Brain Damage

| June 4, 2017

Most of us have fond memories of the name Elmer. Whether it be the glue that you can use to make fake skin, or the cartoon hunter (Fudd) who’s always on the lookout for the waskily wabbitt, Bugs Bunny. But there’s a third, underappreciated Elmer out there. This Elmer is not as fun or funny as the previous two Elmer’s mentioned. He’s actually more charming, and persuasive. Oh, and did I mention this Elmer is a slug like parasite with an insatiable hunger for brains? Whoops. My bad.

Brain Damage is the bizarre story of Elmer, a centuries old parasite with an unquenchable hunger for brains, human or otherwise. Elmer has managed to stay alive for so long due to “juice”, a secretion injected into an individuals grey matter through their neck. The “juice” induces an LCD-style sense of euphoria that makes his keepers continuously wanting more.

An elderly couple has been keeping Elmer under control for quite some time. The couple discovered that animal brains seem to keep Elmer more docile. One day, Elmer escapes his bathtub home and meets Brian. Brian is at first frightened by the talking slug. That’s right, Elmer speaks! Elmer is voiced by the late TV horror host John Zacherle. Zacherle’s voice brings an alarming level of sophistication to the parasitic Elmer.

Elmer begins giving Brian the “juice” in exchange for fresh human brains. One such incident involves the alley outside a nightclub, where a “juiced” Brian is about to be fellated by a comely young female patron of said nightclub. Unfortunately for both Brian and the young lady, Elmer interrupts the proceeding in a rather surprising and gruesome manner. I don’t want to spoil the scene. It’s a classic in the horror genre.

Brian, after pushing his girlfriend and brother further out of his life, decides it’s time to detoxify himself of the “juice.” A noble idea, surely, but easier said than done.

Brain Damage was directed by Frank Henenlotter, who also brought to the horror genre the cult classics Basket Case (1982) and Frankenhooker (1990). Brian is played by Rick Herbst, who would go on to a successful, Daytime Emmy winning career in soap operas, including over 600 episodes of General Hospital. Brain Damage would be both the first and last acting gig for Jennifer Lowry, who played Brian’s girlfriend Barbara. There’s also a fun cameo, as Kevin Van Hentenryck, star of Basket Case, makes an appearance on a subway train as his character from said movie.

Brain Damage has been brought to us in a Blu-Ray/DVD home media release from the always incredible folks at Arrow US. The extras are plentiful, including the all new documentary Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage, featurettes examining the creation of the special effects and the New York City shooting locations, and a short film featuring the last onscreen credit of the late John Zacherle. The packaging is also stellar, with a slipcover featuring all new artwork, as well as a reversible sleeve that includes both original and new artwork. Lastly, there’s a Collector’s Booklet with original archive stills, posters of the movie from around the globe, and new writing on the film from author Michael Gingold.

Brain Damage is a fun watch, especially in groups. An absolute must own if you’re a horror fanatic.

About the Author:

Steve graduated from Southwestern Michigan College with an Associate's Degree in communications. He currently resides in Niles, MI

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