Film Review: Brain Damage (1988)

Also known as: Elmer (Germany), Fluido Fatal (Portugal), Sin Control (Argentina, Mexico)
Release Date: January, 1988 (France – Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival)
Directed by: Frank Henenlotter
Written by: Frank Henenlotter
Music by: Matthias Donnelly, Clutch Reiser, Gus Russo
Cast: Rick Hearst, Jennifer Lowry, Gordon MacDonald

Palisades Partners, 84 Minutes, 86 Minutes (uncut)


“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.” – Aylmer

I remember seeing parts of this film but I didn’t recall most of it. Usually, my memory is pretty good and I can go back to where I was when I saw something for the first time. But this is such a batshit crazy flick that it may have done something to my brain. Maybe I’ve only seen clips or maybe I was half asleep watching it on television, late at night. Chances are, I was at some party in my teens or twenties and was high as a kite or drunk.

Anyway, I remembered a few things, mostly the evil parasite Aylmer and how impressed I was with the practical effects and detail that were used to bring him to life. I also remembered liking his voice, as it isn’t one you would expect and it’s kind of soothing and comforting.

Brain Damage was directed by Frank Henenlotter, who was most famous for Basket Case before this, a true cult classic that has stood the test of time and is still a hell of a fun movie to watch. This film, however, came out before Frankenhooker and the Basket Case sequels. So Henenlotter still didn’t have a whole lot of experience under his belt. But that doesn’t seem to matter, as this is technically impressive considering how visually stunning it is, as well as how superb the practical effects are.

Now this movie is far too weird to resonate with most people but for those who love ’80s horror cheese of the highest caliber, mixed in with a good bit of bonkers-ness, this might become your new favorite film. It’s weirder and more impressive than Henenlotter’s other two non-sequel outings and it has a weird charm about it.

The star of the film, Rick Hearst, would go on to have a lot of success as a soap opera actor and considering that this is very far removed from that sort of work, I have to tip my hat to him for really committing to this insane movie and putting in a convincing performance despite the absolute absurdity of some of the scenes.

Brain Damage is a hard movie to explain without spoiling too much and I’d rather people watch it, if they haven’t seen it and they’re willing to go on a crazy adventure with a brain parasite that makes his hosts addicted to his sweet blue juice.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the other films of Frank Henenlotter, as well as Brian Yuzna’s ’80s and ’90s pictures.

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