Arrow Video Movie Review: BRAIN DAMAGE (1988)

One thing I miss most about 80s movies, especially in horror, is all the not so subtle homoerotic imagery. Most of these restored 80s movies that I’m discovering on Blu-ray for the first-time feature plenty of shirtless hot guys who confide in their male friends and the plot often works as a metaphor of some form of repression. One of the most famous examples is A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE, with the infamous monster taking over the body of a teenager in order to kill off his friends. This involves scenarios such as visiting a leather bar, butt whipping towels, and emotional confessions to his hot shirtless friend when they’re alone in the bedroom. We even get a musical moment when he dances in his tighty whities while getting ready in the morning. Movies like these were the early versions of the bro-horror subgenre that modern filmmakers like Eli Roth utilize to an extent, but I don’t see too much of the gay subtext lately. If I’m missing out on this from anything in the last ten years, then definitely point me in that direction.

BRAIN DAMAGE is one of the my latest discoveries thanks to Arrow Video releasing a new limited edition Blu-ray set filled with new supplements. We meet Brian, a good looking young adult who wakes up one day with strange sensations in his body. We, the audience, know that this is related to an older couple we are introduced to in the opening who have a meltdown when they notice an unknown entity they were feeding brains to has disappeared from the bath tub. Brian quickly learns that a parasite named Elmer has attached itself to him. A phallic looking creature, Elmer informs Brian that now it is a part of him and induces erotic like sensations when he penetrates Brian’s brain and drips a blue fluid inside. Elmer demands human brains to feed on and denies Brian his blue “juice” when he refuses to assist.

These feel like drug withdrawals as Brian’s skin gets pale and looks deathly ill when not getting his penetration. My choice of words is not a coincidence: the imagery used in BRAIN DAMAGEis overtly sexual and Brian has an orgasmic experience every time Elmer stings him. Writer director Frank Henenlotter isn’t afraid to go there and proves it by giving us an extremely graphic blow job from hell. The female who thinks she is about to give Brian a good time gets more than what she bargains for when she unzips his pants and Elmer pops out to give a throat fucking I’ve never seen before. I’m not going to lie when I say this was my favorite scene and needs to be seen as my description doesn’t give it justice.

The Arrow release is accompanied by an assortment of material that will keep fans busy for days, including a very detailed almost hour long documentary surrounding everything you wanted to know about the making of BRAIN DAMAGE. My favorite special feature was “Tasty Memories: A BRAIN DAMAGE Obsession,” which invited viewers into the home of super fan Adam Skinner. As someone who loves to collect merchandise and special editions of my favorite movies, it felt close to home watching someone show off his collection and was surprising to see how much is out there for this movie considering it wasn’t that big of a release (I personally never heard of it until the last few weeks). There’s plenty more to dig into with features focused on the special effects and locations. Also included is a new commentary with Henenlotter who probably has the best memory and recollections of behind the scenes material I’ve heard on one of these retro releases. What’s great is his enthusiasm for BRAIN DAMAGE and he genuinely sounds like he loves discussing it which is awesome as I don’t recall hearing any dead air often found in commentary tracks.

This is a hidden gem I’m glad I found and this comes highly recommended if you love over the top 80s genre films as much as I do.

Jovy Skol
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