The brilliance of Mr. Brooks – Kevin Costner’s underrated horror gem

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A Killer’s Apprentice

Dane Cook is first and foremost a stand-up comic who transitioned into movies. Not an actor by trade, but an observer of human behavior this is a talent of sorts. Love him or hate him, in Mr. Brooks, his Mr. Smith is a loathsome creature and a perfect patsy for Earl.

Even Marshall who encourages Brooks to indulge in his deviant desires is repulsed by Smith’s opportunistic weasel like ways. Out of his depth, his attempt to rattle Earl’s cage by blackmailing him in the end is his undoing.

In Smith’s fantasies, he is a killer like Brooks. However, in reality, he is not equipped mentally for what that actually entails. His training session results in him leaving a puddle of urine on the floor. This mess actually ends up exonerating Brooks from the murders.

Cook manages to dial into Smith’s smarminess and inhabits it with ease. He makes his character unlikeable and when he meets his untimely demise at the hands of Earl, we as an audience cheer inwardly.

The Sins of the Father

The last player to examine in this tale is Brooks’ daughter Jane played with calculating coolness by Danielle Panabaker. After quitting college, Jane decides that she will cajole her father into letting her work in his business.

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Disappointed with his daughter’s decision, Earl refuses to take her on and tries to force her to go back to school. Frustrated, Jane finally confides in her parents (Marg Helgenberger plays her mother, Emma) that she is pregnant.

At first shocked, Earl comes to terms with it and offers to care for his grandchild and Jane. However, something is still nagging at him. There is the question of her missing BMW which she claims was stolen. As it turns out, a student is murdered on campus and the police come to Brooks’ house to question Jane.

Although she feigns innocence, Earl knows that she is just like him. He suspects that she committed the crime. So, he resolves to clean things up by taking a drive to her college campus and recreating the murder with another victim. That way it appears as if a serial killer is on the loose.

Blurred Lines

While he is dealing with this little melodrama, he is constructing a way to get rid of Mr. Smith. Wrestling with an actual moral dilemma is something foreign to Brooks but in an odd way he understands the difference between good and evil.

He does have a conscience when it comes to his daughter. Briefly, he entertains the thought of letting her go to jail. Obviously, he opts to save her.

However, in the end he dreams that his daughter stabs him to death and watches his lifeblood drain from him. In his heart, he knows that he may have to protect himself from her. His final cross to bear should he help Jane train her demons or try to get her help?

A Case for Mr. Brooks

This movie doesn’t get the respect it deserves in my humble opinion. There are some fine performances given but mostly it is maligned because of Costner’s perceived wooden acting. This is where I think Rotten Tomatoes gets it wrong.

Costner’s character is silently tormented. That internal dialogue with Marshall is his only means of expression. Outwardly he has to maintain appearances. Earl Brooks is like a quiet storm.

Some of the best works in horror are psychological. They stick with you long after the jump scares are left behind. Even after multiple viewings of this movie I still find myself dissecting it and thinking about various scenes.

After all, success of an entertainment property is all about the impact it has on its intended audience. If you haven’t seen this film, I urge you to give it a chance. Trust me, it will leave you with a lasting impression. After all, every one of us has some demons to hide.

Have you seen Mr. Brooks? Feel free to share your opinions in the comment section below. We want to hear from you.

Next: Prince of Darkness: John Carpenter’s Da Vinci Code of horror?

Susan Leighton can be found on Twitter and Facebook @SusanontheLedge as well as Instagram @convirgin. She is also featured on Friday Night Tights, the ultimate pop culture wrap up show at Nerdrotic Podcast every Friday night at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT. You can catch her weekly coverage on IFC’s Brockmire at TV Series Hub.