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Friday, August 17, 2012

Day 230: Eraserhead

Crazy is as crazy does

There's weird, there's crazy, and then there is David Lynch. As the creator of such mind-melting media as Twin Peaks and Lost Highway, Lynch has been able to forge an entire career based on being insanely weird, yet amazingly compelling. Nothing is ever quite what it seems when it comes to his work. I knew all of this prior to watching today's review and this prior knowledge did absolutely nothing for me. I was ready to stare into the abyss, but not ready to see something staring back at me.

Eraserhead is a 1977 surrealist movie, which can be interpreted as horror, starring Jack Nance (Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet) as Henry Spencer. Henry lives in an urban wasteland, currently on vacation from his job as a printer. A deformed man inside a planet pulls levers and we see something float out of Henry's mouth. Henry goes to his girlfriend Mary X's (Charlotte Stewart, Twin Peaks, Tremors) house to have dinner with her strange family. Mary's mother corners Henry and asks him if he has had sexual relations with Mary. Henry is incredibly uncomfortable especially when she tries to kiss him. She reveals that Mary has given birth extremely prematurely and that Henry must marry her. Mary and the baby, which is extremely deformed and almost lizard-like, move into Henry's tiny one-room apartment. The baby cries incessantly, causing Mary to flee, leaving Henry to care for it. The baby becomes sick and Henry begins to have strange and inexplicable experiences. He sees the “Lady In The Radiator,” a woman with an abnormally puffed-out face dancing on a stage and singing, “In Heaven, everything is fine.” He also sees the Man In The Planet and dreams that his head falls off, replaced by the head of his deformed baby. While Mary is gone, Henry has a brief affair with a woman from across the hall. Later, is crushed when he sees the woman with another man and the visions continue. What does this all mean?

I wish this hairstyle caught on instead of that swoopy, emo Zelda haircut

I did my best to explain what happens in Eraserhead, but honestly, there are some things that can't be described and do not make sense unless you see them for yourself. David Lynch has never revealed exactly what the movie is about or what certain scenes are supposed to mean. I am hesitant to interpret them, not for fear of being wrong, but there are just so many surreal scenes that it's hard to pinpoint exactly what is happening. Is Henry's story all a dream or a nightmare? Is he dead and this is some sort of limbo? Is the Man In The Planet a god or a devil? While it's not a traditional horror movie, it is scary on a cerebral level. The movie is incredibly unsettling and disturbing. Nothing ever really makes sense, making everything far more creepier than it appears.

Despite the movie being incredibly weird, Eraserhead is still an important film, showcasing David Lynch's earliest work and earning a place in the National Film Registry. The black and white aesthetic appeals to the off-the-wall nature of the movie. Sound is an important part of the movie as the audience is constantly bombarded with countless noises. Howling wind is a big constant throughout, along with the whining cry of the baby and the hissing of the radiator. While our sight is assailed with bizarre and often times baffling imagery, the noises attack our hearing, leading to a full auditory assault. All of this makes for a difficult viewing experience, forcing some people to take a break from viewing. The acting is good for what it is, although I have no idea if bad acting would actually hurt the film. 

In Heaven, everything is AAAAAAHHHH!!!!

Eraserhead is a mesmerizing and mysterious film that can shock, scare, and baffle people. I'm not totally sure if I enjoyed the movie, but I felt compelled to watch it. Eraserhead is an experience unto itself with crazy visuals, interesting sounds, and a story that goes nowhere and everywhere at the same time. You will leave with more questions than answers and unsure of what you've just seen. Film school students will enjoy this as well as fans of horror. It shows how something can be scary without having monsters or violence. Eraserhead is a unique experience worth your time, but it does take a considerable amount of effort to get through and absorb. I have no idea what I just watched, but I'm OK with that.


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