The Halloween Grab Bag!
Brain Damage!
by: Dr. Boogie

As I said back in our coverage of Basket Case 3, Frank Henenlotter is a man of unusual tastes.

Still, Basket Case wasn't all that odd of a movie when you boil it down. At its heart, it's a story mainly about the bonds between brothers and how urban isolation can make a man feel like he's locked in a wicker basket, waiting to strangle someone.

Similarly, Brain Damage is an allegory about the dangers of addiction. Only in this case, drug use is symbolized by a brain-eating, slug-like creature that can talk and sing jaunty tunes! I couldn't bear to let you read all that and walk away not knowing how Frank is going to gross you out with puppets again. So with that in mind, here's a breakdown of the five greatest moments from Brain Damage that every horror fan should know about:

#5 The Old Couple!

They both have names, but you could be forgiven for thinking that they're just called "the old couple." When we first meet them, they're serving up a veritable smorgasbord of brains for the titular damager of brains.

Not human brains, mind you: animal brains. Just as good, right? Of course not. Wouldn't be much of a movie if the protagonist could just serve up a cow's brain in exchange for powerful hallucinogens.

That's why the parasite decides to skip out on the old folks, and they don't take it well:

Sadly, there is no sign of their brain-starved friend in any of their cabinets or bookshelves. The search continues as they barge into their neighbors' apartments looking for the thing, but a short time later, the search hits its first major obstacle:

So the old couple takes a siesta to work out the whole "screaming at nothing/foaming at the mouth" thing. What's so special about this... thing, that could drive a mostly normal pair of old people to go so nuts?

We'll find out by taking a closer look at our next entry:

#4 Elmer!

A truly great movie monster can be identified by a single name, like Freddy, Jason, or Leather. Rather than inflicting his rage on horny teens, Elmer's MO is eating brains to maintain the svelte figure of a foot-long turd with features. To facilitate his brain-eating, he motivates a human host by injecting a potent hallucinogen via a pointy proboscis.

To hear Brian describe it, having your brain filled with airplane toilet water is the greatest thing on earth. Conversely, being without it is like sitting on a ice augur, but more on that later.

Elmer is more than just a pretty face: during a long info dump, the old man explains that Elmer, spelled "Aylmer" which means "the awe-inspiring famous one," has been around for centuries, going from brainwashing the emperor of the Byzantine empire to juicing some oddly-trusting idiot in New York. The animal brains he and his wife were feeding Elmer were necessary to keep him weak so he couldn't use them like puppets to rustle him up some human brains.

Speaking of which, while Brain is high on Elmer's juice, he wanders into our next big scene:

#3 Hell!

Whenever Brian is on the juice, he tends to get a lot more out of any given situation. His previous outing saw him screaming with joy at being in a junkyard, so a nightclub should be a hell of an upgrade. Especially when the nightclub is called "Hell".

White people...

Anyway, Brian's coked-up behavior attracts some unnamed woman's attention, and he seals the deal by performing the mating dance of the spazz:

Pretty soon, she's all hot and bothered. They sneak off the most romantic part of the club: the boiler room. Brian is still acting like a weirdo and threatening to pass out (what woman doesn't love a semi-conscious tweaker?), so the young lady crouches down and does the unzipping for him.

It's interesting to note that according to director Frank Henenlotter, the rest of the crew walked off set because they didn't want to be a part of this. Lucky for him, scenes of women choking on slug puppets practically shoot themselves!

Even so, you can't help but wonder how this works for Elmer, given that he normally latches onto a person's forehead to eat their brain. So how does he get the brain out this way?

Answer: He just does.

#2 The Withdrawal Scene!

Shortly after the above scene, Brian starts to have misgivings about the parasite injecting poison into his brain. He checks them into a seedy hotel and lets Elmer know that he has some questions that need to be answered. Chief among them: why did he arrive back at his apartment wearing bloody underwear? "When it comes to blood in my underwear," he says, "I want to know how it got there!"

Elmer spares him the details of how he tunneled through some barfly's soft palette and just says that he's killed a couple people while Brian was under the influence. Brian decides he doesn't want to live his life as a glorified taxi for a brain-eating monster, but without further doses of his juice, Elmer explains, Brian won't even have the strength to unzip his fly when he wants to get a normal BJ. Thus begins a contest of wills between man and... thing.

Elmer spends the time mocking Brian, while Brian wastes time digging in his ear:

This is why cotton swaps are a multi-billion dollar industry.

What a horribly disturbing episode for poor Brian. At least it's over now.

Welcome to rock bottom. Population: a one-eared man and his talking drug worm.

Suffice to say, the horrible pain and hallucinations of Clamato gushing out of his head (not to mention Elmer's crooning) break Brian's will in no time flat. He and Elmer patch things up and continue killing until this, the last entry in our Brain Damage top five moments of sadism and mayhem, or whatever we're calling this thing:

#1 The Thrilling Climax!

As Brian once again tries to discard some bloody clothing, the old couple from the beginning of the film return, and boy do they look like shit. Not in the filthy, "sleeping-on-a-dirty-hotel-room-floor", "dreaming-of-my-own-gruesome-demise" sort of way that Brian was, but in their own unique way. They want Elmer back, and the old man's pistol says it's going to happen. They grab him, but wouldn't you know it: Elmer is a brain-eating parasite who still remembers being stuck in their bathtub eating pig and sheep brains.

Seeing Elmer knock out two consecutive brain removals upsets Brian's delicate constitution, so he asks for a quick juicing. Elmer assumes the position, the needle goes in, it's business as usual.

The old man's brain isn't completely devoured! He summons the strength to rise up, seize Elmer, and squeeze him like he was trying to squeeze the last ounce of toothpaste out of the tube. Yes, even though we see multiple people squeezing Elmer with both hands throughout the course of the film, the one-handed grip of this dying old man is the one that proves too much. Elmer is crushed.

Unfortunately, all that squeezing squirted an all too generous helping of juice onto Brian's tender, if infrequently used, brain. This results in a decidedly less euphoric state than what he's used to.

Terrified by this latest grotesquerie, Brian flees to his apartment and blows his blue brains out with the old man's gun. And let me tell you, he blows his brains out more than anyone has ever blown their brains out before, or ever will.

Now THAT'S brain damage!

Here's what's most shocking about ending: when you stop to think about it, these two old geezers are the real heroes of the film. They've kept Elmer for decades, only feeding him animal brains to keep him weak, and ultimately it's the old man who actually kills Elmer. Hell, when a bystander walks into the scene, the old man scares him off with a warning shot instead of just shooting him. Meanwhile, Brian lets Elmer suck out brains willy-nilly, including his own girlfriend! I feel like I can almost remember the old guy's name. Almost.

Have any questions or comments about this piece?


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Reader Comments

Comic Artist in Training
Sep 4th, 2013, 11:12 AM
Heh...weird. I first heard about this via James Rolfe's Monster Madness. Maybe I'll check this out sometime.
I hate this hacker crap!
Sep 4th, 2013, 12:59 PM
I, too, need answers when I find bloody underwear on my person.
The Medium-Height Man
Sep 4th, 2013, 04:28 PM
Im one good looking Troll
Sep 4th, 2013, 10:33 PM
This is just one of those forgotten or never heard of film even if the film came out that year.
Forum Virgin
Sep 16th, 2013, 08:46 AM
The GIFs in this article may be the grossest I've seen anywhere on I-Mockery! I thought the ones in The Scariest Moments In Non-Horror Movies were disturbing, but one Jennifer Connelly picture was pretty much enough to counterbalance the effect. In this article, there would need to be about five Jennifer Connelly pictures between every GIF!

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