Main cast: Beau Bridges (Dr Martin Fairbanks), Tony Goldwyn (Dr Carl Fairbanks), Tom Wright (Mitch), Lucinda Weist (Kelly), Peter Schuck (Bernie), Hugh Holub (Al), Tina Bockrath (Paula), and John Kassir (The Crypt Keeper)
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Before Tony Goldwyn became more well known these days as the most useless and unlikable President of the United States in the TV show Scandal, he was already playing assholes, and Dr Carl Fairbanks is basically Fitzgerald Grant III in a laboratory instead of the White House.
Carl played a birthday prank on his brother Martin years ago, a prank that ended with Martin suffering a heart attack. The heart attack left Martin paralyzed on one side of his body, which kept that man from being a surgeon. He is now a mere researcher working under Carl, his superior. Even before this, the two brothers are not close, as Carl resents Martin for being so clever and Martin resents Carl for skating by with his charms and his constant cajoling of Martin into doing his work for him. Today, therefore, the two are in some kind of passive aggressive cold war. Carl constantly pushes better promotions and opportunities to his brother in hope of getting Martin out of his lab, while Martin determinedly rejects all his offers.
Carl is determined to make Martin accept a teaching position when this episode begins, and threatens to cut off the funding of Martin’s research if that man refuses. In retaliation, Martin slips into his beloved brother’s drink something that leaves him paralyzed. Gloating, Martin injects into the man a serum he claims to have developed using woo-woo he has learned from a les morte vivante ritual he’d learned in Haiti. Similar to what he did to Martin years ago, Carl suffers a heart attack and… dies? No, wait, he is still very conscious even as everyone else assumes that he is dead, and begins to deal with his corpse accordingly…
Abra Cadaver is half-comedy, half-creep show, and to a great extent, it works in both areas. The comedy comes mostly in the form of macabre humor as well as a stereotypical Rastafarian-like performance by Tom Wright that I’m sure would be offensive to quite a number of people these days. The creep show comes from Carl learning just how callous people who hate him will treat his corpse, heh, and really, some of the scenes can really make me wince. The cinematography is also clever, as it is done in way that, every time Carl voices over futilely. it seems like his voice really comes from him, only his lips can’t move and his face is frozen in an expression of terror. When Martin cheerfully tells the “dead” Carl that he is going to hand over Carl to an organ donor truck, I don’t know whether to squeal in anticipation or cringe on behalf of poor Carl. And if the penultimate scene is really difficult to sit through, the ending “twist” is even worse.
The thing is, I am really distracted by the similarity of this episode to one from… The Twilight Zone, I believe, and I get distracted while watching this one, trying to remember the name of that The Twilight Zone episode. Oh, the two episodes are not completely identical, but the whole being conscious while your body is pretty much dead to the world thing is present in both episodes. Please let me know if you have an idea of what I am talking about, thanks!
As for Abra Cadaver, this one is solid. Just don’t watch it on an empty stomach if you are squeamish about surgery and such.