Blindspot 2015: 40 Years of TIFF: Brain Damage


With it being October, I decided that I would take a break from watching winner's of the TIFF People's Choice Award and watch the film from the popular Midnight Madness programme. Specifically, I decided to watch a film from the very first Midnight Madness in 1988, which would the horror-comedy .

A young man named Brian (Rick Herbst) wakes up to find that a parasite named Aylmer (John Zacherle) has attached itself to Brian's brain stem. Aylmer injects a hallucinogenic blue fluid into Brian's brain, which gives him the feeling of euphoric happiness. However, in return, Brian must provide Alymer with human brains to eat.

From cult horror director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Frankenhooker) comes this film that I would describe as a mix between Little Shop of Horrors and David Cronenberg's Shivers. Much of the comedy comes from Brian's interactions of Alymer, who just matter-of-factly describes the people he has killed. The fact that Alymer is a talking beady eyed puppet adds to more of the ridiculousness of this story.

I watched the unrated cut of Brain Damage, so I experienced the film's copious amount of gore in all its bloody glory. Particularly, there was a very controversial scene in the film, where one of Alymer's kills appears like fellatio, which I definitely have to say made me squirm a bit while watching it.

The plot of Brain Damage isn't too deep, since it's more or less a cycle of Alymer inject hallucinogen, Brian find victim. While there are some supporting characters, such as Brian's brother Mike (Gordon MacDonald) and girlfriend Barbara (Jennifer Lowry), they don't really factor too much into the film, other than the fact that Brian's addiction to Alymer's hallucinogenic fluid has caused a rift in his relationship with both of them. Then of course, there is the completely surreal way that Brain Damage ends.

Watching Brain Damage has made me interested in checking out some of Frank Henenlotter's other films. I was already somewhat familiar with Frankenhooker, which is the film Henenlotter made after Brain Damage, though I would also be interested in seeking out his 1982 debut film Basket Case.

While Brain Damage is a B-movie without much substance to it, it is still a pretty fun and very gory watch.

7 / 10 stars
7  FAIR  
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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.