Brain Damage (1988) Poster

(1988)

User Reviews

Review this title
57 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Juice me up! Henenlotter's most entertaining work
doktor d19 February 2003
Frank Henenlotter's 'Brain Damage' (1987) is easily the director's best film, esp. when considering the solid performances, technical proficiency and fascinating storyline. Aylmer, a rather large, penis-shaped parasite, gives unsuspecting Brian brain damage by getting him hooked on an hallucinogenic, blue fluid that Aylmer himself produces. Oh, the colors! But the thousand-year-old worm-like parasite demands something in return for the buzz - human brains! Aylmer and his actions seem to be a metaphor for drug use and addiction and convey very graphically how substances foreign to our bodies can alter our own thoughts and actions.

Henenlotter adds context and meaning to the proceedings by creating a history for Aylmer. The parasite was sold and stolen over the centuries, until it finally ended up in the possession of Brian's neighbors. But the neighbors deprived Aylmer of his needs in order to keep him weak, and that's where the story begins. Henenlotter's films are never without heavy doses of sick humor, and the perverse highlight here is a sequence depicting a disco-whore getting her brains screwed out - literally - through her mouth. If that's not enough, the special effects in the restaurant scene, complete with spaghetti and brainballs, are particularly polished and satisfying. Ultimately, the director outplays his hand and is left with nowhere to go. Despite this weak ending, 'Brain Damage' is an odd, effective story and film, a major step up from the director's debut, 'Basket Case', but every bit as twisted. >
35 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
campy original horror at its best.
paintedwallpaper11 June 2005
you know, i just went to see House of Wax the other day, and ten years after scream came out why are the same boring plots with the same boring characters doing the same stupid mistakes our only option for horror these days.

i suggest going back 20 years to the 70's and 80's if you want to find some great horror. horror then was low budget but imaginative. the movies had interesting story lines and were not shy about blood and gore. a good stepping stone for this sub-genre is one of my current favorites, Brain Damage. It starts off on a very surreal note, but mixes its strangeness with an accurate portrayal of a young man hopelessly addicted to the mother of all drugs. his dealer is perhaps the most unique little monster in all of horror, Aylmer (pronounced "elmer").

Aylmer is a purple cucumber shaped alien with a tiny smiling face and a soft warm voice. he finds a host, and injects his host with a blue liquid that comes out of one of Aylmer's fangs. this "brain juice" jacks up its host into a hullucionary state. while the host is in la-la land, Aylmer makes a victim of whoever the host comes in contact with, eating the victims brains.

as vile as all that sounds, it is hard to see Aylmer as evil. he is just such a nice little guy. plus he is unique in his appearance, personality, and attacks, which all go a long way with me in a modern world of horror villains pushed off an assembly line.

this movie is not winning an Oscar. it is strange and campy and violent. but if that is what you desire in a film, this hidden gem may become one of your favorites!
18 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
"It's A Headache From Hell! "
Backlash00725 September 2001
Brain Damage is the greatest anti-drug horror/comedy. Well, probably the only one. This is Frank Henenlotter's crowning achievement. If you like his Basketcase trilogy, who cares? This is way better than those movies. This movie actually has a message: Don't trust little phallic-like aliens named Aylmer. Just kidding. The anti-drug theme is played heavily throughout the movie. If you're a genre buff or if your sense of humor is as perverted as mine, then do not miss this film. It should be a considered a classic low budget horror movie but it seems that it's rather unheard of. And that is a sad thing. Frank Henenlotter...where are you?

Note for genre buffs: Look out for the man with the wicker basket on the subway. That's Kevin Van Hentenryck from the Basket Case films.
18 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Henenlotter's Best
TheMarwood7 June 2014
The first 10 minutes of Brain Damage are awful and hard to watch, as an elderly couple are trashing their apartment looking for Alymer and then we get an overlong hallucination from our main character Brian. Then we are introduced to the Zacherle voiced parasitic Alymer, with a show stopping "hi" and the film just goes bonkers and never stops. There's nothing quite like Brain Damage, a tale of a young man who gets addicted to the intoxicant that a parasitic creature injects into his brain and while running about hallucinating, Alymer feeds on unsuspecting victims brains. It's hilariously gory and thanks to the uncut version finally on the market, the brain removing fellatio sequence is intact in its full ridiculous glory. Henenlotter was firing on all cylinders while making this classic B masterpiece.
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
One of my alltime favs!
siektwo26 October 2004
This is one of my alltime favorites of the horror genre! A great movie to watch.

What i like about this movie is the underlying drug related messages throughout. It's like watching requiem for a dream almost in that drug-related sense.

I don't need to tell much about the plot, since i'm sure many have already explained it.

I am a hardcore horror fan through and through, and i will just say that this movie rocks. It's got a great and interesting story, some awesome gore scenes and some hilarious comedy as well. It's not scary, but it is a gory, funny, bizarre, and original movie that isn't even close to being like anything else out there...you gotta see it to believe it.

10 out of 10 (based on a horror fan's review)
20 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Bloody, gory, sick, FUN!
preppy-37 January 2002
Brian (Rick Herbst) a young, handsome 22 year old is "possessed" by a talking, independent parasite (named Aylmer--NOT Elmer) which lives in his clothes and injects him with a mind-inducing drugs in exchange for brains! Brian tries to get rid of it, but realizes he's hooked on the drugs. What will he do?

Very strange, very gory horror film with obvious drug overtones (although writer/director Frank Henelotter says Aylmer represents a penis). In terms of dialogue and characterization, this is amateur night (you know next to nothing about the characters), but the film does work.

Herbst (now Herst) is very good-looking and pretty good as Brian. Also Gordon MacDonald as his brother/roommate is also very handsome and gives a very good, sympathetic performance. Also, each has scenes with their clothes off--not that I'm complaining! However, Jennifer Lowry as Brian's girlfriend is pretty lame.

This was heavily cut for an R rating back in 1987--the complete version is available on DVD. It looks great, sounds great and some incredibly sick scenes are in it--all played for laughs. It's a great low-budget horror film. Worth catching.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Feed your head.
pzivojinovic10 May 2016
Are you tired of the sameness of Hollywood's over-priced commercialized dross? Check out Mr. Henenlotter's work today. This is a weird film, but in a good way. Elmer is a parasite who will get you high in exchange for brains. The problem was the old people was feeding him animals brain, so Elmer decide to find a new host. The young man was getting so high that he didn't know what Elmer was up to. Elmer didn't care just as he was getting human brains.

The film is also a moral warning about the effects of drugs - they make you feel great at first but before long you're addicted to them, you've screwed your life up and you'll do literally anything to get the fluids you're now dependent on. A very black form of comedy with a serious edge to it, and the inner-city locations provide an excellent atmosphere. Very original, with good writing, and neat visuals for such a low budget.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Aylmer-icious!
SuperKino27 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I found the DVD of "Brain Damage" in a cheap-DVD-chest in a tech store and of course i've immediately bought it, at the time the only title in mind by Frank Henenlotter was "Basket case".

Well, i must admit that was a great surprise, the story, the cheap props, the psychedelic lights, the '80 visual effects (the first "lsd-trip" of Brian with the room filled with water is great), everything works well in a funny and splatter context. There are also some genial scenes like the intro part with the elderly couple, the one with the blonde girl in the Hell club, the scene with Duane Bradley cameo and, of course, the ending scene. In conclusion, a must-see milestone in the '80 splatter/horror comedy genre!
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
A magnificent bloodcurdler from Frank Henenlotter that is at once bloody, grim, grimy, sexual, surreal and ethereal, all washed over in neon blue...
Foreverisacastironmess1232 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I consider myself a pretty well adjusted horror fan. Most gory body shocks don't bother me, except decapitation, gratuitous ugly violence and torture, stuff involving the eyes, what's between the legs, the spine-and the brain! This movie's metaphors and allegories have got to be the most obvious ever. I don't usually care for that."This is a metaphor for that, that is a social commentary on this." Boring! I'm very literal minded and don't watch films that way. Probably don't have the brains for it, truth be told. A lot of people in the movie sure don't! But with this movie it's so perfectly done that I quite like it. Like with Basket Case I liked the grittyness, although Brain Damage looks a tad nicer than that film and it is an entirely different kind of 80's. And then of course there is that sweet special magic that I've only ever seen with Henenlotter. He had such a wonderful talent with people, of bringing out and expanding on the qualities of pretty much ordinary people and making them seem like such, freaks! I like his lack of style! I once watched this when I was about 13 and I found it so stupid that I had to turn it off. Just goes to show how one's perspective can change. The colour blue is definitely a theme here, just like purple with Frankenhooker. Everyone knows the plot. Elmer and Brian meet, and they do make a connection, there's what you could call a full on chemical reaction, it's(if Bob Martin's anything to go by) possibly brought by some kind of dark divine intervention, although Elmer is definitely no shining li-ight! Heh. Yo Elmer, juice me! The "awe inspiring famous one" is so small and cute you'd think he wouldn't be able to hurt a fly. You'd be dead wrong! When you first watch the movie and first see Elmer, for a horrible few moments he looks really silly, but then you hear those deceptively lovely tones and he becomes something much more. One of the best evil laughs(I believe it's called a chortle)I've ever heard. All my favourite scenes in the movie are the twisted back and fourths between him and Brian. Particularly the "cold turkey" scene. For me it is so good to see Elmer finally die at the end, after all the death and misery the evil little b*****d has been causing for who knows how long... I love that ending! What with the juice-overloaded Brian with a little electric blue storm crackling above what's left of his head, looking quite serene. An epiphany, he burns so pretty... It lingers on the ethereally beautiful image for a few seconds and then-bzzm! The movie ends with a little blip of a sound like a TV going out, or Brian's life... On the DVD commentary Bob Martin talks about his book of the film. I've got one. Bob is supposed to be Frank Hennenlotter's good friend, so you may as well take the following as official canon. 6 Things about the Elmer you never knew: 1 "Said to have the power to make a king out of a commoner, and a conquerer of a king." 2 His juice can make the host age much slower. 3 Elmer can read people's minds. 4(oh god, this is really sad!) It's skin feels like a slimy sponge. 5 The reason it can get through a human skull so fast is because it's fangs secrete a bone dissolving acid. 6 "A water dweller, without it, it will become dormant and become something like a shard of driftwood, or a tight leather shell. It can stay this way for centuries if it needs to, until water gives it life again." Apart from a vague reference to it being meditated into existence, there is no definite answer as to what the Elmer is and where it comes from. I thought this sounded right: "A creature that is partly made from the earth and partly made from dreams, hallucinations and nightmares. He is only what you dream him to be-a devil who sells you what you already own at the price of your soul." When Brian sees Dwayne on the train he can sense something different about him and his basket, and Dwayne can feel the same thing. After Brian dies he goes to some kind of bizarre blue Elmer-type afterlife and sees a giant god-like version of Elmer, glaring balefully and triumphantly down at him. They touch and he becomes a part of it forever. Also, Beverly Bonner's bit character is the same one from Basket case! Hope someone got a kick out of all that, that was for every fan of the movie who said they wished to know more about Elmer. This is a great movie, it's Henenlotter's silver to the gold that is Basket Case!
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Grotesque excellent classic
UniqueParticle9 June 2019
Super weird, gross, and perfectly provocative! I love bizarre horror like this; I'm not sure how comedy is another genre to it I don't see it as funny but it's definitely awesome and I'm glad I barely knew much beforehand. I was even yelling at the TV in some parts; I love when I have a blast watching something!
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Hilarious movie
metallislayer228 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
What a hilarious film this is. There are basically 2 main characters in the film. One is Aylmer, a 12 inch worm who needs to feed on brains (preferably human) to survive. The other is Brian, a young man who becomes addicted to a drug that Aylmer injects into his brain. During this drugged state, Aylmer uses Brian as a host to find victims so that he can consume their brains.

The special effects are decent, especially during the kill scenes. Unfortunately, most of the death scenes are very repetitive. They consist of Aylmer leaping from some hidden location and attaching himself to a victim's forehead, where he munches through their skull into their brain whilst they flop about in agony. There is one notable exception however:

In the film's best sequence, Brian has just been drugged by Aylmer. He stumbles into a club suitably named "Hell". There he meets a pretty but incautious hooker. They dance for a while. Brian, stoned out of his mind, is lured by the girl into the club's basement. Brian begins to pass out and the hooker leans him up against a wall. She grabs Brian's crotch and remarks "feels like you got a real monster in there" not knowing of course that the "monster" is in fact Aylmer hiding in Brian's crotch area. Excited, the girl decides to perform oral sex on Brian. She soon gets more than she bargains for. She gets down on her knees, unzips Brian's pants, and just as she opens her mouth, Aylmer burst from the pants and into the girl's mouth. Aylmer forces himself down the girl's throat, and she basically chokes to death as Aylmer burrows through the back of her throat into her skull.

After that the rest of the film is a bit of a let down (how could it not be?) but there are still some good sequences, including one scene where Brian pulls his own brains out through one of his ears (very gory). The acting throughout the film is quite campy, and the music is actually very good.

The ending is rather down beat as virtually every character in the film dies, with the exception of Brian's room mate brother. There are also very few like-able characters in the film. Vicki Darnell, who plays the hooker, is one of the few sympathetic (!) characters in the film. Props to her for putting up with this perverted director's crap, as I've heard shooting the scene mentioned above was a nightmare for the actors involved.

Overall it is an enjoyable, although at times unpleasant, little movie. I prefer it over Basket Case, and it is miles ahead of anything Frank H. has done lately.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Man, I miss Frank Henenlotter !!!
Coventry21 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
In the overall mainstream horror business of the 80's, the few movies directed by Frank Henenlotter were an absolute relief and a breath of fresh air. His movies are weird tales that take place in dark and depressive surroundings. The budget he spends on his productions are kept very limited but that really gets compensated by a lot of creativity, inspiration and humor. Brain Damage actually has a lot in common with that other quickie of his, Basket Case. Except that this movie is a lot more light-headed and Frank inserts a lot more comedy aspects here. But not your ordinary kind of comedy. Twisted and perverse humor is a better term to describe it.

SPOILERS AHEAD ***** Brain Damage handles about a young man, named Brian, who gets taken over by some sort of reptile creature. It feeds on brains and he uses Brian to find victims. In exchange for that, he provides Brian by visions and good feelings that are caused by a juicy liquid. The creature - Aylmer - takes complete control of Brian and makes him start a killing spree in his neighborhood. **** END SPOILERS. Brain Damage is a lot less atmospheric than Basket Case and that's all due to the portrayal of the creatures in both movies. Basket Case's Belial is a terrifying monster while Aylmer is a funny looking puppet. His eyes make him almost look cute and his voice is too stylish. But, don't let that spoil the fun because Brain Damage really is a must for low budget cult freaks and admirers of exceptional horror movies. Gorehounds will like it for the huge amount of blood that is shed and the bit more critical fan will appreciate it for its originality. Recommended.
11 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Elmer the Aylmer
macabro3571 September 2003
From the director of BASKET CASE comes his second feature, and this one's his best. And we also get a Collector's Edition DVD from Synapse with a couple of extra goodies.

There's a parasite loose in an apartment building named 'Elmer' who infects a guy named Brian (Rick Herbst) and addicts him to his blue 'juice'. In order to get more juice, Brian has to bring Elmer some more brains to eat. Elmer even smiles and sings in the bathroom sink. What a cute little turd. (laughs) He's so detestably obnoxious that I can't help but like the little b***ard.

It's kinda neat that when Brian brings Elmer out, he attacks people by latching onto their foreheads and burrowing into his victims skulls and eating out their brains with what looks like a long straw. Most of the jerks Elmer does this to, deserve it anyway.

This collector's edition DVD restores the long censored fellatio scene where Elmer pops out of Brian's pants and goes down the prostitute's mouth. And when Elmer's done eating, big hunks of gray matter come popping out of the hooker's mouth. It's a riot!

And there's also the scene where Brian hallucinates during his withdrawal from Elmer's blue 'juice' and imagines pulling a string of tissue out his ear until his ear pops out and the side of his head gushes blood. Cool gore scene.

The Synapse DVD uses an excellent wide-screen print with a great 80s synth soundtrack that includes the song, "Corruption" by The Swimming Pool Qs. Not at all like the crummy, muddy-looking censored VHS tape from a few years back. The only drawback is that there aren't many extras beyond a very interesting separate audio track commentary by director Henenlotter, and a movie trailer for the film.

It's an all out classic in my book. Watch it! Get it!

8 out of 10
11 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Trademark Henenlotter with an anti-drug theme
tomgillespie20025 March 2017
Largely ignored on its original release but subsequently gathering a loyal cult following over the years, Brain Damage will no doubt appease fans of director Frank Henenlotter's other darkly humorous and outrageously gory works Basket Case (1982) and Frankenhooker (1990). Bringing his trademark sense of humour and mixing it up with lashings of tongue-in-cheek blood-letting, Brain Damage also strives to deliver a message, and is admirable for the anti-drug theme running throughout. With America in the midst of an AIDS and crack panic at the time, Henenlotter paints a very bleak picture of a New York City in crisis, as a parasitic killer searches for unwitting victims.

Average Joe Brian (Rick Hearst) wakes up one morning feeling disorientated, finding his bed sheets soaked through with blood. He doesn't seem to be cut, but when he looks in the mirror he finds a strange parasitic creature on his person. Looking like a turd with eyes and big teeth, it also has a name, Aylmer, and speaks in a dignified foreign accent (voiced by John Zacherle). Injecting Brian through the back of the neck with a blue liquid that gives the unsuspecting goofball a drug-like sense of euphoria, Brian gets hooked on the stuff, and Aylmer exploits his addiction for food. Only Aylmer has a taste for human brains, and so Brian must spend his sober hours searching for human victims. Alienating himself from his girlfriend Barbara (Jennifer Lowry), Brian also faces the threat of the symbiote's former owners, who have been going cold turkey ever since it fled.

Cut to pieces on its original home video release but later restored, it isn't difficult to see why the ratings board demanded the removal of certain scenes. A wonderfully wince-inducing scene in which Brian pulls his own brain out of his ear for what seems like an eternity found itself on the cutting-room floor, as did the uncomfortable scene where a woman is eaten alive while appearing to be performing fellatio in an unnecessarily sexualised moment of pure exploitation that left me genuinely horrified, and not in a good way. The story and characters are engaging enough to keep the film interesting, while the obvious lack of budget means that the acting is sub-par and the special effects are often laughable, if not charming. The main strength is Brain Damage's depiction of a drug addict going to increasingly desperate measures in order to procure his fix, and Hearst is surprisingly good in the role. Fans of Henenlotter should keep their eyes peeled for the appearance of a certain man with a basket.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
BUY THIS DVD! BUY THIS DVD! BUY THIS DVD!
dogcow3 August 2000
This is probably one of the best horror movies ive ever seen and on dvd its got a clear, crisp picture. Including theatrical trailer, commentary track, and soundtrack-only audio track. (it also includes a hidden trailer for Basket Case). Everything about it is just wonderful, a must buy! As for the movie its probably henenlotters best, truly tasteless with better effects than basket case and a more interesting story.
13 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Well put together 80's horror with a message.
poolandrews21 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Brain Damage is set in New York City where Brian (Rick Hearst) lives in an apartment with his brother Mike (Gordon MacDonald), one night Brian wakes up & feels somewhat lightheaded & ill. Brian decides to to go back to sleep but when he awakes he finds blood on his pillow & a strange talking slug like brain eating parasitic creature called Aylmer who has injected some blue liquid into the back of Brian's neck & into his brain which makes him high, at first Brian enjoys the euphoric high but Alymer uses Brian in his drugged out high state to find him human victims whose brains it can eat. Brian becomes addicted to the high Alymer gives him but at the same time realises the terrible side-effects that threaten to destroy his life & kill those who Brain are closest to including Barbara (Jennifer Lowry) his girlfriend unless he can somehow regain control of his life & mind...

Co-edited, written & directed by Frank Henenlotter this was his belated second directorial feature film after the cult hit success of the memorable low budget gory horror film Basket Case (1982) & it's clear to see that Henenlotter set out to make a low budget exploitation horror film with a strong central message about the perils of drug abuse & addiction. The entire film is more or less a warning against drugs, the film is filled with parallels & metaphors like the initial high before the uncontrollable craving for the next hit when it wears off, the user whose life falls apart around themselves because of their addiction, the people around the user who also suffer because of it & the determination to get another fix no matter what that becomes paramount to the exclusion of just about everything else. You might think that sounds rather heavy handed & a bit too deep but Brain Damage works surprisingly well on a number of levels, from a gross out splatter film with some good gore scenes to anti drug film as the script is set-up so we end up sympathising with Brian & the attempts to mirror the obviously fantastical goings-on in the film with real life drug abuse & addiction comes off rather well. The pace is good, the character's & dialogue are as well although the ending is rather sudden & abrupt. An off-beat, unusual 80's horror film with a strong social message, who'd have thought it?

Director Henenlotter throw's in a cheeky little reference to his previous film Basket Case as while on a subway train Brian sees a man carry a wicker basket with a lock on it, obviously the lead character Duane from Basket Case & to give it a bit more authenticity the original actor Kevin Van Hentenryck reprises the role in a small cameo. Aymer the parasite looks like a large slug with a face & funny posh sounding voice, despite this the image actually works in a bizarrely funny sort of way. The special effects are alright, there's some stop-motion animation & simple puppet shots which are probably still better than any modern low budget CGI computer effect. There are some neat sequences here including the infamous scene in which a woman goes down on Brian to give him a blow-job only to open his flies & have Aylmer shoot out & eat her brains through her mouth so the side-on view looks like she is give Brian a blow-job who has a horrible slimy mutant deformed penis, a nice if somewhat crude little visual gag & one of the films most memorable moments. There's some decent gore here too, there are some brain eating scenes, some blood splatter, there's pulsating brains & foreheads & a dream sequence in which someone pulls some stringy bloody stuff out of their ear before it falls off & a spray of blood spurts out. There's a sex scene & a bit of nudity as well but nothing that graphic.

The production values are pretty good & the film is well made, it's certainly a lot more professional & polished than Basket Case ever was. The acting is pretty good from a fairly unknown cast, TV horror host John Zacherle provided the voice of Aylmer uncredited.

Brain Damage is an unusual & somewhat oddball little late 80's exploitation horror film that works surprisingly well although probably isn't for everyone. Well worth a look if your a fan of the genre or are after something that bit different.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
High-Art from Frank Henenlotter
TCurtis919216 January 2018
Brain Damage 1988 Frank Henenlotter

9/10

"Hi," "Brain Damage" is widely regarded as Henenlotter's best film. Whilst I believe rating films in best to worst order is too transitory to be my focus I must say that this film's reputation is deserved. As this film seems to be considered too low-brow to be art I want to wax lyrical about this superlative piece of late 80's horror and argue that it is in fact high-art. "Brain Damage" is a well-executed allegory of drug addiction (and, more broadly, desire and control) as well as other social issues. Hosting this journey into depravity are Brian and Aylmer, an average handsome young lad with a normal life and a charming, well-spoken worm-like creature with a biology for drug-dealing and an insatiable appetite for human brains. Henenlotter's film depicts the tenderness, the violence, the fun and the heartache of their exploitative relationship.

Henenlotter's script weaves us through the chaotic time Brian and Aylmer spend together and their onscreen relationship is deepened by their interactions with characters such as Morris & Martha, Barbara, and Mike. Aylmer's injections are a great distraction from reality but they come at an enormous price; a fact Morris & Martha are testament to: anyone who Aylmer befriends needs him in their life or a hysterical frenzy ensues.

The depth Henenlotter reaches to in his imagery is astounding. A room feels like a room, a corridor like a corridor, and a street feels like a street. The colours zing, the waters are deep, the lights thicken and sharpen the air; cracks cobweb throughout the dank settings and thick red blood is sprayed over it all with gay abandon. The absorbing kaleidoscopic trips Brian is medicated with are made of neon rainbows pulsing in a broken city whilst a euphonious score of lush synthesiser drifts in and out with gentle ease. As the electric high peaks Brian's humanity is washed away by these transcendent experiences. The lights and sounds inevitably extinguish as Aylmer's juice burns out and the addicted youngster's prancing slows to a trudge back into the dissonant city. It isn't good enough for Brian but, now that he's hooked, he must do his new master's bidding.

Aylmer has a deliberately honeyed voice to give it the sophisticated charm of a conman. No matter what it does one cannot simply dislike it. And that's the point. It demonstrates how easily someone can wriggle their way out of blame and trouble with simple mannerisms; even if, in this case, that someone is a murderer and a manipulator.

I will not describe the ending however I do feel that the film draws to a triumphant close after exploring in great detail the stages of addiction. The loss of sense, the loss of others and the loss of the self, the willing deconstruction of the mind, body and soul of an individual. A devastating loss it is for all societies suffering from the decay that drugs can bring.

You should also watch "Basket Case" (1982) and "Frankenhooker" (1990). Together with "Brain Damage" they make an inspired trilogy by Frank Henenlotter.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Good gory fun
bowmanblue5 November 2014
Brain Damage, made by the people who did Basketcase. If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about the film then nothing will. But I'll have a go anyway.

It's eighties 'trash' horror at its best. A small, but very eloquent, blue parasite strikes up a conversation with a young man, then goes about attaching itself to the back of his neck, in order to give him mind-bending, euphoric hallucinations. However, the only drawback is that, in return, the parasite wants to feed of other people's brains.

If you like the sound of that, you're clearly as sick as I am. And the next question you'll probably ask is, how much gore is there? The answer is plenty! Back before computer generated effects ruled Hollywood, people had to make sick puppets out of animatronics. The parasite a well-made and amusing (in a sick kind of way) and gets up to all manner of unspeakably evil acts.

Okay, so no one in this film will ever get an Oscar (although the parasite himself was clearly overlooked in the Best Supporting Actor category), but if you're into eighties horror, then you're not expecting it.

What you get is a well-made gory little number with plenty of tongue-in-cheek horror.

Get the popcorn in, turn the lights down (watch out for the Basketcase cameo), remove brain, give it to a cheeky little worm and enjoy.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Disembodied brain
smellthecult-com-17 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This starts off well enough, with the rather intriguing idea of a parasitical creature that drugs its victims in order to procure the brains of those around it, but it never really gets going anywhere, and I quickly hoped for a bit more action. Similarly to that other Henenlotter classic Basket Case, this makes use of stop motion animation to render the creature on screen, and it is hit and miss in terms of the success. At times it seems quite realistic, at others like a piece of plasticine.

A nice idea all round, it's just a shame it couldn't have had a bit more energy and, if checking out Henenlotter for the first time, I'd go with Basket Case every time.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Beware Of The Brain-Eating Turds...
EVOL6666 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Just watched this one again not too long ago and realized I'd never commented on it - so here goes: From Frank Henenlotter, the man that brought you such classic, low-budget romps as BASKET CASE and FRANKENHOOKER, comes BRAIN DAMAGE - another fun and trashy entry in 80s horror/comedy cinema. Probably my favorite Henenlotter film right under BASKET CASE - BRAIN DAMAGE is another slam-dunk for the director.

Brian has become the unwitting "host" for a talking, turd-like parasite name Aylmer. Aylmer consumes brains to live, and to make Brian do it's bidding to find human subjects, Aylmer injects a highly addictive hallucinogenic drug into Brian's brain, causing many humorous situations. Of course, no good thing lasts forever as Brian starts to short-circuit from the drugs, and Aylmer is still in search of food...

Henenlotter has a way of handling "serious" subject-matter (in this case, drug abuse), with a light hand and incorporating relevant social situations into his goofy horror films. I'm a big fan of his films and wish he would come back on the scene - his presence is missed. A great piece of schlocky horror fun - throw this in with BASKET CASE and FRANKENHOOKER for a great triple-feature.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Low budget gore nonsense....this is great stuff!
The_Void24 October 2005
While the special effects look dated in this computer dominant age of cinema that we live in, Frank Henenlotter's imaginative and unsettling Brain Damage has lost of it's fun after all these years, and that element is more important than any amount of special effects. Working from the same fundamental plot basic as the director's hit trash-film "Basket Case", Brain Damage portrays a relationship between a young man and a hideous creature unfolding. The stories are very different, but it's obvious that this idea interests the director and links between the two films are more than obvious (the ham-fisted tribute towards the earlier film being far too much so!). The plot sees a young man named Brian waking up in a pool of blood. It isn't long before he's tripping and before he knows it, he's hooked on the brain fluid that a mysterious thing known as 'Aylmer' has pumped into his head. Like all parasites, Aylmer doesn't give Brian the brain fluid because he's a nice guy - he wants something in return, namely the brains of Brian's fellow citizens. Cue lots of bloodletting as Brian and his 'friend' tear their way through the city!

The fact that budget was a big constraint to this film is always evident, but it hardly matters because the underrated director has taken his ideas and just made the best of them with what he's got, and the result is far better than any of these big budget but no idea films that people are often impressed by. A bit like that one with the 'great' twist where Bruce Willis plays a psychologist to a boy who can see dead people. My only real complaint with Henenlotter's handling is that he has a tendency to drag things out a little bit. We see Aylmer open up his mouth, stick the thing in Brian's neck and then the fluid going over the brain EVERY time, when once would have sufficed. Many things about the story aren't very well explained, or completely ignored; but there are little hints towards the history of Aylmer, and this gives Brain Damage a good dose of intrigue. Leaving it open is good, but maybe just a little more on how Aylmer came about wouldn't have gone amiss. There's plenty of blood on display, and despite the rather playful effects on the monster itself, Brain Damage still manages to be oddly frightening. And besides, you've got to love John Zacherle's voicing! In case you haven't guessed - this is highly recommended viewing!
9 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Calling all you Basket Case sickies out there
PeterMitchell-506-5643645 February 2013
We've got a new killer freak, it's size less than the length of my hand: Elmer. He attaches himself the the brain of this poor sod, giving him wonderful highs, but if Elmer doesn't get what he wants, e.g. to suck out the brain of a whore, our poor Brian gets monster headaches. How smart was this film? Basket Case fans will love this. Brian's Girlfriend and his brother start to sense changes, as Brian becomes comes a recluse, staying in his bedroom. His brother seizing the chance, even makes the moves on his girlfriend. When Brian catches them in bed, he doesn't even care. We too can feel Brian's high, and Elmer's funny to look at, if captivating, we can barely make out his mouth. Enough gore to satisfy, that's for sure, in this follow up to the superior Basket Case, this quiet straight to video flick is worth the watch. We even have a surprise guest on a train, carrying a basket no less.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Henenlotter's Third Best Film
gavin694210 March 2013
One morning a young man (Rick Hearst) wakes to find a small, disgusting creature has attached itself to the base of his brain stem. The creature gives him a euphoric state of happiness but in return demands human victims.

After "Basket Case", Frank Henenlotter wanted to do a project called "Insect City", but that fell through due to funding and other issues... so he instead went for a twist on 1950s science fiction. He posited the idea: what if someone had a parasite, but one they actually wanted? This is an interesting concept, and was fleshed out to the idea of an "aylmer", this creature that was passed down from great ruler to great ruler for centuries. The story was so well-written that you feel it must have been at least partially based on some legend. Nope, just Henenlotter's genius.

The film is now widely seen as a metaphor for drug addiction, or addiction in general. But interestingly, this seems to be an afterthought. Henenlotter said the idea came to him like this: first, he thought of a creature attached to someone who needs to kill. But then, going with the concept of a "welcome" parasite, he wondered why the host would allow this, so he came up with the drug aspect. So rather than this being a story about the side effects of drugs, it is actually quite the other way around...

And, of course, as a selling point we have Henenlotter gore. While this film ranks beneath "Basket Case" and "Frankenhooker" as far as overall quality, it has some of the best gore... with scenes that had to be cut (for both the MPAA and the distributor!) but have since resurfaced. For those who love extreme films, the alley scene can only be enjoyed uncut.

As a bonus for horror fans, we even have the voice of Zacherle. Interestingly, Zacherle worked uncredited because he was in SAG and could not be in a non-union film at the risk of getting fined or tossed out of the union. His voice being so recognizable, some saw his lack of credit as an insult, but just the opposite was true: to give him credit would have opened him up to great punishment!

The legacy of "Brain Damage" cannot be ignored. Like all other Henenlotter films, it has acquired a cult following. Not as much as "Basket Case", but more so than "Bad Biology". And lead actor Rick Hearst has done well for himself, going from this independent production to becoming the king of daytime television, becoming a regular on no fewer than five soap operas! Quite the change of pace from low budget gore.

But most interesting is probably editor James Kwei, whom most people have never heard of. Kewi had been in horror for a while with "Christmas Evil", "Maximum Overdrive" and others. But after this, he increasingly became associated with the films of Martin Scorsese, including "Goodfellas". While he had already been with Scorsese since "After Hours" (1985), it was at this point (1988) where he really switched gears.

The Arrow Video Blu-ray is crammed fuller than Mr. Creosote. There is a brand new audio commentary by Frank Henenlotter and several featurettes. We have "Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage", a brand new documentary featuring interviews with actor Rick Herbst, producer Edgar Ievins, editor James Kwei, first assistant director Gregory Lamberson, visual effects supervisor Al Magliochetti and makeup artist Dan Frye. There is "The Effects of Brain Damage" with FX artist Gabe Bartalos, and "A Look Back" with assistant editor Karen Ogle.

And still more... "Elmer's Turf: The NYC Locations of Brain Damage", sort of a supplement to the tour Henenlotter gives on the "Basket Case" Blu-ray. The interesting "Tasty Memories: A Brain Damage Obsession" interview with superfan Adam Skinner. A "Brain Damage" Q&A with Henenlotter recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival. And certainly not least of all, "Bygone Behemoth" (2010), an animated short by Harry Chaskin, featuring a brief appearance by John Zacherle in his final on screen credit.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
classy trash
Chris_Docker14 March 2008
One of the strange things about horror is the way it doesn't really cross over into other genres. You love it or hate it. If you hate it, read no further. Even within the horror medium, Brain Damage is at the low-budget end - the grindhouse of horror. Its creative tension, daring storyline and genuinely unsettling dreadfulness however, separate it from the comedy-loaded outrage of John Waters or the excessive caricatures of Troma. As many have pointed out, it shares more with films such Bride Of Re-Animator or lost classics such as Thundercrack!

My first introduction to Henenlotter's weird and wonderful work was probably in an all-night horror screening of a film he made couple of years after Brain Damage: Frankenhooker. I gasped at the sheer audacity of someone producing such black humour with such outrageous themes. A mad student's girlfriend is mashed in a lawnmower. He keeps her head but is lacking the other bits. He wants to re-animate her. So he goes hunting in the red light district for missing body parts. By the time he made Frankenhooker, Henenlotter was already a legend to his fans. Partly because of his 1985 debut, Basket Case, and secondly due to this masterly film, Brain Damage.

The soon-to-be-damaged hero is Brian (Rick Hearst). Brian inherits a monster from a nice little Jewish couple living nearby. The monster (named Elmer) attaches itself to the back of a host's neck. It can then either inject the brain with a drug halfway between LSD and heroin. Or it can suck the brains out and eat them.

Our Jewish couple had tried to 'tame' the monster by feeding it mere animal brains. Elmer doesn't let his new host get away with such meagre cuisine. He gets Brian high and then suggests they take a walk together. Elmer's feeling 'hungry'.

"I never intended to offend," says Henenlotter on the DVD commentary. He made one version for home consumption and an unedited version (only now released on DVD) for the world outside of the USA. It might not be totally tongue in cheek. The two scenes that are most controversial are a graphic brain-sucking scene and a fellatio gag (pun intended). In the latter, Brian picks up a girl at a nightclub and she comes on to him in an alleyway. Instead of a mouthful of Brian, she gets a mouthful of Elmer. Elmer thrusts through into her skull until he can suck out the contents.

Apart from the clever drug references ("What if God gave earth as a drug?" asks the writer), Elmer is clearly a phallic substitute and a masterpiece of low-budget inspiration. Although very ugly in appearance (imagine an outsized, very diseased penis), it speaks in a normal, intelligent and soothingly charismatic voice. Elmer is cheeky and persuasive. Pulling off such incongruity (between looks and the voice) is a remarkable achievement. Henelotter manages it by clever suspense and keeping us endlessly curious about how plot line and story will develop.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
"It's Just Aylmer's Tune"
alanmora11 July 2007
WOW! Frank Henenlotter has done it again with this horror/cult masterpiece. Not only is this film chock full of special effects, black humor and gore but it also sends a powerful message revolving around the sensitive and controversial topic of drug addiction. A young man encounters a phallic-like creature named "Aylmer" who agrees to inject the young man with a mind altering substance secreted by the creature himself in exchange for the young man's helping him to procure his favorite food...human brains! Yes it's "Return of the Living Dead" meets "Mr. Hanky the Christmas Pooh" with a bad Andy Warhol film thrown into the mix. Still this is a highly entertaining and often mind boggling assault on your senses. The "hallucination" scenes are out of this world and the gore sequences, many of which were cut from the original theatrical and VHS versions of the film but thankfully restored for DVD release, are totally outrageous. The infamous "Blow Job" scene that everyone talks about apparently caused several crew members to leave the set during filming (another similar occurrence took place during the filming of Henenlotter's other cult classic "Basket Case") and 2 cast members from "Basket Case" make cameo appearances. Beverly Bonner aka Casey appears here briefly as a neighbor in the beginning of the film and towards the end of the film Kevin Van Henteryck (Duane Bradley himself) returns to his role as Duane Bradley in an unspoken cameo as he is seen carrying a wicker basket on the subway. All of this meshes together brilliantly to create one of the most amusing horror roller-coaster rides you'll ever experience. "Brain Damage" will have you laughing till your sides hurt or puking your guts out...or if you're really talented, both at the same time!
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed