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Brain Damage: Limited Edition (1988) - Blu-ray Review

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Brain Damage (1988) - Blu-ray Review

5 beers

I’m just going to go ahead and say (and spray) it everywhere.  Exploitation filmmaker Frank Henenlotter is one of the few remaining mad geniuses of the cinema; he’s a walking masterpiece of the b-movie.  Horror Hounds and Gore-Gore girls, this is what happens when you are raised on a steady diet of 42nd street flicks.  A serious load of raunch dressing and sick swagger become your unconventional style and Henenlotter fucking OWNS it.  Absolutely.

If you’ve ever seen ANY of his horror comedies, you know exactly what I mean when I describe him as the modern day king of grindhouse gore.  He knows how to use gross-out gore effectively and in a manner that totally upends the b-movie he’s making.  It’s twisted, borderline cartoonish, and he nails the tone of his flicks each and every time.  From the Basket Case series (with Basket Case 2 being the standout) to the marvel of Frankenhooker, you don’t simply “like” his movies; you devour them.  Some even want to live inside them.  Even the sticky ticky-tocky parts, they all go down the piehole with the unmatched glee of GIVE ME MORE right fucking now.  A second piece? YES!  And coffee, too!

Which is why Arrow Video’s blu-ray release of Brain Damage is so goddamned important.  We live in an awesome era of film distribution.  We can moan all we want to (trust me, I STILL do it) about the loss of the drive-in and the loss of video stores and the difference they made in getting low-budget flicks out to audiences, but it’s truly a marvelous age of releases when the “bad taste” of b-movies FINALLY arrives … in glorious high-definition and lands right in our laps. 

And Arrow Video’s efforts to restore sanity to the home theater craze with their ongoing exploitation and horror releases should not be taken for granted.  The sheer excitement I felt when I opened the limited edition release of Brain Damage cannot be repeated.  But I can thank them for honoring this film so beautifully. 

Brain Damage, starring Rick Hearst as Brian, Jennifer Lowry, Theo Barnes, and featuring late TV horror host John Zacherley as the voice of Elmer, is a twisted little booger that can’t simply be flicked off the finger of your imagination.  It is a cult film about the bathtub escape of a friendly worm-looking parasite who likes to attach itself to a human host, fire up the host’s sensations with trippy LSD hallucinations, and then use said host to get close to other human beings so that it might munch and scrunch on their brains. 

Poor Brian.  He just woke up and that slug was there, waiting to take control.  There was no hope for him and when he finally does see the light...well, you'll see...

And considering that the beloved Aylmer or Elmer (yes, it has a name) looks like a blue detachable penis, is it any wonder then that, at one point in the movie, it poses as its human host’s dick?  The poor woman in the alley who unzips and opens wide for a blow-job is in for quite the gooey, blue surprise.  She never had a chance going against that slick Willy.  And the climax?  Let’s just say that somewhere, someone is STILL scrubbing out that stain.     

Brain Damage is hilarious.  It is also twisted as fuck, which ALWAYS earns high marks from this dude.  Its strut is infectious and kinky and, as it seems to metaphorically cover drug addiction, completely in the right to depict a man so enraged by the parasite’s murderous activities that he pulls out his brain through his earhole.  It’s slime and grime like never before and yet you still laugh.

As lighthearted as it is, there is no way in hell that you walk away and immediately shake Brain Damage off.  It’s as if audiences have their own Elmer attached to them after watching this madcap tale.  I’m sure that the sentence “well, what do you want for lunch, kids” has NEVER followed a screening of this bizarre tale.  And, trust me, Henenlotter wouldn’t have it any OTHER way either. 

Brain Damage is exactly what it says it is.  And that’s why I love it so.  You will, too, just don’t get too close to Aylmer and you’ll be okay.

Brain Damage (1988) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Not rated.
98 mins
: Frank Henenlotter
Frank Henenlotter
Rick Hearst, Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry
: Horror | Comey
Inside everyone's head lurks an Elmer....
Memorable Movie Quote: "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."
Theatrical Distributor: 
Palisades Entertainment Group
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 15, 1988
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 9, 2017
Synopsis: One morning, a young man wakes to find that a small, disgusting creature has attached itself to the base of his brain stem. The creature gives him a euphoric state of happiness but demands human victims in return.

Brain Damage (1988) - Blu-ray Review


Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Arrow Films
Available on Blu-ray
- May 9, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH
English: LPCM Mono; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region A


Arrow Video proudly presents Brain Damage on blu-ray with a stunning remastering job in 1080p brilliance. Both the High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations are sure pretty to look at, revealing more grime in the streets and in the subways. The 1.85:1 transfer is loaded with bonus bits never noticed before in the background and in the skin. Details are finely tuned. Black levels are deep and respected for their differing shades. The color, while not bright (by design), is naturally saturated and expressive. A new layer of clarity equally illustrates the city location and its sets; shadows are livelier, effects are also vibrant with Elmer getting glorious wet with goo. And those beautiful mountains in the background are to be envied. The original Mono 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround audio options are perfect for this film. With

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing and an Isolated Score, this release is handled with honor.





  • Hallelujah!  Arrow Video rewards fans with a brand new audio commentary by writer-director Frank Henenlotter.  It is indeed a treat to hear the maestro speak about his prized possession. 

Special Features:


Arrow Video does fans a HUGE favor with this release.  If you are lucky enough to score the LIMITED BLU-RAY/COMBO release of the film, you will get a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck, a Limited Edition O-card with exclusive artwork, and a detailed Collector’s Booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.  The rest of the supplemental items are detailed below (from the back of the blu-ray).

  • 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


Brain Damage (1988) - Blu-ray Review

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