Brain Damage (1988)

One of the great pleasures of the movies is that moment when you see something so singular and bizarre that you actually laugh out loud and ask yourself “what the fuck am I watching?” I live for those moments. Frank Henenlotter’s entire filmography is essentially one big “WTF moment”.

True to form, Brain Damage is fucking weird. It’s about a dude called Brian who becomes host to a leech-like parasite called Aylmer (pronounced “Elmer”) which secretes a blue hallucinogen into his brain in exchange for human victims to feast on. So far, so Cronenberg. But this being a Henenlotter movie, the film is primarily a gory, gonzo comedy containing a barrage of distinct imagery, sleaze-sex undertones and fabulous rubbery effects. Aylmer is voiced by famed late night horror host John Zacherle and boasts jumping eyebrows and shit-eating grin. It’s basically the parasite equivalent of the troll face meme just, you know, if it looked like a veiny blue rubber cock. Either way, he is surely one of the most unique and memorable horror nemesis’ the 80s had to offer.

At its core this is a story of addiction and to submerge it under such a loopy surface is one of the film’s main pleasures. The blue-tinged cinematography is a delight and all the blue liquids – think blue toilet chemicals – and close-ups of brains with little electric sparks detonating around it harken back to the laboratory-bound early days of Universal horror. It’s equally retro and transgressive but, more than anything, it’s just a super entertaining slab of grindhouse madness. There’s also a crossover with Basket Case – Henenlotter’s previous freak out – that is way too good for me to spoil here.

Watched on Arrow blu-ray

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