Have you ever had that feeling upon first meeting someone that you’ve known them forever? That’s how I felt about it when I started watching Brain Damage tonight. I can’t believe it was my first time watching it; it just seems like something I would have seen before. It has all the classic elements of an eighties movie: really long zippers, homosexual overtones, alternative music, bad synthesizers, a scene that demonstrates how New Yorkers don’t get fazed by anything, and a best friend (in this case a brother) who is slavering over the protagonist’s girlfriend.
This 1988 offering is Frank Henenlotter’s (Basket Case, Frankenhooker) fourth offering as a director, and it is a wild gory dark comedic ride. As the film opens, we are in the apartment of an old guy who is a scientist or a professor (we know this because he has African looking statues in his home, and it is the eighties) who has brought home dinner for his pet. Specifically, the pet is having raw brains for dinner, or he would have been had he not escaped. When “Elmer” is found to be missing, the old party and his wife have a screaming conniption fit and then literally tear the house apart looking for him.
Too bad, cause he’s down the hall giving Brian (Rick Hearst) the psychedelic experience of a lifetime. “Elmer,” or as he’s truly named, Aylmer, puts out a kick ass drug directly into the brain of his host in exchange for the host bringing him, or taking him out, for dinner. When you see the first time the symbiotically gay duo go out through Brian’s eyes, you might think,”I’d let it suck my brain if I could see that.” But as with all drugs, sadly, things don’t stay in the honeymoon phase forever. Brian starts neglecting his girlfriend Barbara (Jennifer Lowry), his job, and his brother Mike (Gordon MacDonald.) But Mike doesn’t mind too much, since he’s got the hots for Barbara, who by the way is kind enough to get naked for the camera.
Besides some great claymation stop motion animation, this movie has a scene that gives new meaning to the phrase “giving good brain,” a live performance by 80s alt rockers The Swimming Pool Q’s, plenty of gore, and several long, lingering, loving shots of guys’ butts (there’s a muscleman in the shower who I swear the camera feasts on for five minutes), plus a monster that looks like a penis big enough to choke a Village Person. I’m not sure if Hennenlotter is making a comment on addiction, or a man’s tendency to let his penis be his compass, but the movie is too much fun for me to care. I also enjoyed the horror in-jokes such as the female lead being named after Night of the Living Dead‘s lead actress and “Brian” being an anagram for “brain.” The best such joke has to be the guy who gets on the subway clutching a basket to his abdomen though. And unlike a lot of horror movies, Brain Damage doesn’t make you feel depressed after watching it. It’s just a delicious piece of brain candy.
P.S. If Basket Case and Brain Damage weren’t enough to make you admire Mr. Henenlotter, he’s also one of the folks behind Something Weird Video, which is where I got my weird on in the days of dial up. Thanks, Frank!
And now, the trailer for this awesome gore-fest.