The disturbing, controversial full length feature debut from David Lynch, Eraserhead is a grim depiction of unprepared, irresponsible adults struggling with sudden parenthood. Mixing elements of fantasy and horror, Lynch laid out his path of obscure filmmaking from the get go. Resembling the style of noir films, Eraserhead’s ominous score and abrupt, terrifying visions will leave your heart beating out of your chest. Eraserhead is relentlessly unnerving and will still scare you half to death 36 years after its initial release. Featuring Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, and a terribly deformed infant, Eraserhead’s cast knows how to chill the viewers very bones. I’ll issue a warning for this one. If you view it unprepared like I first did, it will definitely run up the electricity bill (because you’ll sleep with the lights on…get it?).
Henry (Nance) lives in what appears to be an abandoned apartment building surrounded by an industrial jungle. The mechanisms of these factories continually make defining sounds and the encompassing area appears to be an apocalyptic wasteland. Attending a bizarre dinner with his girlfriend Mary (Stewart), Henry receives some troubling news. She has bore a child prematurely and the infant is severely deformed. Returning home with the creature, Henry and his girlfriend’s relationship begins to fall apart due to the infants incessant needs. Mary leaves Henry to tend for the baby on his own. During his secluded time with the infant, Henry begins to hallucinate unsettling visions and behave strangely.
For me, I saw Alien before Eraserhead even though it was released two years before it. The reason I bring it up is while watching Eraserhead, it reminded me a great deal of the first time I saw Alien. Both similarly have a deformed, bloody and puss riddled creature that screeches, but it’s more to do with the calm, often uneventful pace that lulls you into a false sense of safety. Then when you’re just getting comfortable, the film sends you into shock and you’re struggling to peel your eyelids apart. The mounting tension, apparent weirdness, and abominating visuals of Eraserhead are so well interleaved, each one feeds off the previous to create genuine fright. Half of the time you don’t even know why you’re scared, you just can’t decipher or connect with what’s on screen and it leaves you feeling abandoned and terrified. Lynch and Nance are so deeply on the same page that they’re getting paper cuts. Nance’s portrayal of a normal man beautifully struggling with his own mortality and passiveness is infectious. Lynch’s early form is much like that of Luis Bunuel but he is able to make this surrealist picture his own with a truly original and relatable tale at the films core. Eraserhead is a whole body workout and should be thoroughly prepared for before you trifle with it and wake the beast.
Eraserhead: 8.5 out of 10.