31 Days of Halloween — Day 22: Eraserhead (1977) — by Frank the Fiend

31 Days of Halloween - Eraserhead 1977

Editor’s note: The hosts of Horror Movie Podcast are always impressed by the knowledge and insights of our listenership in the emails and voicemails that we receive, as well as in the comments here at HorrorMoviePodcast.com. Once again, we’ve asked our listeners to participate in our 31 Days of Halloween by contributing written reviews. This review was submitted by listener Frank the Fiend, whom you can follow on Twitter @FrankTheFiend

I was in college when I experimented with Eraserhead (1977) for the first time. My buddy, who was a fellow philosophy major, told me I had to watch it. He was the pretentious sort and couldn’t offer any real substantive discussion about the plot prior to the showing. He said it was a masterpiece, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I watched the film with an open mind and was genuinely disturbed by the horrific atmosphere and creepy body horror. I wrote it off as weird at first, but have revisited the film many times as a beloved showpiece to disturb my more conventional friends.

The film’s director and writer, David Lynch, has gone on to become a famous director with some mainstream success. (Cough, Twin Peaks, Cough). Eraserhead seems to be formed from the psychological zeitgeist of Lynch’s anxieties as he struggled with his surroundings and adulthood in his mid-to-late twenties. The film is personal and steeped in the horrors of everyday existence. The mundane is scary; the common is suspicious; and unlike heaven, on earth everything is not fine.

The film follows a gentleman named Henry Spencer who while on vacation finds out his girlfriend is pregnant. Throughout the film he is trying to be a father to his new “offspring” while struggling with the surreal landscape and horrors therein. The film could be read in many different ways, which to some viewers may be dissatisfying. I like to imagine that the film shows us Spencer’s perception of reality and all the horrors are just his interpretation of the events through a lens of extreme anxiety. My read is likely wrong, but the film lends itself to introspection, rumination, and further introspection. It’s like Mother!, but good!

The film relies on shock and awe for the most part. The audience will likely scratch their heads and scrunch their faces repeatedly as they absorb the meat of the film. The practical effects in the movie are great and scenes involving Spencer’s “child” are very creepy. I get deeply distressed as it makes me struggle with my own fears of being a dad and the fragility of babies. I would not suggest this film to someone who has been struggling after experiencing a miscarriage due to the graphic imagery.

Jack Nance, as Henry Spencer, is convincing and brilliant. He looks rightfully disturbed throughout the film and his expressions clue the audience in on the atmosphere and horror. It is unfortunate, however, in retrospect that he favors a young Kramer from Seinfeld, but I digress… The rest of the cast also does a decent job, but are less impressive. Honestly, the acting sometimes takes a backstage to the atmosphere.

The film is in black and white, and honestly, it could not have been shot any other way. The colors and set make the movie seem timeless. The visuals hearken back to The Twilight Zone. The sound effects and music also add to the atmosphere and give the film its creepy industrial feel. The mood is tense and foreboding. These elements merge together to make something like a family dinner come off as deeply unsettling. The film feels more like a painting than a motion picture at times.

Eraserhead made its way into the larger consciousness of society through midnight showings as a cult classic. It is unapologetically artistic and has not had the “mainstream” success of Lynch’s other work. It is a fine film to watch, but is not for everyone. Probably, not even a genuine masterpiece. I would suggest any serious horror fan experience it at least once and once is enough for most viewers. Also, if you are feeling frisky and want to beckon your existential dread or extoll your pretentious film tastes over your friends then Eraserhead is for you. This film is a good recommendation to play in the background of a Halloween party to shock friends and family. Really, the film is quite good. Mileage may vary.

—Frank the Fiend

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2 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 22: Eraserhead (1977) — by Frank the Fiend


    Day 22 – P2

    Although released a decade ago, in fact in three weeks will be the 10th anniversary, I feel P2 is even more relevant today than it was in 2007. Thanks to social media only increasing and everyone having a far greater online presence, it’s easier to become aware of white knights and “Neckbeards” that literally think that all women are awful people who are only interested in jerks and not swell guys like themselves. Naturally, that causes the neckbeard to throw a tantrum and verbally berate all women, poking some serious holes into the claim that they’re so nice. Essentially, this is the exact sort of person that the antagonist, Thomas, has become. He’s so deluded that he actually thinks there’s some sort of relationship between himself and Angela, despite their limited previous interactions and has such rage for anyone he believes has harmed Angela, completely missing the fact that he’s harming her far worse than anyone has before. It’s Thomas’ obsession with Angela and staunch belief that he’s in the right that makes him such a terrifying character. These sort of mentally disturbed people are not that of fiction, but they exist in reality, meaning one day you may encounter your own Thomas.

    While watching the film, it wasn’t difficult to realize that P2 came out at the height of the torture porn fad. The plot itself of a woman stuck in a parking garage, trying to avoid her captor comes across as more of a thriller than an actual horror. Yet, it’s the gore, albeit spaced out nicely, that grounds the film back into the realm of horror. Any time there’s an act of violence, it’s far more intense than even I expected, despite seeing the movie once shortly after it originally came out. The death of the dog alone was so brutal and lasted far longer than maybe I would have been comfortable seeing. It definitely keeps you watching, always curious what P2 will do next with the gore. Although P2 did make a very small profit on its meager 3.5 million dollar budget, I’m wondering if all of the gore ended up being a mistake. Decrease the violence and I’d have to assume that P2 would easily be able to earn itself a PG-13 rating, potentially resulting in far more people going to see it.

    Generally speaking, I’m a fan of one location based horror movies. Although the title, P2, is slightly misleading, seeing as the events of the movie takes place all throughout the parking garage, not just on the second level, they managed to keep things interesting despite the limited amount of locations they could visit. Wes Bentley (Thomas) deserves a good deal of praise for this. He nails the part and manages to switch up the character to be more creepy, fun loving, or pathetic. Where he particularly excels is when I don’t find myself caring for him or feeling bad for Thomas when he has his pathetic moments of admitting how lonely he is or after he finds his dog dead. I certainly feel bad about the dog dying, but Thomas is such a twisted individual that those feelings of sympathy for the dog does not carry over onto Thomas himself.

    Rachel Nichols as Angela was likable enough. She could have used a little more depth to her character. Writing wise, all she had going for herself was being a victim. Whether it’s all Thomas does to her or the sexual harassment from a coworker, we’re supposed to feel for the character solely because she’s having such a tough time. Rather than the sexual harassment or being held captive, what actually hit me on an emotional level for Angela was when Angela is forced to call her family by Thomas, lying to them to explain why she wouldn’t show up. The viewers know what Angela is going through, but her family obviously doesn’t. So to Angela’s family, she’s just flaking out on them, something that may have been a regular thing for her. Hearing her brother-in-law in the background of the call calling her out for lying made me feel really bad for Angela. Imagine if Angela had died in the film, knowing she’s dying with the knowledge of her family’s last thoughts about her was that she was uncaring, when she absolutely meant to show up to the Christmas party. Since there wasn’t much depth to the character, the filmmakers seemed to purpose dress Angela in a very low cut dress, seemingly with the idea that massive cleavage = viewers will care about her.

    For a movie that didn’t need to be set in the Christmas season, the movie did do their best to constantly remind you that it’s a Christmas movie. God bless Thomas, constantly blaring Christmas-based music and even wearing a Santa Claus costume for Angela to see when she first wakes up after being knocked out. Considering the fact that Thomas then immediately removed the costume, it served no other purpose than to simply dress up for the sake of dressing up. Thomas may be a sick individual, but he has the Christmas spirit! In addition to what Thomas does, there’s also plenty of Christmas decorations in the actual office building and an office Christmas party is what seemingly starts the film. My one slight complaint about the Christmas feel is how little snow is shown. I assume the reason why there wasn’t much snow, despite being set in New York (And filmed in Toronto), is because it was filmed when it wasn’t winter.

    Overall, I enjoyed P2 when it first came out and I feel it still holds up well. The tension is high at various points and Wes Bentley nails the creep factor necessary for his character. The lack of depth for Rebecca and the fact that there’s been some truly great captive/kidnapping horror movies (Inside, Misery, or even the recent Don’t Breathe) that just did everything better than P2, keeps P2 from reaching its full potential. P2 is well worth the watch if you’re looking for some Christmas based horror though.

    Rating: 7/10

  2. Day 22: The Fog (1980)

    The Fog is the John Carpenter film that I rewatch the most. I save The Thing and Halloween for certain times of the year but I can always put on The Fog and have a good time. This film and the Garfield Halloween special are my favorite pirate ghost stories. The opening campfire scene sets the story up nicely and radio DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau) fills us in on the town details. Antonio Bay is a neat little costal town and the fog looks great as it rolls in. It’s genuinely scary when the ghosts knock on the door and then appear as dark figures in the fog. The deaths in this film are more gory than Carpenter’s previous theatrical release, Halloween. The Fog is an excellent entry in his outstanding filmography. 9/10

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