A Movie A Day: BRAIN DAMAGE (1988) This is the start of your new life. A life of colors, music, life and euphoria…
Published at: Oct. 6, 2009, 6:55 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the newest October special horror run of A Movie A Day!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf, recorded on the home DVR or streamed via Instant Netflix and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my usual A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
Ah, this is more like it. Cheap, bizarre, trippy, outrageous, odd and darkly funny… must be Henenlotter.
Say what you want about Frank Henenlotter’s films they are never anything less than entertaining and BRAIN DAMAGE is certainly that.
Falling in-between BASKET CASE and its sequel, BRAIN DAMAGE seems to give Henenlotter a bit more to play with and play he does.
The story centers around Brian (Rick Hearst) who is randomly picked by a hungry brain-eating talking, singing, smart-ass worm-like parasite who pumps a hallucinogenic liquid into Brian’s brain through a needle-like fang in his mouth. This parasite, named Aylmer, doesn’t want to eat Brian’s brain. Where’s the fun in that? It’s so much easier on him to get someone hooked on this narcotic-like substance and then withhold it until they bring the food to him.
And human brains only, please.
It feels a bit weird to say this, but Frank Henenlotter’s BRAIN DAMAGE has a lot going on below the surface. The easy connection is the drug addiction angle. Brian quickly gets to the point where he’s willing to do anything for a fix and helps this little bastard get his brains.
Below that is showcasing just how a serious addiction can ruin relationships. Brian’s a good guy, but after he gets his first taste of “the Juice” he lets that take priority, shunning his girl and brother.
The first stage is embarrassment, that’s why he keeps those closest to him at a distance while he tries to figure out just what this creature is and what it’s pumping into his brain. That quickly turns into a self-preservation instinct once Brian starts bringing Aylmer his food.
And, as serious drug addiction tends to do in real life, Brian ends up alone after alienating his friends and family to the point where they give up. His only friend is his pusher and his pusher could really give a shit who he is as long as payment keeps arriving on time.
In other words, this movie had a lot more going on than I expected going into it, but yeah… it still has signature Henenlotter insanity anchored by Aylmer himself. This thing is clearly a puppet, but the feeling I get is that Henenlotter would have gone full Muppet, showing the rods that move him around every once in a while. It doesn’t matter that Aylmer’s clearly an effect, it’s his personality that matters. If you buy into this worm thing you are in for the long haul.
And that haul gets rewarded with many things, including a first for me… There’s one scene where a barslut it literally killed because she tries to blow Brian. Instead of getting his worm in her mouth, Aylmer jumps in while the unawake Brian thrusts his pelvis (and Aylmer) into her mouth graphically until Aylmer gets to her brain through her mouth.
That’s the first, and probably still best, holy shit moment in the film, although I will say it has a hell of an ending that goes a lot darker than I expected.
The production value isn’t exactly Kubrick level, but the photography and set dec suits this movie, especially when Brian decides to kick his habit and pits his ability to go cold turkey against Aylmer’s patience. Brian locks them both in a cheap hotel and suddenly felt like I was in the middle of TRAINSPOTTING, but instead of a dead baby crawling on the wall we get a singing phallic puppet that lives in the hotel sink.
This is a weird movie, guys and it’s not for everybody. What movie is, right? I get it, I et it. I’m in danger of overusing that sentence. Sorry about that. But I mean it. I can see people love up on this movie something for all its insanity and decent, dense plot.
Final Thoughts: Aylmer will win you guys over and would be worth watching the movie just for him. All the acting’s fine, even the naked, oiled up muscleman bohunk in the shower scene. Yes, it’s disturbing. Yes, it goes psychedelic for parts, but it’s all well executed. Super fun and it might actually make you think a tad even while watching a death-by-fellatio scene.
I’m falling asleep at my keyboard as I type this. I had a very long day touring Northern Ireland (absolutely breathtaking country) and a long day ahead of me tomorrow. I gotta get some sleep, but I do have to point out the pairing I’d do with this movie even if I don’t give it a full on review.
There’s a point where Brian, with Aylmer attached to his body, boards a subway car and is eyeballing the passengers. One doesn’t bat an eye him… and that guy is Kevin Van Hentenryck. This is a bit of cross-over from Mr. Henenlotter. If you don’t know get it yet, all I gotta say is that Hentenryck starred in Henenlotter’s first feature.
Yep. And not only does Hentenryck show up as a silent passer he’s playing Duane Bradley and he’s carrying a lugging a large basket case that I’m positive concealed Bilial, Duane’s evil freak mutant twin.
I hate to just do a gloss-over piece on Basket Case, but I wasn’t kidding when I said I was falling asleep at my keyboard and I’m starting to make some sloppy mistakes as my eyes loose focus and I start to nod off. I will say that Basket Case was another USA Up All Night hall of famer for me and is actually one I haven’t revisited in a few years. I plan to hit it up when I get back.
So, not only is BASKET CASE a good tonal match for BRAIN DAMAGE it features the lead actor crossing over. And Amazon has the DVD for under $5. No lose scenario.
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Wednesday, October 7th: BRAIN DEAD (1990)