Movie Review: Eraserhead

I wouldn’t necessarily live in the world of Eraserhead but David Lynch sets up an environment and atmosphere that you can’t help but be unsettled, one that I have become accustomed to in real life.

The art section of my school is set near an industrial landscape. Buildings were refurbished but still maintains a dreariness and emptiness on certain floors, much like in the movie. On top of that, the ventilation system carries throughout the building and you can’t ignore the rumbling and occaisional shrieking of the system. I should also point out that the buildings are located about thirty feet from a busy railroad. You get used to it after a while but it makes you wonder if the possibility of a Super 8 sized explosion would happen.

This movie was my introduction to Lynch’s films. I had seen the pilot for Twin Peaks for film club and was intrigued by this director’s style. I saw it in the early morning in the dead of winter and was entranced at how the mood and atmosphere quickly enveloped me. But enough about me.

In a strange opening shot, we see our main character, Henry Spencer, sideways staring off into space. A mysterious planet comes into view. Fun fact: the MST3K logo is a reference to this planet. A man inside the planet lets loose some kind of bizarre creature as we see Henry react.

From here, he goes home to drop off some groceries. He gets an invite for a dinner with his girlfriend, Mary X. Inside her apartment, we see that this dinner is a family affair. Mary for some unexplained reason freaks out. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Chicken’s on the menu as they sit down to eat. It is later learned that Henry and Mary had a premature baby out of wedlock and that they must be married and take care of it. I really do mean “it” as the baby is a sight to behold.

The industrial sounds only contribute to the broken relationship dynamic between Henry and Mary as the baby keeps crying. Trust me, you’d wish the baby would stay quiet. Mary leaves because she hasn’t slept well and goes crazy. Henry stays up and tries to keep the baby quiet. Turns out the baby’s sick.

I’m stopping right there in terms of plot. There’s more to it, but I’d give away too much. I’ve asked some of my classmates if they’ve seen it. One, and the only one besides me who has seen it, quit thirty minutes in. It’s not for everyone.

I appreciate the distinct values of black and white. These are rich values. With a minimal use of grays, it creates a stark, unsettling set of visuals.

Without Eraserhead, we wouldn’t have the mood set for The Shining. For me, I’m still trying to figure out the overall influence for that film. I’m sure I’ll figure it out when I review it; that won’t be until I see Room 237 as a two-part review.

In heaven, everything is fine, in heaven.


1001 MYMSBYD selection


2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Eraserhead

  1. Great write up man, almost impossible to coherently write about this film. This is the only film that has actually given me nightmares. I woke up screaming one night when my girlfriend came in from work because she was stood in front of the radiator! Ha!

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