Monday, November 16, 2015

"Brain Damage" (1988) d / Frank Henenlotter

If you happen to enter my media room (you're either a hot chick or a member of my inner circle, congrats, either way), you'll notice that the German poster for tonight's review that I've had since the nineties,  hangs, right next to my German print of Carpenter's Halloween (1978)...I never dreamed I'd get this snobby in my old age, really, but here I am, running down my Henenlotter pedigree. No stopping now. I spent sixty-four ninety-five on the Media VHS of Basket Case (1982) when it first came out (I was fourteen), and though I could never stabilize the tracking the whole way through on the big floor model tv in the parlor ( Mr. Bradley's nose always looked like Margaret Hamilton's, as he walked slowly down the cellar stairs on my copy), I was instantly a huge fan of Frank's work. His next film, 1988's Brain Damage, I also saw upon release, and liked even more. Where Basket Case suffered from budgetary restraints in areas, Damage handles the same dilemma, and pulls it off; a more polished, funnier, more generally effective film than his previous effort.

Next week on "When Keith Moon and Syd Barrett Play Hide n' Seek at the Junkyard"...
An elderly couple (just as worldly, judging by their culture-laden digs) seeks out their family pet at the outset, to show him the nice calves' brains they've gotten him, but he's flown the coop, causing his captors to obsessively, haphazardly needle through all of their belongings to find him, until they're both left spastic and foaming on the floor. Elsewhere in the building, there's young Brian (Rick Hearst), who's bedridden with a headache, only to end up on a mind blowing trip of psychedelia and colors, thanks to the mouth parts of Aylmer, a phallic, wisecracking parasite who sort of resembles a smug brussel sprout that attaches itself to the host's neck and shoots a blue euphoria-inducing fluid into their brain. In return for the experience, the host must provide him with a steady diet of brains, preferably human, and fresh out of a living skull? Why, that's even better...

"The waitress, a vampire named Perkins...was so very fond of small gherkins, while she served the tea, she ate forty-three...which pickled her internal workin's! Ho! Ho! Ho!"
Brian is instantly hooked on Aylmer's juice, and willingly strolls out into the New York night with the lump on his neck, unaware that, while he trips his face off, the talking shillelagh will be claiming victims; first a night watchman at a junkyard, then a wasted chick at a punk rock show willing to get her knees dirty. Meanwhile, his relationships with his girlfriend, Barbara (Jennifer Lowry), and his brother, Mike (Gordon MacDonald), become so strained that she ends up waxing his brother down instead, when he blows off their dates, often for a splashy party in the tub with Aylmer (!). It's only when Brian tries to take charge of their symbiotic partnership that Aylmer tells the young man his historic back story, and, in a battle of wills, refuses to juice him, while holed up in a flea bag hotel room. I won't ruin the ending for you here, it's one you need to see to believe. Snag a copy.

It's not the face you fuck, but the fuck you face, except for this fatal face fuck.
Two years later, Henenlotter would revisit Belial and Duane Bradley in Basket Case 2 (1990), though it should be mentioned that they make a cameo here in a hilarious subway standoff with Brian and Aylmer that I never saw coming the first time around and left me laughing. Fellow Basket Case alum, Beverly Bonner, also makes an appearance here. The first time I heard Aylmer's distinct voice, I knew it was New York Horror Host and Chiller Theater regular, John Zacherle, uncredited, though how I fished his name out of the dark recesses of my memory is still puzzling, seeing how I'd only caught Zacherle's act a few times during my childhood (probably the last being his 3D presentation of Gorilla at Large on WOR-TV 9 six years earlier), which belonged exclusively to Dr. Shock, and to a lesser degree, Uncle Ted, during his Ghoul School days. Man, I wouldn't trade growing up in my era for anything. So much good stuff, which happens to be what Henenlotter is synonymous with: good genre stuffs a'plenty. Damage scores a perfect four Wops, as an urban horror/comedy/fantasy about addiction, as gritty as it is urbane. My highest recommendation comes along with it.

Ear's looking at goo, kid.
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