Posts Tagged ‘ancient

14
Mar
13

Brain Damage (1988): Just Say “Aylmer!”

brain-damage-poster-4

a Primal Root review

edited by Bootsie Kidd

“Whenever you want the pain to stop, I’ll be here. Whenever you want to stop hurting, you come to me.” -Aylmer, Brain Damage

Let’s take a moment to discuss the Reagan Administration’s poorly schemed “War on Drugs”, shall we? On October 13th, 1982, President Ronald Reagan declared illicit drugs to be an imminent threat to U.S. National Security, while First Lady Nancy Reagan promptly flooded the talk show circuit advising the children of our nation to “Just say NO!”. Because, you know, becoming addicted to narcotics or not is as simple as just saying “no” to your local pusher. Obviously, Nancy Reagan and the War on Drugs, itself, were more than a tad naive when it came to the nature of addiction and its beginnings.

Thankfully, 1986’s “Brain Damage”, Frank Henenlotter’s stellar follow-up to his classic 1982 debut,”Basket Case”, doesn’t cut corners when it  comes to the discussion of drug use. From its depiction of the initial orgasmic rush that launches its user into a life bent around being steeped in a state of euphoria where problems are forgotten, to the sudden meteoric plummet that follows once the high is wears thin. In his usual brilliant insight, Henenlotter creatively portrays to viewers how addiction winds up taking its toll not only on users, but those closest to them, as well. Despite the laughable oddity of the seductor, Aylmer, ‘Brain Damage’ manages to tell it to us straight with a dark, horrifying, even often comical story in the realm of fantasy-horror providing a truly masterful message film about the dangers of drug use and the nature of addiction.

We meet Brian, a nice enough average guy who lives with his brother Mike in an apartment in New York. Brian even has a caring, sweet-natured, if mildly bland girlfriend he’s dating named Barbara. One evening while sick in bed, Brian blind-sided by seemingly inexplicable visions of a blood-shot eyeball where his ceiling light used to be experiencing, pulsating bright lights, blue water flooding his bedroom, and a powerful feeling of euphoria. It’s a feeling the young man has never encountered before, and as you might imagine, and one he’s eager to experience again. Only thing is, he soon discovers that what he felt was due to a small, slimy, blue-hued, phallic, turd-like creature named Aylmer (or Elmer), but, bizarrely enough, that doesn’t seem to throw Bryan as much as you might think it would.

The precise origins of Aylmer are unknown, though it is revealed through its previous users that Aylmer has a sordid centuries-old past that can be traced back to countless now-fallen civilizations. Aylmer, a creature with friendly, sleepy eyes and palsy voice of John Zacherle (yep, the host of Shock Theater, Zacherley, himself) is quite willing to inject Brian with a mysterious bright blue fluid procured from a syringe-like appendage protruding from Aylmer’s enormous, sharp tooth-filled gob. Aylmer simply jacks his juice directly into Brian’s brain stem, injecting a little “Aylmer juice” which allows Brain to, once again, experience the unique pleasure of becoming unattached from the world and embracing visions of glorious lights in junk heaps, all the while laughing his ass off in chemically-induced glee. If Aylmer is anything, he is one helluva saleman, as he perfectly pitches to Bryan saying, “This is the start of your new life Brian, a life full of colors, music,light and euphoria. A life without pain, or hurt or suffering.” I mean, really, what could possibly be the drawback?…

Artwork by Marc Palm

Aylmer artwork by Marc Palm

Well, turns out Aylmer feeds on brains. Sure, animal brains are okay, but to become powerful he must munch on the human persuasion. So, the deal becomes clear to Brian after several night’s of blacking out under the influence, and waking to find blood stains in some pretty alarming locations on his person, that for each “fix” he must pay by hooking Aylmer up with a human brain to scarf down. And let me just say, Aylmer is one very sloppy eater and NO ONE has a quick and painless death at this parasite’s merciless bite. There’s no discrimination here, either. Folks of all race, gender, and class have their skulls bitten open and brains sucked out by Aylmer. From the security guard at the junk yard, to the man taking a dump in a bathroom stall, even the slutty girl with the enormous knockers ends up getting an Aylmer down the hatch in a disturbingly violent, yet rather hilarious sequence that has since been dubbed “The Blow Job Scene”. Trust me, it’s a must-see, classic, Trash Cinema moment.  And as Brian’s dependency on Aylmer grows, so does the threat to his family and friends. No one is safe from the destruction Aylmer can cause.

Henenlotter handles Brain Damage’s odyssey of a boy and his parasite with a great sense of grotesque comedy to lighten the load of an otherwise deeply dark and unsettling cautionary tale. There is one sequence in particular that is both hysterically funny and soul crushingly bleak as Brian has finally realized the dire cost of his  addiction. He decides he needs to pack up Aylmer and hold up in a derelict hotel room where he can quit Aylmer long enough to think straight and come up with some sort of solution to his problem. In short, he tries to quit Aylmer cold turkey. The sequence features Brian clinging to a radiator, quivering, practically swimming in his sweat, puking and sobbing as Aylmer laughs and cracks jokes at his host’s expense. For good measure, Brian even has a grotesque nightmare wherein he picks meaty, gore glazed chunks of his own brain out of his ear and horrified reaches for more and begins pulling a long, drippy, unending piece of tissue and literally unravelling his brain. No joke, this scene will have your stomach churning while you laugh at this graphic, gory take on the classic magician’s gag. Finally, Brian is reduced to a convulsing, filth-and-sweat-drenched shadow of his former self lying on the hotel room’s concrete floor in the fetal position. The pain of withdrawal is too intense for the young man to bear. And in desperation, in tears, Brian agrees to Aylmer’s demands. Someone must die so that Brian can get his fix. Aylmer chuckles with delight. He has won.

brain_damage_poster_02

Again, it’s that perfect blend of humor and downbeat terror which gives ‘Brain Damage’ its substantial power to both entertain and completely repulse. By the film’s end many people have fallen the voracious hunger of Aylmer, and Brian’s need to satiate his own need for Aylmer’s juice, including people Brian loves and cares for.  And in ‘Brain Damage”s pitch perfect, unconventional, ending, we are left with one of the most haunting and surrealistic images from Trash Cinema, as Brian’s glazed over eyes look through us, the screen fills with the brightest white light and crackles with electricity. It’s an audacious ending  and one that still gives me chills to this very day. I have often called Brain Damage the “Requiem for a Dream” of the Trash Cinema genre. I still feel this is an appropriate description of this film’s nature and intent. This is one example of how powerful Trash Cinema can be, and in my opinion, this is Henenlotter’s masterpiece.

‘Brain Damage’ is the kind of sleazy, down trodden horror film that’s unafraid to point the mirror back at society and has an eagerness to push buttons, tackle difficult subjects and shove your nose into the down and dirty details. It’s unabashedly gross, over the top, and even silly at times. But the core to ‘Brain Damage’ is one that steeped the horrors of our own world. The darkness of despair and the nightmare of addiction. The unsettling, dreadful feeling that you cannot function normally without first feeding this need that has become more powerful than your common sense, rational thought, even your own sex drive. It’s more important to you than your loved ones and their well being. Suddenly, this stuff is your drive. This is what keeps you alive. This is what gives your life meaning.

Gang, I can think of few things more horrifying. And Brain Damage handles the subject with creativity and respect.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

01
Jan
12

Rawhead Rex Wants to Skull Fuck You and I’m Okay With This.

a Primal Root written review

When I think of monsters larger than life a number of creatures come to mind. Of course, Godzilla, King Kong, Cloverfield…Hell, even Bruce from JAWS and the graboids from Tremors make appearances.  And then there’s Rawhead Rex, the red headed step-child of all giant monsters. Yeah, while Godzilla is off crushing noodle factories in Japan, Rawhead Rex is stomping around rural Ireland ripping the heads off teenage love birds and literally pissing in the faces of local priests. Now this is The Root’s kind of monster. Sure, Rawhead’s not nearly as tall as some of the other monsters on the block, but he makes up for his mere 10 or 11 foot tall stature with plenty of murderous spunk and personality. Unlike other monsters who are brought about by man’s experimenting, or are simply Mother Nature’s own killing machines, Rawhead is just a mean mother fucking demon. He’s not here for sympathy or for us to see ourselves reflected in him…no. This guy just wants to bite your face off and smear his shit on the bloody mess beneath. I doubt you will find a sicker, meaner, more sacrilegious monster in 80’s cinema. I feel it is my duty, as ambassador of the Trash Cinema Collective, to shine a light on one of the nastiest, meanest, most atrocious cinematic monsters ever brought to life, Mister Rawhead Rex.

"I feel good about me!"

Our movie takes place in a dreary farming community in Ireland where a group of men try to remove and ancient totem from one of their fields. Soon, the sky darkens, red lightening rains down and the totem falls releasing a horrifying demonic monster older than the Christian faith whose only purpose in existing is to destroy any and everything in it’s ugly path. At the same time, an American family has come to town headed by historian and writer, Howard Hollenbeck, who is traveling the countryside compiling research on pre-Christian sacred sites and is interested in the local church’s unique history and stained glass windows.  All the while, Rawhead is painting the entire countryside rd with the grue and entrails of the local villagers, twisting off heads, terrifying children, setting people on fire and tearing ladies blouses off to expose their breasts before tossing them into trees. How can Rawhead be stopped? The clues and secrets to the creatures destructon are all held within the walls of the towns ancient church. Can Hollenbeck get aid from the incompetent local authorities, deal with the psychotic Reverend Coot’s and unlock the mysteries to defeating Rawhead Rex before he destroys the town and Hollenbeck’s family?

Rawhead Rex is based of a short story by Clive Barker, the man who brought us Hellraiser and Nightbreed. not only boasting source material from Clive Barker, but a screenplay by the man as well, Rawhead Rex isn’t a very good movie. However, it is a ridiculously fun and entertaining one. The movie actually follows the original story pretty closely but is also devoid of just about all the thought provoking, serious pagan/spiritual concepts that made the story such a brilliant, philosophical read and, instead, just goes berserk and delivers a fucking crazy ass monster movie that delivers all the goods. That is, if you don’t mind a generous helping of cheese with your cinematic entree.

"Oh yeah, your lymph nodes are WAY swollen..."

The film itself is competently made and pretty well acted all around. Director, George Pavlou, does an excellent job of keeping the pace up, composing some fantastic shots and utilizes them to their best affect, and even takes some risky chances with his subject matter. Keep in mind, Rawhead Rex was released right in the midst of the British “Video Nastis” fiasco, so Pavlou had to walk a very fine line in order for his film to see the light of day. In all honesty, the violence here works rather well. It’s kind of muted in parts but it’s still gets the point across. But where Rawhead really scores points with me is that it has the brass balls to put kids in mortal danger, and even goes out of it’s way to kill a few! Yes, Rawhead  completley destroys a kid or two in his rampage. It happens just out of camera shot but with some great post production foley, the sound of these kids getting folded in half and ripped into meaty chunks drives the point home.

Now, I know everyone’s  gripe about Rawhead Rex is how shitty his costume is. You know, I love the way Rawhead looks. It’s cheesy as all hell and nearly destroy the credibility of the film, but there’s something about it I find really endearing that keeps this whole affair on a B-Movie, Drive-In level. Really, the the monster looks like a cross between a dog, a horse, and The Ultimate Warrior. He’s goofy enough to make you laugh, but strange enought that you don’t want that fucker within 1,000 yards of you.  I, for one, appreciate Rawhead’s fantastic dark sense of humor and that so much of the violence is delivered tongue in cheek. Don’t get me wrong, there are some creepy ideas at play here, a legitimate sense of dread, and a hand full of genuinely shocking scenes… but you cannot deny the film i a Hell of a lot of fun. There are moments when Rawhead runs after people where he looks like a little boy skipping and hopping after them, moments where he celebrates turning over motor homes where he begins dancing like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance, he even whips it out and pisses on a kneeling, willing, Reverand Coot’s in a kind of demonic Golden Shower baptismal cleansing, in what is possibly the film’s most notorious scene. Personally, I couldn’t stop laughing.

I can't help but wonder what Rawhead looks like with his mouth shut. Such a Chatty Kathy, that guy...

Within all this bizarre-o action, blood thirsty monster mayhem, and religious nose thumbing, is a pretty interesting story. Sure, it’s not at all what Clive Barker probably envisioned but it still manages to please as crazed, no holds barred, monster movie sporting a larger than usual set of testicles it drags through the dirt behind it. There are so many aspects of Rawhead Rex that are worth praising. I especially loved the ending conceit the Rawhead Rex can only be destroyed by that which he can never be…and finding out exactly what that means. It’s a rather poetic and lovely idea tossed into an otherwise wild, and grotesque mix. But it’s moments like these where the air is cleared of the action and horror campiness and a little bit of heart shines through.

I highly recommend Rawhead Rex as pure, unadulterated B-movie love. If you come across a copy for cheap, snatch it up as quickly as you can. As the runt of the larger than life monster litter, Rawhead is about as fun and lovable as they come and well worth bringing into your home. Even if he’s not house broken.

Stay Trashy!

-Root

 




Dumpster Diving

Categories