Arrow brings us the sleaze epic on Blu-Ray in a packed edition with all the bells and whistles. “Brain Damage” follows the story of Brian, a handsome young man who is chosen by an ancient parasitic creature named Elmer to be his new host. Brian is given a strong hallucinogen drug, injected directly into his brain. In return, he must sometimes unknowingly bring victims to Elmer so Elmer can feed on them.
Frank Henenlotter is a director with a unique vision; his films carry an aesthetic, a certain style, which can never be mistaken. Most of his films were made in in the heyday of gritty New York City, “Brain Damage” is no different. The locations look unsafe; the interiors are lined with crud and filth while trash meanders through the streets, the human variety among it. This backdrop, along with a heavy punk scene scattered throughout the film, creates a setting that is fun to glimpse at from a distance while assuring the audience can breathe out a collective sigh of relief when the credits roll; they only have to wander a few feet to shower off the symbolic scum collected throughout the duration of the picture. The allegory for drug abuse and addiction is heavy in “Brain Damage” and makes it dirty, timeless, and real; it’s hard to shake the scene of a Brian going through withdrawal, shaking violently on the ground, his shirt stained and skin pale. Along with this seemingly grim setting is a darkly comedic style; “Brain Damage” is filled with bizarre characters and a highly intelligent, manipulative parasite with a crude streak of humor. These elements bring an outrageous feel to the film; they mix well with its downbeat setting and fantastical concept, due to the filmmaker’s talent. Henenlotter manages to take all these elements and somehow ground it to create a wonderful world of fun, splatter, and nihilism.
The technical aspects of “Brain Damage” are a mix of practical and optical. Elmer’s design is very phallic, resembling “A black dildo” as Henenlotter put it. For a phallic creature, he is very animated; the special effects team created several Elmer’s that, when used together, create a very effective creature. Puppetry and stop motion elements are mixed and work wonderfully. The optical effects are good for the time and hold up to this day aside for some of the work done on the subway, where Elmer keeps popping out of Brian’s mouth for a late night snack. This effect is dated, appearing subpar to the rest of the work, but has an organic charm, regardless. The lighting, mixed with some of the post optical effects, create a visually appealing film; almost everything has a wonderful blue hue to it, not your typical teal color that is seemingly oversaturated in today’s market, the colors pop so well they are truly mesmerizing. The visuals are best in the surreal drug trips. The strongest of these is when Brian’s room fills with dark blue water and his overhead light turns into an eyeball, staring into him. Along with New York City, there are some built sets and miniatures that blend in seamlessly together. The voice of Elmer brings a lot of life to the character; the powerful booming voice of horror host John Zacherle seals the deal, his pacing and delivery is top notch. As for the other actors in the film, they do well and while some of the performances are bizarre, it all manages to work to the film's advantage. The bizarre synth score works with the electric imagery and optical effects; these are most used when Brian’s brain is juiced with Elmer’s drug. One thing about “Brain Damage” that can’t go unmentioned is the splatter, the scene where Brian goes through withdrawal is by far one of the most gruesome over the top moments in any splatter flick. A healthy helping of his brains are pulled out of his head through his ear canal, it seemingly never comes to an end! Each time he pulls a string of his brain, more meat is ready to slide out, until it comes to a volcanic eruption of blood and gore.
The film looks and sounds top notch, the work Arrow has done has made everything look great. The features on the disc are there in buckets, included is a 50 minute documentary featuring many of the cast and crew, an extra interview with stills photographer, optical effects artist, fx artist Gabe Bartalos, a bittersweet stop motion film entitled “Behemoth Bygone”, a Q&A with Henenlotter, a new commentary with Henenlotter, a fan interview/collection, and more. All and all the punk splatter, gritty New York style, darkly comedic, monster movie has never been presented better.
IT'S A HEADACHE FROM HELL!
IT'S A HEADACHE FROM HELL! From Frank Henenlotter, the man behind such cult horror favourites as Basket Case and Frankenhooker, comes Brain Damage - the ultimate head-trip, now finally on Blu-ray! Meet Elmer. He's your local, friendly parasite with the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in his hosts. But these LSD-like trips come with a hefty price tag. When young Brian comes under Elmer's addictive spell, it's not long before he finds himself scouring the city streets in search of his parasite's preferred food source - brains! Featuring late TV horror host John Zacherley as the voice of Elmer, Brain Damage boasts some of the most astonishing bad taste gore-gags ever realized, including the notorious "brain-pulling sequence" and a blow-job that ends with a distinctly unconventional climax.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original Mono and 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround Audio Options
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Brand new audio commentary by writer-director Frank Henenlotter
Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage - 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
The Effects of Brain Damage - FX artist and creator of 'Elmer' Gabe Bartalos looks back at his iconic effects work on the film
Animating Elmer - featurette looking at the contributions of visual effects supervisor Al Magliochetti
Karen Ogle: A Look Back - stills photographer, script supervisor and assistant editor Karen Ogle recalls her fond memories of working on Brain Damage
Elmer's Turf: The NYC Locations of Brain Damage - featurette revisiting the film's original shooting locations
Tasty Memories: A Brain Damage Obsession - an interview with superfan Adam Skinner
Brain Damage Q&A with Frank Henenlotter recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival
Original Theatrical Trailer
Bygone Behemoth - animated short by Harry Chaskin, featuring a brief appearance by John Zacherle in his final onscreen credit
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 by Michael Gingold, illustrated with original archive stills and posters