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Friday, 23 September 2011

BRAIN DAMAGE (1988)


Frank Henenlotter, the man behind the classic BASKET CASE (and its not-so-classic sequels) took a trippy detour with this bizarre horror comedy. Coming across like a drug-fuelled Sam Raimi flick, it follows normal guy Brian as he becomes dependent on the secretions of a phallic brain monster called Elmer, whose 'juices' send Brian into a state of euphoric hallucination. The thing is, Elmer needs to eat human brains in order to stay alive, and once Brian is hooked on his juices and addicted to the glowing lights that each hit makes him see, chaos is the order of the day. 

Brains are sucked out through people's mouths, the tops of their heads and more, Brian is subjected to mad hallucinations (including the sight of him pulling out his own brain matter which is then followed by a torrential explosion of blood), and a deranged elderly couple spend a lot of screen time screaming 
'Aaaayyyylllmmeeerrrr!' 


Deliciously mad, gloriously messy and fabulously crude, Brain Damage is one of the most unique horror films of the 80s in terms of visuals, the comedic terror of the Elmer creature and the thinly-veiled drug addiction allegory. 

The budgetary and technological limitations of the film actually work in its favour, adding a somewhat cartoonish feel to the violence and the delirious dream sequences and trippy moments. That's what gives it that Raimi style atmosphere, and also what makes the film seem so cheerful even while Elmer is sucking people's brains out of their skulls. I mean, it's hard not to love a film featuring a well-spoken demonic cock/turd with a cheerful face as a main character, and even moreso during the unnerving fellatio scene. 


One moment fans should keep an eye out for is the rather unexpected cameo from a certain other Henenlotter film, namely BASKET CASE. It's a beautifully placed little moment that works perfectly. For all of the chaos that fills Brain Damage, there's a serious message about drug dependency somewhere in there, but amidst the outlandish mayhem, wooden acting and brain-sucking fun, it can get a little lost in the mix. 

Rick Hearst is the best onscreen actor in the film, giving Brian a sympathetic demeanour even while tripping on Elmer's blue goo while it;s being pumped into his head. The film was trimmed a fair amount upon its original release in cinemas and on home video, but it is now available uncut on DVD and is well worth your time. 

Personally I tracked down the Palace Horror VHS edition of it I remember craving as a teenager and watched it in all of it's videotaped, blurry glory. While not the greatest film in the world, Brain Damage is the perfect alternative viewing when you don't think you can sit through Evil Dead II again for a while. And remember, kids: Don't take drugs, especially if they are administered by penis-shaped parasites with several rows of fangs.  

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