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VINE VOICEon March 29, 2004
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.
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on May 4, 2016
The single star isn't for the movie itself, which I love, but for the fact that not once have I been able to watch the movie without skipping and jumping, distortions in the audio, and basic unwatchability. It's like Amazon sent me a bootleg copy to watch or something. It's not my computer, I watch movies and shows on a few different sites without issue, my internet connection is fast and strong.
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on February 14, 2016
Love the movie when i first saw it and i still love it now as well brings back a lot of memories cause i used to walk the same streets Rick Hearst walked in the movie when i used to go into the city to take in the sites of the city so nice they named it twice
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on February 27, 2012
I don't know what else I could add to the other countless reviews of this movie - It's sick, gross, funny, and hokey, all at the same time. The creature's voice (Aylmer, not Elmer!) is oddly soothing, and you'll absolutely laugh when he breaks out in song! The story is as stated in the product description. The picture quality is adequate and as would be expected in a low-budget 1980's horror flick. The special effects weren't near top notch when it was made, almost laughable now. The acting is spotty at best. But please, don't misinterpret any of that as my recommending you don't watch this movie. If you're a fan of low-budget horror (with a little humor thrown in), then this movie is must see.
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on January 9, 2010
Athough at times America may be right or she may be wrong, you must love the country that produced Frank Henenlotter. Yes, he's our gift to the world. With miniscule budgets and no end of various constraints, he has lavished masterpiece after cinematic masterpiece upon a suffering world yearning for joy.

You want comedy? Basket Case, Brain Damage, and Frankenhooker feature the most irresistably funny dialog and plot situations since Neil Simon. You want edgy? He'll walk you along the razor's edge without pushing you off. You want social commentary without preachiness? Just check out Brain Damage's take on addiction. Are you tired of the sameness of Hollywood's over-priced commercialized dross? Check out Mr. Henenlotter's work today. Call your friends over for a dvd triple Frank feature. Comedies are even better when they're watched with your buddies. The experience will make you proud to be an Ameican.
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on March 10, 2010
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. Seeing the R-rated vhs tape back in the days, was the only way to see this movie. But now we get the fully uncut print on dvd, big difference. Lots of great gore scenes were cut in the vhs print. I strongly recommend the special dvd edition. One of Frank Henelotter best.
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BRAIN DAMAGE is Frank Henenlotter's masterpiece of comical chemical dependency and insane cranial carnage! Brian (Rick Herbst) is a decent enough guy, just trying to survive in NYC. Well, it seems that a hideous parasite named Aylmer has ditched it's previous victims and found it's way into Brian's apartment. Brian has been inexplicably ill, unable to go out w/ his girlfriend. So, he sends her out w/ his brother. Brian has strange, unexplained hallucinations. He then meets Aylmer in his bathroom, and is introduced to the "juice". What is the juice? It's an incredibly addictive substance that Aylmer injects into Brian's brain, by thrusting a needle-like organ through the base of his skull! Brian has no recollection of what happens under the influence of the juice. He becomes a zombified transport for the murderous, brain-devouring Aylmer. There are several shocking scenes, so make sure that granny and the youngsters are far away from this one! This is definitely adult fare, but a classic nonetheless. BD is right up there in the upper echelons of the slime pantheon w/ the likes of STREET TRASH, DEAD ALIVE, and BASKET CASE! See it today...
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on June 7, 2014
Discovered this 15 years ago and loved it ever since.Especially in its un-cut form(I did see the vhs tape version and they massacred this movie).It is not for everyone.You must have the proper frame of mind(sense of humor) and life experience to enjoy this movie.Do we need a Blu-ray version?Hell no.This 1080 presentation picture couldn`t be any better.Besides,I REFUSE to jump on the Blu-ray wagon.Most of what I watch will never get a Blu-ray version anyway.Besides,whats next?Ultra-ray?Mega-ray?Who wants to keep buying the same movie over and over every few years?Not this guy.I got sucked in at the beginning of the dvd craze but learned quickly.Anyway enough of that.If you have this movie then you gotta have Frankenhooker and Basket Case.Hennenlotters perfect tri-fecta!He`s got my sense of humor 100%.
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on November 12, 2005
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!
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on January 6, 2013
They don't make movies like this anymore!!! I am 37 years old and I remember watching this as a very young person and was amazed by this! now, remastered and looking amazing! Fully uncut and uncensored as the way it's supposed to be! The colors look amazing, the acting is good, it's funny and disturbing all at the same time! Frank Henenlotter to me is and was one of the best directors out there. If anyone hasn't seen his movies, must!
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