Eraserhead not only surpassed my desire for a movie with lots of gore, it totally demolished them. The film took components from different motion pictures—dark humor, gore, surrealism, sensual symbolism, flawless high contrasting cinematography and crackpot exhibitions—and displayed them in such a profoundly close to home way that the final product was something that actually looked, sounded, and felt like nothing I have ever observed before. I was completely mesmerized. Even though the film is more than 40 years old, it has held up throughout the years.
Set in a grim, dystopian world, during what is a mildly post-apocalyptic age in an unquestionably bad neighborhood. The film centers around Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), a label printer whose nerdish looks and manner is exemplified by a haircut that looks as though Henry has been electrocuted. One night, he comes all the way back to his incredibly run down apartment to discover that he has been invited to dinner with his partner, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart), to meet her parents. This sets off one of the most unsettling series of events. When Henry arrives to Mary’s house, her mom makes Henry answer a number of humiliating inquiries, after which she proceeded to lick his face. The visit then consists of Mary’s grandmother sitting in the corner basically catatonic, her excessively happy father brags about how he has no feeling left in his left arm and a litter of young puppies nursing on the floor. Dinner then consists of small man-made chickens that spurt repulsive goo whenever cut in to. To finish this all off, it is uncovered that Mary has birthed a premature infant that her mother insitist is Henry’s. Her parents then demand that the two move in together and take the baby home with them.
The baby can barely be portrayed as one. To me, it resembled a cross between a shell-less turtle and a fetal goat that has been tormented with an interminable cold that makes it cry, whimper and let out a multitude of goo essentially nonstop. After a few days of nonstop crying, Mary escapes for home and leaves Henry in charge of the sick baby. Strangely, Henry is able to get himself together enough to nurture the child back to health. At the same time, after a progression of progressively turned dreams/pipedreams including both Mary, (Judith Anna Roberts) the lady across the hall, and the radiator lady who shows up on stage to sing about how everything in heaven will be alright. These hallucinations fuel Henry to plan something ghastly for his own fragile living creature and blood.
Eraserhead utilizes hallucinatory production design and special effects, frequenting high contrast cinematography and an amazingly perplexing soundscape that joins modern sounds, broken steam radiators and music to plunge viewers into a world dissimilar to any other world in film. Despite the fact that the final products may demonstrate to be unreasonably distancing for certain watchers,they pull other viewers in due to their unconventional magnificence.
The film’s landscape is a splendid blend of experimental storytelling and narrative that gives just enough narrating focuses to give viewers something to cling onto, before totally submerging them into more avant garde scenes. The result is a film in which all of the elements may not necessarily add up but still maintains a logical consistency throughout. Even if you don't quite get what you are seeing, you never get the sense that Lynch is just making stuff up as he goes along. All in all, I would definitely recommend this film to anyone looking to be uncomfortably intrigued for two hours.