Directed by Ross Hagen [Other horror films: Reel Horror (1985), Click: The Calendar Girl Killer (1990)]
I wasn’t really expecting that much from this movie, mainly because I thought that if it had been one of the unsung films of the 1980’s, I’d have heard about it by now. Well, either I’m listening in the wrong places, or I got a lot more out of B.O.R.N. than others did, because I found this movie superb.
Better known as Merchants of Death (which is the title it can most commonly be found under, it seems), B.O.R.N. (which stands for Body Organ Replacement Network) is a pretty damn dark movie for being a Troma release. When I heard that Troma jingle at the beginning, I was batting down the hatches for another Frostbiter or Blades, but instead, we have a pretty somber movie, with the appropriate soundtrack to boot.
For a movie that’s as low-budget as this one, the soundtrack is really impressive. It beautifully encapsulates the 1980’s, and helps the movie push a darker feel. The one vocal track in the film, a song by Jenifer Smith Meisner called ‘How Do You Begin,’ is a depressing ballad which first plays as a father muses over his three recently-abducted daughters, and boy, is it effective.
Obviously, the story itself isn’t really special, what with a father and a retired police detective trying to track down some missing girls, who were kidnapped by a black market organ syndicate, and you can sort of tell some things were rushed, but the performances here really pull a lot of it together.
I’ll get this out of the way first, though, because I hate to say it: Of all the performances, the one that did the most damage was P.J. Soles (of Halloween fame, totally), because of all the characters here, she felt the most overly and unforgivably evil, not to mention hammy. If we had maybe gotten a little background on her, it might of helped, but no such luck.
Everyone else was generally commendable, though. Playing the bereft father, Ross Hagen was great, and you really felt for his character as he was put through the wringer (and then some). Hoke Howell, who played the aforementioned retired detective, didn’t move me at first, but over the course of the film, I grew to appreciate him.
As much as I liked Hagen, it’s Russ Tamblyn’s character who really got to me. Much like Soles, his character is a bit over-the-top in his sinister nature, and he does abominable stuff in the film, but toward the end, when another character is beating him, he sort of breaks down, though he doesn’t cry, because his father didn’t want him to cry when he beat him. God, for a movie like this, you wouldn’t expect an emotional suckerpunch like that, but we got one.
Two others I wanted to briefly mention are William Smith and Clint Howard. William Smith is a big name, and his IMDb credits boasts nearly 300 appearances, and while this certainly isn’t one that he’ll be remembered for, playing the black market doctor, Smith is decently fun, though he doesn’t matter quite as much as many other characters. Related, while it was nice to see Clint Howard (Ice Cream Man has long been what I’ve best known him for), his character didn’t add much to the film, though had the story went a different route, he could have.
B.O.R.N. is a hell of a lot more somber than I ever expected, and there are some surprising and heart-wrenching deaths and scenes in this film that seem entirely inappropriate for a movie made on as small a budget as this was. I loved the whole vibe of this one, and while I wish there were a few changes, I think to Tamblyn and Hagen’s performances, and I forget them. Maybe it’s just me, but this was very much worth watching, and I’d definitely do so again.