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Cinema Meat Grinder Spotlight: Brain Damage

Welcome back my friends! It’s been too long. I know you’re famished, hungry for another serving from Count Scottula’s succulent smorgasbord of cult cinema. Well, you’re in luck, I’ve been preparing something special, putting my brains to work. You know, the brain is an amazing thing, with a fat, healthy glob of grey matter one can create the most incredible delights, like Brain Fritters, Attorney Brain Curry, Orphan Brains in Milk Gravy ( Xornian breast milk, of course), Sweetbreads, Deep Fried Child’s brains. The list goes on and on. There’s an old saying I just made up, “ A brain is a terrible thing to waste, and a wonderful thing to taste.” Well, boys and girls…and everything in between, I’ve got some real brain food for you. I I give you … BRAIN DAMAGE.

A young man named Brian awakes from a midnight nap to learn he has a new friend, Elmer, a talking phallic worm resembling a turd dipped in purple toxic waste. Elmer has dosed Brian by injecting a blue psychedelic liquid, “Go Juice”, into Brian’s brain as he slept. Brian trips balls in his bedroom and watches his ceiling light become a pulsing electric eyeball and bathes in an ocean of what appears to be Windex. After the come down Elmer explains to him, “This is the start of your new life Brian, a life full of colors, music, light and euphoria. A life without pain, or hurt or suffering … from now on your life will take on a whole new light, and all you have to do is look into the light, and listen. Listen to the light, Brian, just listen to the light…”.

Brian loves his new best friend, so much that he ignores his best girl, Barbara, and his brother (no, not the same person silly!) in order to spend all his time taking Elmer out on the town, tripping on the blue brain juice while Elmer eats the brains of anyone who crosses their path. That’s right, Elmer eats brains. Young Brian has no idea, of course, he’s too busy being enamored by all the colors, sounds, smells, sounds of smells, all that stuff, totally oblivious to Elmer’s dietary choices. But soon the party ends as Brian makes the desperate decision to take control of his life and save his damaged relationship with his girl by getting clean. Brian locks himself and Elmer in a sleazy motel room determined to kick his addiction to Elmer’s electric blue Go Juice.

The hallucinatory withdrawals and incessant taunting by a singing turd with the voice of a game show host breaks Brian’s will. ( Actually the character is voiced by the famous Horror Host, John Zacherle.). “You know the pain is going to get so great that only my juice will stop it. Only my juice will help you. You know that, don't you, Brian? Deep down inside you know that…” I think I’ll use that line on my next blind date. Elmer promises to give Brian what he’s begged for, another sweet shot of Go Juice…but not until Elmer has been fed. I’ll not tell you what follows, but there will copious consumption of cerebral cortexes and one hell of a drug overdose. Watch it with someone you love.

Brain Damage is the second film by veteran sleaze horror director Frank Henenlotter, who brought us the ground breaking documentary on psychotic conjoined twins, “Basket Case”, in 1982….and 1990’s “Frankenhooker”. Released in 1988, Brain Damage is clearly a not-so-subtle cautionary tale about the dangers of drug addiction. And what better way to symbolically represent the terrors of addiction than embodying it in the form of an adorable phallic worm booger parasite who suffers from his own addiction to tasty, tasty brain matter? I personally don’t go for the raw stuff, but to each their own tastes. Am I right? I’m right. Elmer ( or The Aylmer ) is what makes this film so damn special. Despite being the ugly personification of addiction, he’s hilarious and downright adorable. Created by special effects master Gabe Bartalos, Elmer is utterly unique when it comes to 80’s movie monsters. What’s also unique is the way Henelotter utilizes everything from puppetry, stop motion animation and good old rotoscoping to bring Elmer to life. Additionally, the film contains a scene that brings new meaning to the phrase “giving head”.

And for all you Basket Case fans out there, pay close attention to the subway scene, you might recognize a familiar face…carrying a basket.

Sit back and enjoy what might be the greatest monster film to emerge from the glorious 80’s, aside from Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’, of course. If sex, drugs and brain consumption are up your alley, and we know it is, you’ll find yourself coming back again and again to this movie like an addict in denial. You simply will not be able to get enough of Elmer, and like he says, “Whenever you want the pain to stop, I'll be here. Whenever you want to stop hurting, you come to me. When the pain gets so great you think you're turning inside-out, just ask for my juice. Come to me when you're ready, Brian. Come to me and get my juice…”.

Damn, now I’m thirsty.

Brain Damage (1988)

Director and Screenwriter: Frank Henenlotter

Special Effects: Gabe Bartalos, David Kindlon and Al Magliochetti

Starring: Rick Hearst, Jennifer Lowry and John Zacherle as the voice of Elmer

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Scott Edwards
Scott Edwards
Aug 16, 2019

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