Eraserhead (1977)

eraserhead poster 1977 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Crazy and strange visuals bring out a sort of natural horror

Plot is minimal and will frustrate many

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Eraserhead

Studio:  American Film Institute

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  March 19, 1977

MPAA Rating:  Unrated

eraserhead jack nance hair

Still some of the greatest hair in cinematic history…Kramer wishes for hair as cool.

Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) is a man living his everyday life as a factory worker.  When he goes to a dinner at the home of his girlfriend Mary X (Charlotte Stewart), he learns he’s become a father of a deformed child.  Now tied to Mary X, Henry finds himself trapped and suffering visions of horror and wondering where the future will lead him.

Directed by David Lynch, Eraserhead is a arthouse dystopian horror movie.  The film was Lynch’s first film and made with a scholarship from the American Film Institute.  Shot and edited over years, the movie was released to mostly negative reviews but became a midnight move.  The film gained popularity with famed directors like Stanley Kubrick and led to more work for Lynch.  Eraserhead was selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry in 2004.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #725).

I saw Eraserhead around sixteen or seventeen…and it really stuck with me.  Despite being memorable, I didn’t see Eraserhead again for twenty years, and the movie still has a strange haunting (and mysterious) effect.

eraserhead mutant baby

What a beautiful baby…boy?

The movie is really problematic for most because like a lot of Lynch films, the plot isn’t very linear and doesn’t have much of a start or conclusion.  There are a lot of themes in the movie like fear of parenthood and marriage, but really the story just becomes a rather freak-fest while watching it.  As Spencer dives deeper and deeper into his life, the story becomes more and more surreal…leading to an unnerving feeling.

Jack Nance was an odd guy in real life, but in this movie he seems like the only sane one.  You have characters suffering spasms and almost orgasms while eating and tons of other behavior that is never explained.  Charlotte Stewart is the girlfriend and mother of the child that is like a poster for parental time-outs because it is so nasty, gross, and terrifying that you could do something to end the suffering on all fronts.  I always particularly found the “Lady in the Radiator” played by Laurel Near terrifying.  Her mumps-looking face and creepy glee seemed so out of place for everything going on that it just raised the strange terror.

eraserhead lady in the radiator laurel near mumps

Squishing little baby things makes me happy!

The movie mostly builds on the atmosphere and maintains an eerie low mechanical hum throughout the film.  It is generally considered a horror movie and this is completely because of the fear it induces.  Lynch shows his early knack at horror and how must horror comes from natural fears…and freakish looking and acting people instead of slashers and creatures of the night.  Be it the worst dinner date ever or the weird eraser-making fantasy, the movie is just laced with a strange terrifying aspect to it that is hard to explain, and it won’t hook everyone.

Eraserhead definitely is not a movie for everyone.  Even fans of arthouse films could watch it and say “meh”.  With a very short commitment (under an hour and a half) and the first film of a great filmmaker, you should check out Eraserhead.  It is a cult classic and just weird enough to make you say “what the hell?” even if you don’t like it.  Lynch followed up Eraserhead with the Oscar nominated The Elephant Man in 1980.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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