Plot: What’s it about?
When Brian (Rick Herbst) wakes up one morning to discover his pillow covered with blood, he knows this morning will different from all the others. Brian has been sick and resting in bed, but this blood covered pillow business seems insane, and the source is soon located. The blood has come from a hole in the back of Brian’s neck, which appears to be the result of a bite of some manner. Then, Brian’s room is flooded by a strange blue liquid and his ceiling suddenly morphs into a gigantic eyeball, of all things. As if these events were not enough, Brian soon finds out just what caused that bite, a small worm like creature with the cutest eyes. The creature’s name is Aylmer, and he has the sweetest voice and a hook, he has injected Brian with a hallucinogenic fluid, which caused the whole eyeball incident. Of course Brian wants more of the special fluid, but Aylmer has a demand for his goods. In order to attain more of that wonderful fluid, Brian must feed Aylmer his favorite food, human brains. Brian is hooked already it seems, since he agrees, but how far will Brian’s need for this strange fluid become, and will he ever be able to give it up?
This is one of the most insane, creative, and fun horror movies of all time, although I am not sure if it qualifies as true horror. In any case, the creature effects and blood content seem to be enough to warrant an inclusion, even if the movie seems more like a slapstick comedy at times. But come on, nothing goes better with slapstick than a small worm that eats human brains and dispenses hallucinogenic fluids, right? Of course the storyline seems to be a message about the dangers of addiction and the extremes it can send people to, but that’s not crammed down your throat. I mean, who can listen to an anti-drug message when there’s blood splashing across the screen and some wicked creatures are dancing about? The make-up effects in this movie are awesome, as are the creature effects, which might look a little out there, but are very effective. Some very strange and disturbing, as well as hilarious scenes of gore are also found in the film, all of which provide all the elements you could want from a movie like this. This new release comes on the brink of Synapse’s rights expiring, so they’ve given us this new, improved version to close out their window of release. Available for only a short while, this new edition is the one fans will want, so don’t hesitate to nab this when you can.
This film was written and directed by Frank Henenlotter, who has become an icon in horror even though he only has five films to his credit. While his filmography is limited, Henenlotter’s skill and talent are most certainly not, as is proven with this, and all his other films. Henenlotter’s works might not win any mainstream awards, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good movies and a riotous romp to watch. His films are innovative and offbeat, which is a welcome thing in the horror genre, where most movies are simple rehashes with no real advances present. Even though he usually works with low budgets, Henenlotter always manages to offer a polished and impressive film, complete with terrific gore and creature effects to dazzle the eyes. If you like the style of this movie, make sure to check out Frankenhooker and the three Basket Case films, I think you’ll enjoy those as well. The acting in this movie is not Academy Award caliber, but for a film of this nature the performers do a more than adequate turn. The lead is played by Rick Herbst (Crossing The Line, Warlock III), who is good even though he is called on to work under some very unusual situations. The rest of the cast includes Gordon MacDonald (The Thin Red Line), Theo Barnes, Jennifer Lowry, Vicki Darnell (Frankenhooker), and Lucille Saint-Peter.
Video: How does it look?
Brain Damage is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The previous release looked solid, but this new presentation is stunning, as Synapse has created a cutting edge, high definition visual transfer. I was pleased just to have an anamorphic treatment, let alone such a high end, brand new visual presentation. The limitations of the material are still evident, but this is a much improved overall treatment. The print is just as clean as before, so grain is only slight and other defects never prove to be an issue. The image is much crisper this time around, so detail seems sharper and the visuals just have a more refined appearance. I was actually quite impressed here, as this was a low budget production, but it looks excellent in this new presentation. So don’t assume this is just a direct anamorphic treatment of the old transfer, as Synapse has created a totally new, state of the art visual presentation here.
Audio: How does it sound?
A new Dolby Digital 5.1 option has been included also, which turns out to be a well crafted, effective remix. You can tell a lot of effort went into this new soundtrack, as the audio is crisp and very well executed. The nature of the movie itself means the audio is going to have an offbeat presence, but this track never sounds gimmicky, which is excellent news. As the case states, the track was designed with home theaters in mind and that’s obvious, as the movie has never sounded so rich. The surrounds are well used, with atmosphere enhanced and the music has a fuller, more layered texture. No troubles with vocals either, as dialogue is clean and always easy to understand in this mix. If you’re a purist however, Synapse has also included the original mono track, which is also terrific news.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is a special edition release, and it has some wonderful bonus materials included. You’ll find a theatrical trailer for Brain Damage, as well as a complete filmography on the director, Frank Henenlotter. The inclusion of an isolated musical score should delight fans of the film, since the soundtrack album was never made available. The final supplement is an audio commentary featuring Henenlotter, novelist Bob Martin, and indie filmmaker Scooter McCrae. This track is driven by Henenlotter, who recalls all sorts of memories and stories about the film’s production. He talks about nearly every aspect of the film, from ratings to budget, so you won’t want to skip this one. It is also worth noting this release includes the uncut and complete version of the film, which is certainly a bonus in my opinion.