Directed by: Frank Henenlotter
Run time: 84 minutes
The Lowdown: There’s a certain perspective necessary to appreciate the work of writer-director Frank Henenlotter.
For one, you can’t be squeamish because Henenlotter’s films tend to revel in his fascination with the human body, specifically how the body can be morphed and manipulated, whether purposefully or by natural design.
For another, you need to have a healthy appreciation for New York City because Henenlotter is a NYC native and most, if not all, of his movies feature the Big Apple prominently. He’s not one for the clean-scrubbed version of New York, however. His films wallow in the dirty grime, the seedy back alleys and the human zoo tenement buildings that once defined the city.
Brain Damage, his 1988 follow-up to his 1982 cult classic Basket Case, is filled with the same subversive humor and gory gags, but it’s a less-successful effort overall, at least to our tastes.
Henelotter’s best work – Basket Case and Frankenhooker – deftly balanced gross-out gore and juvenile humor. In Basket Case, a young man travels to New York after having his Siamese twin, named Belial, surgically removed. Belial survived the operation, however, and now wants revenge, which he plots from the comfort of a large basket that serves as his home.
Brain Damage tries to supplant Belial with Elmer, an equally gross brain parasite that attaches itself to a host, generating psychedelic hallucinations and euphoria, which will only continue if the host agrees to find and feed Elmer a healthy diet of fresh brains.
Elmer, as envisioned and executed, looks like an evil, twisted variation of the classic children’s Glo-Worm toy, and he talks too.
Brain Damage is more whimsical and less aggressive than Basket Case, but Henelotter still manages to pull off several ridiculously bloody and over-the-top sequences. The real star of the film, however, is New York, which Henelotter documents and depicts as its own character in his sordid fable.
It’s definitely worth a watch, if you’ve never seen it, but it’s likely that only hardcore fans will want to devour all the special features culled by Arrow Video for this deluxe Blu-Ray edition.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Considerable.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Elmer the demanding parasite.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
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