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Old 10-07-2004, 11:37 PM
Scored: 10
Views: 10,963
Default Brain Damage: Special Edition

Reviewer: Styx
Review Date: December 28, 1999

Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 8/17/1999
MSRP: $29.98
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No

Frank Henenlotter's second film and one of his most bizarre (if that's even possible), Brain Damage, is about a boy and his brain eating Aylmer. Made in 1988, Brain Damage was Henenlotter's follow-up film after Basket Case, which dealt with a similar concept. Synapse has chosen to release Brain Damage on DVD uncut, complete with a commentary from the director and crew and a new HD transfer that is, sadly, NOT enhanced for 16:9 TVs.

The Story

inline Image Brian is about to embark on a journey a new life without pain, worry or loneliness. How can he achieve this heavenly nirvana? Well, he has the help of an ancient creature known as "Aylmer" who injects some blue liquid directly into Brian's brain making him experience some strange shit. Aylmer managed to escape its one time hosts who were keeping it trapped and weak, but now with the help of naive and unsuspecting Brian, Aylmer can indulge his appetite for, you guessed it...brains! And not just crummy animal brains, but human brains.

inline Image Brian should have read the fine print, there's no such thing as a free high and while Brian is tripping out while walking the streets of NYC, Aylmer is busy killing the people who he comes across and eating their brains. Once Brian figures out what Aylmer is doing he abandons his brother and girlfriend and goes into seclusion to try and get off of Aylmer's blue juice. This proves futile, however and Brian's condition worsens the more he refuses Aylmer's juice. Eventually Brian can't take it any longer and gives into Aylmer's request for brains. Unfortunately for Aylmer, though, is that his previous hosts aren't too happy about being abandoned and want him back, BADLY.

inline Image Brain Damage is a pretty strange film. Directed by Frank Henenlotter who helmed Basket Case and Frankenhooker, the film is full of exaggerated death scenes and gore. Frank Henonlotter has a distinct trait of holding on a shot for quite some time and this is evident throughout the film. Of course this is most noticeable during the scenes where Aylmer is eating his victims brains and they are flailing around trying to pull Aylmer out of their heads. It's quite funny and gives the violence in this film a very comic book feel. The film also has some pretty "interesting" sequences, I don't want to spoil it so I'll just say see it for yourself.

The acting for a film of this kind is pretty good and lets face it even the greatest cult films usually don't have the best acting. One upside is that the actors and actresses in Brain Damage have that boy/girl next door look instead of the picture perfect Hollywood fluff actors, which are not believable. One of the things that gives this film its charm is the actual creature of "Aylmer". Voiced by Chiller Theater host Zacherley, he gives Aylmer a twisted personality but at the same time very reserved.

inline Image On a different note, Brain Damage does have a serious anti-substance abuse undertone. It's very prevalent throughout the film. The story is typical of an after school special and depicts the consequences of having an addiction to something like Aylmer's blue juice. The things that Brian experiences throughout the film, the paranoia, dependency, desperation, alienation of loved ones and eventual self-destruction are those that are similar to what people with drug or alcohol abuse would experience. So in many ways Brain Damage is more than just a film with a story that sets up plenty of gore and violence and that's worth considering when watching the film.

Image Quality

inline Image Synapse presents Brain Damage 1.85:1 in its original theatrical ratio. The transfer comes from a HD master, but unfortunately isn't 16:9 enhanced. Though I'm confused to why Synapse chose to release this non-anamorphic the transfer is still impressive. It's very clean and free of grain. The overall detail provided by the transfer is excellent. Flesh tones appeared very good, but at times appeared extremely pale like in the scene in the showers. Brian's skin is milk white, but since he's supposed to be sick and suffering from Aylmer withdrawal this may have been intentional.

Colors were good and solid - I especially like the color of the brains that are used in the film, it's very striking. There is some slight print damage, most of which occur in the opening shots, but nothing distracting. Synapse did a fine job with the transfer; a pity they didn't go all the way and have it presented 16:9.


Sound is presented Dolby Digital Mono and sounds generally good. I really like the score to the film and it fits perfectly. Dialogue was clear and free of distortion. There is also an isolated score for the film on the DVD.

Supplemental Material

inline Image Labeled as a Special Edition the disc barely skids by, including a somewhat informative commentary by Director Frank Henenlotter, Bob Martin who wrote the novelization and director of Shatter Dead Scooter McCrae. It's pretty good and Henenlotter explains much of the marketing. He also talks about some of the scenes and locations as well as his inspiration for "Aylmer" and the story. The commentary also discusses the way the film was received by critics and it's distribution. It's a good listen.

The disc also features a theatrical trailer, Director Frank Henenlotter's filmograpghy that also contains an Easter Egg trailer for Basket Case. There's also an isolated music track.

Final Thoughts

Brain Damage is Synapse's third DVD release and I look forward to the rest of their upcoming DVDs. For those who don't know, Synapse is run by Don May Jr., who was partners with Vini Bancalari at Elite Entertainment and has been responsible for many a great laserdisc releases. Brain Damage may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for Henenlotter fans this DVD is a must and it's uncut.


Image Quality - B
Sound - B
Supplements - B

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • 22 Chapter Stops
  • Dolby Digital Mono

  • Audio Commentary by Director Frank Henenlotter
  • Isolated Music Track
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Director Filmography
  • Easter Egg Trailer for "Basket Case"

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