines (including a major one involving terrorists). Here's a sample of the material that was removed:

17. They Cut Janeane Garofalo's Role

Janeane Garofalo had a role in Brain Candy, and she's in the alternate cut. But she didn't make the final cut—which is surprising given that she was a pretty big deal in 1996.

18. The Film's Director Was a TV Guy

Brain Candy director Kelly Makin mostly directed TV shows (including many segments on Kids in the Hall), though he also directed the films movies National Lampoon's Senior Trip and Mickey Blue Eyes.

19. "The Drug is Ready" is a Song Lyric

As Dr. Cooper takes an elevator to meet with the top brass at Roritor, the elevator music is "Butts Wigglin" by The Tragically Hip. That song features the lyrics "In my opinion, the drug is ready," which is what Cooper ends up telling his boss during the meeting. (Later, Dr. Cooper is asked to "wiggle those hips" on a talk show.) You can hear the whole song here:

20. Brendan Fraser Has a Cameo

Toronto actor Brendan Fraser has a brief cameo as a test subject convinced he's getting sugar pills instead of the drug, due to his severe acne. He's also visible running out of the Depression Project holding a lab rat cage, almost precisely one hour into the film. He does not appear in the film's credits.

21. The Trailer is Full of Deleted Scenes

If you take a careful look at this trailer, you'll notice it includes a bunch of material that wasn't in the final cut of the movie. We see the deleted Dave Foley terrorist character (when Foley is introduced), Don Roritor enjoying extra pepper, and plenty of extra stuff from the White Trash Couple. Watch and spot the differences:

22. Kevin McDonald's Acting is Modeled on Young Frankenstein

In an interview with The A.V. Club in 2004, Kevin McDonald recalled how he prepared to play Dr. Chris Cooper:

[Playing the part] was really hard for me, because I didn't see it as a funny part. As we had time to rewrite it, I sort of found the comedy in it. I rented Young Frankenstein and I saw Gene Wilder playing the straight part, but getting a lot of laughs reacting to everyone else. That's how I decided to play it, as a modern Young Frankenstein. And we have similar hair.

23. "Chris Cooper" Was KITH's Longtime Editor

The lead in the film, Dr. Chris Cooper, was named in honor of Christopher Cooper, who edited tons of KITH projects—including the TV show, Dog Park, Brain Candy, you name it.

24. Wally's License Plate Is Revealing

Wally, the repressed gay dad (who's remarkably similar to KITH's TV character Danny Husk) has a license plate reading GAY IAM. It's only visible for an instant as he marches out into his suburban street to lead the "I'm Gay!" musical parade.

25. Tool Actually Covers "Some Days It's Dark"

The fictional ultra-dark song by Grivo's band "Death Lurks" performed in Brain Candy has made its way into the real world of dark music. Tool covers it live, with more or less the same absurd lyrics. Here are the lyrics and an audio recording from a Tool concert in Ontario, 2007:

Some days it's dark. / Some days I work. / I work alone. / I walk alone.... / I know....

Sweetness / bring me / laughter / or not.

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Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

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iStock
Hollywood's 5 Favorite Movie Villains
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iStock

Movie villains are meant to bring out the best in a hero, but with the right script, director, and performer in place, these bad guys can sometimes steal the show from their clean-cut rivals.

Take any horror movie, for example—chances are you’re not watching Friday the 13th to root for the absentminded teenagers down at Camp Crystal Lake. And Steven Spielberg certainly didn’t become a household name by directing a shark movie titled Three Guys on a Boat Drinking Narragansett.

The Hollywood Reporter set out to celebrate these iconic agents of evil by surveying 1000 professionals in the entertainment industry (directors, producers, entertainment attorneys, etc.) on their favorite movie villains. A rogues' gallery of murderous AI, mafia bosses, and a diabolical fashion magazine editor all made the top 25 list as the worst of the worst, and while they’re all deserving, the top five are the gold standard. They include:

5. Nurse Ratched: Played by Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
4. The Joker: Played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008)
3. The Wicked Witch of the West: Played by Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. Hannibal Lecter: Played by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Hannibal (2001), and Red Dragon (2002)
1. Darth Vader: Played by David Prowse and James Earl Jones in the Star Wars movies (Prowse 1977-1983, Jones 1977-present)

That top spot might not come as a surprise to most, unless you’re still in your twenties: According to The Hollywood Reporter, survey respondents in that age group put Darth Vader in the sixth spot—behind Regina George from Mean Girls.

To check out the entire list, head to The Hollywood Reporter.

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