Saturday, March 1, 2014

626. ERASERHEAD (1977)

Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: David Lynch
Written By: David Lynch
Main Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Laurel Near, Judith Anna Roberts, Allen Joseph
Click here to view the trailer


I've got to give a thank you to my brother for the delivery of this one last night, via his own personal collection. This was on Netflix, labeled as a "very long wait", but just a couple days ago it was transitioned to their "saved" section, meaning it's no longer available for at home delivery. Therefore, without my brother getting very interested in David Lynch many years ago (thanks to yours truly - one of the few times I introduced him to something, instead of vice versa), I would be hunting this one down. Thanks, bro!

Bear with me as I try my damndest to put together a feasible plot summary. The film's main character is Henry Spencer (Nance), a printer living in what seems to be a futuristic world, in what THE BOOK dubs a "postindustrial wasteland setting". We start with a strange man pulling levers in what looks like a prison cell. The man is scarred and scary and upon pulling the levers sends wormlike/spermlike creatures sailing out of the mouth of Henry, who is shown to us with just a black background behind him. After that, we watch as Henry walks home, grocery bags in hand and is given a message by his next door neighbor, that his girlfriend Mary (Stewart) had just been there and expects him for dinner with her and her parents that night. Henry goes to dinner and meets the odd duck parents. During the course of the evening Mary seemingly has an unrecognized seizure and the four dine on little "man-made" chickens, which hemorrhage blood and wiggle their legs when stuck by a fork. At the end of the evening, Henry learns that Mary has just had his baby, which is still at the hospital on account of it being premature. Later, Mary moves in with Henry, baby in tow. However, after a night of no sleep, due to the baby's crying, Mary decides to go back and live with her parents, leaving Henry to watch the baby. After he absence, Henry has an affair with his female neighbor next door and dreams of a woman in the radiator, who sings and dances, all the while stepping on the same wormlike creatures that escaped Henry's mouth in the beginning of the movie. Oh and I forgot to mention that the baby has no arms or legs and looks like a calf fetus. Welcome to the wonderful world of David Lynch.

Lets see, it was the winter of 2005 when I was introduced myself to David Lynch. I recounted the whole story of how I got interested in his work, in my "Blue Velvet" review, so if you're interested go back and re-read that one. It wasn't long after watching "Mulholland Drive" and a few others, that I decided to go ahead and do "Eraserhead" too. It was his first, so I lowered my expectations for the first time filmmaker, but truth be told I hated the film then and didn't care about the interpretations or the explanations, I just wanted it to end. I'd seen the film once or twice more since then and it never grew on me and even after last night's viewing, I'd still say that I had some trouble with it, although this time my interest in what was really going on here peaked. So what is going on in this one? What's the explanation? Well, I really didn't watch it with the forethought of trying to crack the code. I just sort of let this one wash over me and when I was done, if I had a thought or two, I'd run with them. Thing is though, I was too busy maintaining a look of horror and befuddlement that I didn't have time to develop theories and ideas. I mean, WOW, this one just blows your mind at how peculiar it is, doesn't it? I mean, who thinks up this shit? David Lynch, that's who!

I have no doubt that there's an element of dreams in the picture, because if you know Lynch, you know he loves the usage of dreams and is a big fan of "The Wizard of Oz". I tried not to look at too much explanation stuff from other web sources, but I looked at a few and some point to a strong theme of sexual urges and of course, there's thematic elements of fatherhood. I hate to use a cop out like this too, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the film is just intentionally messed up, for the sake of keeping the audience guessing at answers that don't exist. I've been told that "Lost Highway" is intentionally screwy, with no real answers, so maybe this one is too. However, it's too easy to chalk it all up to that and maybe someday, when I have more time, I'll watch this one a few more times, while using web resources to try and crack this nut.

Honestly though, it works well as just watching the freakish images and getting horrified. I won't lie, when my wife got up to go to work at 4:30 this morning, shutting the door behind her and waking me up for a split second - it was during that split second that I couldn't get the image of that freakish chipmunk cheaked woman out of my head and the lever puller, both coming up behind me and ready to convert my upcoming dreams to nightmares. I didn't awake with nightmares, but wouldn't have been surprised if I had. That being said, obviously the film left some sort of an impression on me, which is never a bad thing. However, I just can't give high marks to a film where my internal monologue just couldn't stop saying "What the fuck!" over and over again. It was, as Ray would say, just one to get through, albeit with with more than a dash of intrigue and interest in what was really going on. I'll keep an open mind with this one going forward and definitely want to revisit it someday.

RATING: 4/10  But for now, call it a solid '4' and maybe growing a bit with next month's recap. Also, don't forget, we still have "The Elephant Man" to tackle yet, so Lynch has one more shot to impress.


March 1, 2014  5:57pm


  1. As I started to read, I thought we ere heading for a seemed to be building up to saying something good about this one. That rather surprised me, as, as soon as I saw today's subject, I thought Nooo '' he's gonna pan this one.."

    A big no from me I'm afraid... decidedly one to 'get through'.. and in an unpleasant way. I just didn't like it, and found the images very disturbing. OK, they are meant to be be disturbing.. so some would argue it worked. Good point... but to what end were these images there for?
    No idea.. and I'm afraid by the end I didn't really care if I knew.

    1. Like I said, I'd like to give it another go someday, but I'm afraid that when I do, I'll still not care about what it all means.

  2. I just saw this for the first time. What the heck did I just watch?????? I have mixed feelings on this film, I didn't really love it or dislike it. I will say its completely unique. I am glad I watched it. Seriously, I will have to watch it again someday, but not for a while.

    1. Yeah, the whole thing left me with a feeling of unease. It's definitely an odd duck, for sure. I just can't embrace it as anything quality - thats my own issue.


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