Blu-ray Review – Brain Damage

Brain Damage

Director: Frank Henelotter 

Screenplay: Frank Henelotter

Minutes: 86

Year: 1988

Score: 5.53

Release: Arrow Video

Sometimes you can sum up a film in a single shot and a viewer who will undoubtedly become a fan will see it and press play. Brain Damage has this special factor. Its name is Elmer.


From Frank Henenlotter, the man behind such cult horror favorites 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.

You can file this film under both awful and amazing; and comedy horror but that seems to go without saying. The film opens on a bizarre older couple who are escorting a brain into their bathroom only to learn that the recipient is missing.

 The brain muncher is called Elmer and I will describe it is a blue, hypodermic turd with a charismatic baritone voice.  Blue turd. Also, it is animatronic. Elmer injects its host with a blue liquid, maybe Windex, which triggers a chemical euphoria allowing the user to see colors and color shifts. The intend behind the pusher, Elmer, is to get the user close enough to a victim for Elmer to munch on some grey matter.

Behind this bonkers horror film hides a fairly strong message about drug addiction how it ravages the lives of addicts. As deplorable as addict’s actions may be it is difficult for some people to understand how conniving the chemical need can be.  That is what you get with Brain Damage. And a blue turd who eats brains.

If you read Arrow’s description you will know that the film is graphic and will upset some people. The depiction of addiction is more difficult for me to watch but others will feel differently. But the film is great and I will definitely be spinning it again soon. I highly recommend the film for horror, comedy/horror, cult fans. It probably won’t work too well for many casual viewers.

Special Features:

  • 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
  • Isolated Score
  • 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 artist Dan Frye
  • 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
  • Image Galleries
  • 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

Director: 7 – Cinematography: 5 –  Edit: 5 – Parity: 1 – Main performance: 4 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 4 – Sound: 5 – Story: 6 – Script: 6 – Effects: 9 – Design: 8 – Costumes: 5 – Keeps interest: 6 – Lasting: 10