BRAIN DAMAGE (1987) Reviews of Frank Henenlotter’s satrirical horror

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‘It’s a headache from Hell!’
Brain Damage is a 1987 [released 1988] American comedy horror film written and directed by Frank Henenlotter (Bad BiologyFrankenhooker; Basket Case and sequels). The movie stars Rick Hearst (The Vampire Diaries; Warlock III), Gordon MacDonald and Jennifer Lowry. TV horror host John Zacherley provided the voice of creature “Elmer/Aylmer”.

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Street Trash (1987) director Jim Muro handled the camera and the synth score was provided by Clutch Reiser and Gus Russo. Gabe Bartalos (Leprechaun; Skinned Deep; Spookies) provided the special makeup effects.

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On 8 May (UK) and 9 May (US) 2017, Arrow Video released the film on Blu-ray + DVD with the following features:

  • Digital transfer from original film elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Brand new audio commentary by writer-director Frank Henenlotter
  • Brand new interviews with cast and crew
  • Q&A with Henenlotter recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
  • Limited edition O-card with exclusive artwork
  • Collector’s Booklet with new writing on the film
  • Plus more to be announced!!!

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A young man, Brian, begins an unwilling symbiotic relationship with a malevolent leech-like brain-eating parasite named “Elmer/Aylmer” that secretes a highly addictive, hallucinogenic blue fluid into Brian’s brain.

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In return for a steady supply of the fluid, Brian must seek out human victims for Elmer/Aylmer, so that he can devour their brains.

All the while, though, as Brian adopts a heavily secluded life in his indulgence of Elmer/Aylmer’s fluids, it begins to draw a rift in his relationship with his girlfriend Barbara and his brother…

Reviews:
” …Brain Damage is a disgusting, yet wonderfully deranged affair that will have you laughing and gagging at the same time. Blessed with a haunting synthesizer score by Clutch Reiser and Gus Russo, […] and fantastic special effects (I loved the throbbing meatballs that looked like brains), the film beautifully mixes moments of playful absurdity with ones of absolute revulsion.” House of Self Indulgence

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” …this isn’t some classy horror film. It’s still very much like his others: unknown actors, grimy New York locales, disgusting and phallic FX, kitchen-sink storytelling, etc. But it actually tells a real story (one that’s paced nicely to boot), instead of feeling like a loosely connected series of gags.” Horror Movie a Day

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“…Brain Damage knowingly winks at other genre titles like Altered States and even includes a very funny in-joke for Basket Case fans (look closely on the subway). While the basic narrative thread of the film will be familiar for anyone well-versed in other “horror as drug parable” titles like The Hunger, the real joy lies in Henenlotter’s curious little detours along the way.” Mondo Digital

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“The filmmakers juggle so many balls in the air that it’s a wonder any remain aloft. The story is about addiction, promiscuity, power and commerce. It’s a veritable crazy quilt of ideas that manages to engage our attention while our heads continue to dart away from the shocking images on screen.” Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1988

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“Like Basket Case (1981), to which there is a neat reference, this gives its monster a distinct personality but doesn’t come up with enough connective tissue to go around gory set-pieces.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“There are some nice comic moments […] in fact, relying as heavily on its disquieting black humour as on images of physical disgust, the whole thing works far better as comedy than horror.” Time Out (London)

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