Brain Damage (1988) -


Aylmer, the parasite.

by Bone Jawnson

This past weekend, I viewed the Frank Henenlotter film "Brain Damage." (1988) This was an exciting film, as it had a bit more of an intimate feel than the previous films I viewed by Henenlotter. It was concentrated around one particular character, Brian, and the almost drug-like euphoria provided by the main antagonist and ancient parasite, Aylmer.

As far as the back story is concerned, the parasite Alymer was known to have existed since the Middle Ages. He was coveted by many people of power and eventually ended up in the hands of an elderly couple from whom he escaped. At the beginning of the film, Aylmer's hosts seem to keep him satisfied by feeding him animal brains rather than the human brains he desired. After he escapes from their bathtub, where he is being kept, he finds another host, Brian, who is able to manipulate him to provide him access to humans. This enables the Aylmer to feed on the human brains in exchange for pumping Brian full of euphoric brain fluid.

Overall, this film did not provide a well-versed history of the origin of Aylmer, and frankly, I was not too concerned about it. I was interested in this film after discovering that John Zacherle voiced Aylmer. John's matter-of-fact way of voicing Aylmer was very interesting and believable. I was also interested in this film because of its use of composite film editing, stop-motion animation, and robotic puppetry. I have been drawn to Frank Henenlotters films because they are ballsy, but not overly gory or slash. Blood is present; however, it is minimal and has its place.

This film's overarching themes seem to center on the effects of continued drug use and how it affects a person's behavior. From what I can find through my own research about the film, Henenlotter downplayed the idea of "Brain Damage" being metaphorically about drug use. In my opinion, this film continues to advance the creativity and engineering of horror films. I have always held a special place in my heart for robotic puppetry and animatronics, so it was neat to see this technique employed in a horror film.  

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