Film Review – Eraserhead

Eraserhead is the first feature length film from writer/director David Lynch, who has brought us Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr. While I have heard great things about both of those films and Mr. Lynch in general, this was the first of his movies that I took the time to watch. If I only had one word to describe this movie, it would be bizarre. One type of movie that I am always a huge fan of is bizarre, but this film took it way over the edge. It took the weirdness so far that it distracted from the plot which there was not much of anyway. David Lynch has gone on record as saying that no one has ever gotten the true meaning of the film and that he likes it that way.

Jack Nance starred as Henry Spencer, a man living among many peculiar people, who must learn to survive after his child is born as a deformed mutant. In a very Stanley Kubrick manner, the first ten and a half minutes of the film were silent. Throughout the film, there were cut scenes of a woman with a deformed face singing and dancing. It was unclear whether this was a ploy to show Spencer’s unraveling sanity or not; however, all I obtained from it was a very uncomfortable moment. To add to this, it has been reported that Lynch used a dead calf to portray Spencer’s baby, making this movie all the more unsettling. It was shot entirely in black-and-white, causing it to appear much older than it really was.

At the end of this film, I felt incredibly creeped out. It took disturbing to a whole new level but not in a good way. All of the characters had extremely strange mannerisms and some were just scary looking. This movie came out in 1976, so for the special effects to have spooked me is nothing short of impressive. If David Lynch was attempting to create a movie so weird and disconcerting that viewers do not understand the plot and get nothing out of the movie yet feel almost violated by the oddities, then he did a great job. When taking everything in the movie into consideration, it appears that maybe this was his goal. The black-and-white camerawork, the troubling storyline, the calf corpse, and the woman with the deformed and engorged cheeks singing all seem to come together solely to create the chills moving up your spine. After seeing this movie, George Lucas and Mel Brooks offered Lynch directorial positions, and Stanley Kubrick even named it as one of his favorite movies. Lynch turned down Lucas’s offer of directing Return of the Jedi, and instead directed The Elephant Man, which Brooks had presented to him.

In conclusion, all I can say is that I would not suggest this movie. At all. I respect Lynch’s first attempt at a full length movie, and I saw several redeeming directorial attributes throughout.  As I said above, his camera work and lack of dialogue remind one very much of Stanley Kubrick and cause you to focus much more on the character’s actions and mannerisms.  He also seemed to very successfully show you things without explaining them (i.e. the deformed woman singing), which is always useful in making a movie more thoughtprovoking as it inspires the viewer to contemplate meanings behind visual sequences.  So, if you are a fan of having to think very hard about what a movie means and being put off by some of the visuals, then this would be a great film for you to watch.  Some would argue that it laid the stepping stones for some great psychological thrillers of this decade, such as The Machinist and Christopher Nolan’s Memento. I will be completely willing to watch some of his other films, for instance Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive as they have received much better reviews overall. Despite all of these things, this movie was much too strange for my taste. It looks as if I may be mostly alone in this deliberation though.

2 out of 5 stars