Eraserhead (1977)


After a quick break, we’re back into the 101 Horror Movies, and today, I’m revisiting David Lynch’s first film… Eraserhead (which was shot over 5 years!!)

I’ve seen this film 4 or 5 times now, and like everyone else, I couldn’t tell you what to make of it. It’s surrealist, and I think everyone will see something in it, and take that away from it. But each time you watch it, you may see something else.

This time, I saw, partially (amongst a whole bunch of other things I didn’t understand, a study in the fear of parenting, the constraints, one may perceive as being put on your life by the introduction of a child.

And the beauty of that is, I could be right, or I could be wrong, I’m taking my own story away from it

Jack Nance plays Henry Spencer, a printer who is currently on vacation, though in this case it may mean he’s out of work. He lives in an industrial area (town?) where machines are noisily omnipresent, and the whole world just seems a mess. All this is heightened by shooting in black and white (which almost makes it more menacing), and the 40s – 50s era feel that seems to be a staple of almost all Lynch’s films.

He’s called over to his on and off again girlfriend Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) and her family for dinner, where amongst a very disturbing dinner he is accosted by Mrs. X and it’s revealed that there was a baby… or something.

The two are married, and live in a tiny single room apartment with their odd-looking swathed up mutant child baby thing.

That’s about as coherent as the plot gets, from there it’s all subjective. There’s a deformed singing lady who lives in the radiator, there’s a seductive lady across the hall, Mary appears and disappears, the baby whines and cackles mockingly, there’s the Man In the Planet and then the odd dream(?) that sees Henry quite literally losing his head, having it replaced by the head and neck of the child-thing. A child claims his head, and delivers it to a factory, where it’s turned into eraser tops for pencils.

It’s a very surreal horror film that gets under your skin, because you’re not quite sure what’s going on, and the imagery is alternately lovely to look at, and frightening, much like all of Lynch’s best work.

This is one of those films that divides people, you either turn it off halfway through, walk away angry and frustrated and say “What the hell?!?” or you watch it all the way through, puzzled, delighted, having enjoyed what you’ve seen though not sure you understand it all, still scratching your head and say “What the hell?!?”

Have you seen it?

What did you think?

What’s your favorite Lynch film?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dave Enkosky says:

    I find this move strangely hypnotic. I don’t know if it’s my favorite Lynch film, but it’s the one I’ve seen the most.

    1. TD Rideout says:

      I’m not sure it’s my favorite either, but after the pilot for Twin Peaks it is the Lynch film I’ve seen most as well. Just so unusual, but hypnotic is a good word, cause you really can’t look away.

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