Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Month of Horror - Day 20: Eraserhead

"Well, Henry, what do you know?"

For a long time, I thought Eraserhead starred Tim Robbins.
See why?

The last time Eraserhead was featured on He Shot Cyrus it was on the Top 5 Movies I Don't Ever Want to Watch list. It fell under the "So-Called Classic That Doesn't Appeal to Me on Any Level" category. The point of the list was to watch all of those movies my brain had dismissed long ago. I made it through The Gingerdead Man, the six-hour Pride and Prejudice miniseries, and Last House on the Left before I decided that I liked myself too much to continue. Tonight, masochism rides again. Luckily, I'm feeling pretty open-minded, pretty receptive to the avant-garde side of life. When you spend your day writing scripts for corporate Flash tutorials, an undead roasted baby chick just...helps.

At my high school, there were these two brothers, Anthony and Denney, twins. They didn't care for Will Smith, She's All That, or the hidden meaning behind Mambo No. 5. None of the important high school things. They liked David Bowie, their noise composure group "Fleshhook" and best of all, fucked up movies. One of my favorite memories is watching a bootleg VHS tape of Meet the Feebles that Anthony let me borrow. I grew up in a strict religious house and watching that herion-addicted rabbit-puppet just...helped.

One day, sophmore year, I think, Anthony told me about a movie called Eraserhead. He didn't go into details but he said that it made him never want to have children. Suddenly, my religious propaganda-filled youth flooded back to me and Eraserhead offically became the "Watch and Go to Hell" movie, to be avoided at all costs. As I matured, I became pretty sure that watching Eraserhead wasn't going to talk me out of performing God's will. That was left up to my future wife. But even knowing that I wasn't at risk for cinematic sterilization didn't pursuade me to watch the movie. I didn't really want anything to do with Tim Robbins' silent film about mad scientists and baby murder (which is what I thought Eraserhead was).

Turns out, I was only partially right. And by "partially right," I mean "completely wrong." Eraserhead turned out to be a movie about...something. Right? Lynch deals with themes of manhood, sexuality, parenthood, social relationships, the Other, the Abject, and the Ugly (sounds like a Western), and facial growths in the entertainment industry. It's not saying much, but the narrative was much more accessible than I thought it would be.

The main character, Henry Spencer (who's played by Jack Nance (who's played by Tim Robbins)) becomes the proud single father of a young Admiral Ackbar.

Once again, film shows the horrors of pre-marital sex. Just like the Bible says, "It's a Trap!" This poofy-haired printer-on-vacation tries his very best to take care of his embalmed baby calf but after a while it just becomes too much for him. Before taking matters into his own hands, he meets a delightful ensamble of characters. One has chipmunk cheeks (most likely tumors), another has really bad acne and a fondness for staring out of windows, and this one woman who enjoys sex. Sure, they're all freaks in their own way, but I think what David Lynch is trying to say is that...oh, I have no idea. And neither do you.


Heather said...

Watch it on shrooms, man, that's what I did.


Sometimes we make decisions that make a weird, see-how-surreal-I-can-be, first-feature-length-outta-college movie seem more like the end of the world. The consuming white noise/light turns to black, you cry and feel emotionally overwhelmed, and then can't really remember anything of the movie a week later.

Rick Olson said...

Watch it on shrooms, man, that's what I did.

Or drunk. I'm old-school that way.

Never seen this one. Don't particularly want to. I'm not a big Lynch fan, which will probably get my junior cinephile badge yanked away from me.

elgringo said...

Rick, I commend you for your honesty. I'm not a big Lynch fan either. Do I respect him, sure, so I enjoy his film, not often.