A worm-like parasite named Aylmer latches into Brian's (Rick Herbst) neck and offers to inject his brain with a hallucinogenic fluid, giving him pleasurable psychedelic experiences. The catch is to keep the "high" Brian h... more »as to feed Aylmer his favorite food . . . human brains! Directed by Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Frankenhooker) this amazing cult film favorite will have you screaming with laughter as you reach for your barf bag! Also contains the gore sequences deleted from the U.S. theatrical release, including the infamous "brain pulling" sequence!« less
Michael R Gates | Nampa, ID United States | 03/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"1988's BRAIN DAMAGE is the second film from low-budget Grand Guignol writer/director Frank Henenlotter, his first being the grisly over-the-top cult favorite BASKET CASE (1982), and both films established him as the master auteur of bad-taste horror cinema in the 1980s. But despite the excessive gore and crude sexual elements, Henenlotter's films are a cut above the average trash pics because his well-written scripts are weaved around a daedal subtext that offers wry comments and observations on certain elements or aspects of modern society. With the visceral horror comedy BRAIN DAMAGE, Henenlotter is satirizing the Western propensity for addiction.
BRAIN DAMAGE relates the "mind-blowing" tale of the Faustian bargain made between a young man named Brian and an enigmatic, snake-like parasite named Aylmer (pronounced like the name ELMER). Aylmer dispenses an addictive pleasure-inducing drug directly into Brian's brain, but as payment for each "fix," Brian must transport Aylmer around the city so the parasitic pusher can obtain his favorite food--human brains. Though Brian is generally a nice young man who wouldn't hurt a flea, he finds it impossible to resist the demands of the deceptively cute parasite because of his need and desire for the psychedelic "juice," and he ultimately becomes Aylmer's accomplice in murder.
With a meager budget of circa $600,000, Henenlotter and crew have nonetheless succeeded in crafting BRAIN DAMAGE as a polished, professional-looking film. Yes, the violence is graphic, sophomorically comic, and often over the top, and yes, the film has a crude, puerile sexual element (snake-like Aylmer is obviously a phallic symbol). But these elements actually enhance the film's earnest anti-addiction subtext, as they vociferously underscore the negative effect that addiction has on an addict's personality, his personal life, and the lives of others with whom he has contact.
The acting in the film is rather a mixed bag. As Brian, future soap-opera regular Rick Hearst--then billed under his birth surname of Herbst--does a great job of portraying a boy-next-door type whose life is spiraling out of control due to his addiction. And in an uncredited role, actor John Zacherle--better known to some horror fans as Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul host of New York TV's SHOCK! THEATER--does an outstanding job voicing the smarmy Aylmer. Gordon MacDonald plays Brain's brother, Mike, and Jennifer Lowry his girlfriend, Barbara, and both do an adequate job. Most of the other performances are a bit wooden, but they don't detract too much from the film's overall production quality.
Being a Juvenalian satire of sorts, the often biting humor in BRAIN DAMAGE is dark, off-color & often bawdy, and outrageously offbeat. Much of little Aylmer's dialogue is sarcastically witty, and in one eerie but funny scene, Brian lies writhing on the floor hurting for a "fix" while Elmer sits by and jovially belts out the Glenn Miller standard "Elmer's Tune." Also, in a hilarious homage to Henenlotter's previous film, BASKET CASE, the star of that film, Kevin VanHentenryck, gets on the subway with a familiar wicker basket in hand and takes the seat opposite Brian.
The Special Edition "Limited Availability" DVD from Synapse presents a high-definition transfer of BRAIN DAMAGE in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and the transfer appears vibrant, clean, and relatively free of digital artifacts. This is the unrated restored version, so all of the gore and innuendo that was cut for the U.S. theatrical release has been put back where it belongs. There are also some cool extras, including a very witty feature commentary featuring writer/director Henenlotter, former FANGORIA editor Robert Martin, and filmmaker Scooter McCrae (who has worked with Henenlotter). Also included is the theatrical trailer (in 1.85:1 aspect ratio), a "hidden" trailer for BASKET CASE, and an isolated-musical-score audio option.
To sum up, BRAIN DAMAGE is a movie with a somber subtext, but writer/director Frank Henenlotter doesn't let that get in the way of all the cheesy fun. Sure, the anti-addiction allegory can't be missed, but Henenlotter also knows that the monkey on his antihero's back is an ideal springboard for lots of offbeat and bawdy gallows humor, and he milks it for all it's worth. Admittedly, BRAIN DAMAGE will not appeal to every viewer's tastes, but those seeking a Family Film or a Chick Flick probably shouldn't be perusing the listings for the horror DVDs anyway."
Sick, Twisted Little Film From 'Basket Case' Director...4.5
M. Jarrett | New England, USA | 11/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well, I have to admit that after I saw the sick BASKET CASE, I wondered what other movies Frank Henenlotter had made besides the BASKET CASE series. I found this sick, twisted film a few years ago and ordered the special edition DVD and finally got it days later. Nervous, I wondered how this film would stand up against BASKET CASE and how good it would be...and to my surprise, I was not at all disappointed.
BRAIN DAMAGE is a freakish tale of a young man named Brian (Rick Herbst), who happens to be the next to fall victim to a worm-like parasite named Alymer (voiced in Bing Crosby-type fashion by the hilariously over-the-top John Zacherle). We learn in the first frame of the film about Alymer (he prefers 'Elmer') and his past family, and how they have tried to wean him on sheep's brains. Well, Alymer is just plain sick of that, and he wants real human brains, so he gets in touch with Brian, showing up at his place. He explains his situation to Brian, and tells him if he gets him brains, he will inject him with a fluid drug that gives him the ultimate pleasurable feeling. Brian reluctantly agrees, and so now he and Alymer become "attached" to some degree. They go on a killing spree, knocking off people by cornering them in less-crowded places. The best scene involves a little sexual "job" that you will laugh your head off to, but it's also kind of sick in a twisted way. The trouble with Alymer and Brian's relationship is that it's interfering with Brian's relationship with his girlfriend Barbara (Jennifer Lowry, cute and competent in her role). This creates real tension between Brian and Alymer, leading the ultimate showdown for control of Brian's mind. The ending wasn't as strong as it could have been, it was more weird and strange than satisfying, but the movie itself is a hoot and there are some decent chills throughout the movie. This is a comedy horror film, and you too will feel the same about it.
Without comparison to Henenlotter's twisted debut feature, BRAIN DAMAGE stands on its own as a own as a bizarre cult flick. While certainly not as successful as BASKET CASE, it's as much in touch with the strangely creepy and bizarre as the aforementioned film. Ever wonder what would happen if you had to help a parasite get brains and would fall victim to its addictive psycho-drug? Look no further!"
KISS OF DEATH
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 04/24/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you're a Peter Jackson's DEAD ALIVE fan, you'll love Frank Henenlotter's BRAIN DAMAGE. 50 % horror, 50% comic : that's the secret. Add an above average screenplay (OK ! that's not the difficulty for an 1988 movie...) and a dozen actors who seem at least semi-professional and you obtain a B-movie that deserves to stay in your library.Brian's horrible friend is a vague cousin of E.T. but a little bit more symbolical ; Frank Henenlotter, during the commentary of BRAIN DAMAGE, doesn't deny that he was thinking of the most valuable attribute of the male when designing IT.Remember the sci-fi novel of Brian Aldiss THE GREEN WORLD ? Well, the animal sticking on the hero's head in this book is the grandfather of Elmer. It loves you but you have to obey it, it will make you happy but you have to feed him first.A terrific transfer in the DVD standard, a commentary of the director and the trailers of the movie and BASKET CASE as bonus features. Wow!A DVD dedicated to the vegetarian ones."
LSD has nothing on Elmer!!
Edward Bowmaker | New York, USA | 12/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Holy cow where do I begin? Not to rehash what others have said here I can pretty much agree with all the positive reviewers and just add my two cents. The first time I saw this I believe was on HBO where I had taped it. I was immediately blown away, confused and like "What the?" - SO I invited some friends over to watch this one night. This was back in the 80s when we all smoked and drank -anyway a bunch of us were sitting around my TV watching this, laughing ourselves sick when another person I knew stopped by. He came in on the middle of it and couldn't understand why this room full of people were laughinig so much at this movie. I guess you had to be there, but it was a lot of fun. Brain Damage is one of those movies you just have to enjoy and not think too much about."
Brain Damage is a real trip!
M. Ryan Fairbanks | Cleveland, Ohio | 02/09/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Frank Henenlotter really offers up a wild one with Brain Damage. In the same vein of strangeness as the previous Basketcase, Brain Damage is a campy gorefest that has raked in a sizable cult following among fans of movies such as Evil Dead 2.
Brian's life takes a turn for the bizarre when he awakes one night with an intense headache and unexplained bleeding. The cuprit behind this soon reveals himself to be a purple, worm-like parasite named Aylmer who has an interesting proposition for Brian. That is Aylmer will inject Brian with a hallucinogenic drug in exchange for feeding him brains (preferably of the human variety). As Brian quickly becomes physically dependent on the stuff, he and Aylmer become inseparable while relationships with his concerned brother and girlfriend rapidly vanish. Upon realizing that he's become an accomplice to murder during his high, Brian tries to sever his ties with Alymer, but finds that he may already be too reliant on the drug to escape.
Brain Damage is a very imaginative, but not so subtle take on drug addiction, and it pulls it off magnificently. The scene during which Brian shacks himself up in a hotel room determined to leave Aylmer behind, only to become deathly ill and beg Aylmer for a fix is very effective. It's quite disturbing to see Brian helplessly deteriorate out of his need for the drug while Aylmer mocks him and laughs at him, perfectly aware that he now has complete control. Although the conclusion is a tad nonsensical, albeit entertaining, the outcome suggests that drug addiction is a dead end path for anyone who decides to venture down it.
Of course as this is a Henenlotter movie, it's low budget, packed with dark humor, and loaded with over the top gore scenes that will satisfy even the most demanding horror fanatic. We even get a cameo appearance from the main character of Basketcase, carrying his basket on a subway train. Overall Brain Damage is must see material for horror fans, highly recommended."