Young New Yorker Brian (Herbs) see his life go to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” when he befriends a dong-looking parasite (named Aylmer) that injects him with a drug fueled fluid in exchange for providing it with human brain-snacks. The good old 80’s man…the good old 80’s…
“It’s simple, he takes the brains, I take the juice.” -
Frank Henenlotter was a genre low budget filmmaker on the rise in the 80’s. He unfortunately somewhat disappeared in the pit of “non movie making” after Frankenhooker (although I hear he’s primed for a comeback). Of the films I have seen of his (Brain Damage, Frankenhooker, Basket Case 2 and Basket Case) I must say that Brain Damage is my favorite. I remember, when it was initially released, they’re was some negative vibe within the horror community towards the MPAA (who else) for cutting it down so much. It took a long time for the uncut version to be available (Synapse released the uncut DVD in 1999) and I’m happy to report that it was worth the check-out counter wait for this a-hole.
Brain Damage followed Basket Case’s thematic train of thought when it came to exploring a twisted symbiotic relationship between a dude and a freak-zoid of nature. Luckily, as opposed to solely repeating himself, Henenlotter took the whole shebang 13 steps further. This ailing squirrel worked on so many levels and I got addicted to pretty much all of them. First, it juiced as a far out trip movie with all kinds of eye popping hallucinogenic scenarios in its trunk that would make David Croneberg blush in envy. The bit where the room filled up with blue liquid (Windex?) and the light-bright-madness Junkyard scene were my pet moments. FAR OUT DUDE! The flick kicked butt as a strong allegory to drug addiction as well, where seeing Brian and his relationships deteriorate in the name of getting tweaked brought lots of dramatic resonance to the picture.
If that wasn’t enough, the movie bazooka’d hard as a no holds barred horror movie too! Man did it get messy in this abattoir with cranium digging, brain munching and chunky chunks galore filling our plates! Finally, Brain Damage warmed up the room as a biting black comedy with a slew of warped scenarios on hand (the blow job scene rocked) and Aylmer’s particular demeanor bringing a perverse charm to the movie. A note on Aylmer if I may (even though you don’t have a choice). That little bugger has always fascinated me. Was it his “doh” eyes? His cutesy wiggling tale as he gobbled brains? His Cabaret singing voice or his knack at stomach rumbling? It was all of that and then some. Aylmer was a mesmerizing creature, one that I wouldn’t mind hooking up with for a beer to talk cells. He’d have to stay away from my zipper though.
On the slim downside; the flick did get a tad redundant in places where it would always demonstrate the whole process when Brian was being injected. I got it the first two times; I didn’t need to see the intricacies of the procedure at every shot. Can you spell “filler”? Furthermore, I wasn’t too fond of the misplaced (in my humble opinion of course) gay/incest undertones (which were also present in Basket Case). They awkwardly stood out for me and distracted away from the film’s more interesting issues. What was that threesome with his brother fantasy all about again? Damn if I know and damn if I care!
Overall though, Brain Damage was a distinctive, perverse, ingenious and flamboyantly shot little gem that has to be seen to be believed. Even with its minor flaws, it was a highly superior film than the norm. They certainly don’t make sour brain candy like this anymore. Now sing like Aylmer…I SAID SING FOR THE LOVE OF BRAINS!
Aylmer made such a mess! Somebody put him in the corner! We get mucho brain sucking through the forehead, the side of the head, and the mouth. We also get a gross “pulling brain out of one’s ear” bit and lots of brain chunks tumbling about. This one was juicy!
Rick Herbst (Brian) had the look and the well oiled acting chops for the part. He really went all out and I bought his every state. This film was his show! Jennifer Lowry (Barbara) and Gordon MacDonald (Mike) were adequate as the confused girlfriend and the concerned brother.
We straight dudes get some bobbly cleavage and a clean tit shot while everybody else get two male butt shots and lots of shitless men.
Henenlotter showed mucho talent behind the camera by giving the whole a captivating bluish hue, gripping camera movements and sweet looking trip out scenes. He also injected his flick with just the right amount of tension and milked his low budget like a champ. NICE!
The bleak and at times offbeat score so worked for the picture while the 80’s pop/rock songs were harmless in their kitschy flavor.
You just can’t miss the ‘happy genre fan, joy, joy” target when hitting Brain Damage. It pretty much excelled on every plane while adding potent creativity, a bent sense of humor (the peek-a boo bit in the subway always gets me), gore stuffing and sharp smarts into the mix. Sure the gay stuff had no business in the film and some “repeat” moments felt like padding to me but that didn’t come close to tarnishing the incredible experience that was this film. On the whole you’d have to be a damaged horror fan to not rent this baby and pick its brain. "Brain Damage" was a breath of grey matter into my admitally vacuous life. See it and get drunk afterwards to celebrate its existence… just because you can!
You catch the nod to Basket case during the subway scene? We see Kevin Van Hentenryck (Duane Bradley in Basket Case) sitting across from Brian with a huge basket on his lap.
It has been announced that Frank Henenlotter will return behind the camera with “Sick in the Head” in 2005. I hope it happens! I miss the lad!
Rick Herbst went on to act in Warlock 3 and The Bold and the Beautiful.