Skip to main content
The Independent Critic

Rick Hearst, Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry, Theo Barnes, Lucille Saint-Peter, Vicki Darnell, Joseph Gonzalez, Bradlee Rhodes, Michael Bishop, Beverly Bonner, Ari M. Roussimoff, Kevin Van Hentenryck
Frank Henenlotter
Equiv. to "R"
86 Mins.
Arrow Films

 "Brain Damage" Gets Arrow Films Blu-ray Release 
Add to favorites

If you don't know the name Frank Henenlotter, where have you been? He's the mind behind such classics as Basket Case and Frankenhooker, though many true connoisseurs of indie horror consider this film, Brain Damage, to be his true classic. The film features the late TV horror host John Zacherley as the voice of "Elmer," a friendly little parasite with the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in its hosts.

The problem?

This euphoria comes at a price. Brains.

Gleefully tasteless and filled with enough "I can't believe they went there" gags to fill several horror flicks, Brain Damage is rather joyfully tasteless, one of the biggest reasons the film continues to be a cult favorite of true fans of indie horror. While the film is generally classified as horror, this is likely considered to be on the lighter end of it with a pervasive dark humor evident throughout the film that lightens the edges just a touch and actually makes it all feel that much more demented. 

Rick Hearst, as Brian, is an absolute joy who seems entirely in tune with the vibe that Henenlotter was going for with the film. Hearst's performance is enthusiastic and energized as he becomes increasingly addicted to the high offered by Elmer. Lucille St. Peter and Theo Barnes offer tremendous fun in supporting roles, while Zacherle's vocal work here is a national treasure. If you watch closely, Basket Case's Duane Bradley even makes a cameo appearance here. 

As seemed to always be true with Henenlotter, production values are solid throughout the film and the tasteless gags play out as tasteless precisely because Henenlotter paid attention to the details. Filmed on a modest $400,000 budget, pretty small even in 1988, Brain Damage is an absolute joy to watch. Having seen the film originally in the theater, I found myself joyfully reminiscing and loving the film all over again. 

For more information on Brain Damage, visit the Arrow Films website linked to in the credits. 


  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Mono and 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround Audio Options
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Isolated Score
  • Brand new audio commentary by writer-director Frank Henenlotter
  • Listen to the Light: The Making of Brain Damage – brand new documentary featuring interviews with actor Rick Herbst, producer Edgar Ievins, editor James Kwei, first assistant director Gregory Lamberson, visual effects supervisor Al Magliochetti and makeup artist Dan Frye
  • The Effects of Brain Damage – FX artist and creator of “Elmer” Gabe Bartalos looks back at his iconic effects work on the film
  • Animating Elmer – featurette looking at the contributions of visual effects supervisor Al Magliochetti
  • Karen Ogle: A Look Back – stills photographer, script supervisor and assistant editor Karen Ogle recalls her fond memories of working on Brain Damage
  • Elmer’s Turf: The NYC Locations of Brain Damage – featurette revisiting the film’s original shooting locations
  • Tasty Memories: A Brain Damage Obsession – an interview with superfan Adam Skinner
  • Brain Damage Q&A with Frank Henenlotter recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival
  • Image Galleries
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Bygone Behemoth – animated short by Harry Chaskin, featuring a brief appearance by John Zacherle in his final onscreen credit
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
  • Limited Edition O-card with exclusive artwork
  • Collector’s Booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic 

    our twitterour facebook page pintrestlinkdin

    The Independent Critic © 2008 - 2021