There are cult movies, and then there are cult movies, and then there’s Eraserhead. This is the daddy of them all, the ultimate midnight movie, and it’s finally been released on a DVD that does it justice. The whole gang is here; Henry, Mary X, The Lady In The Radiator, The Man In The Planet and they’ve never looked better. Seeing it now, in it’s cleaned and remastered format is to truly see it for the first time (and if you haven’t seen it before, what were you doing at university, studying?). I remember reading that David Lynch had been forced to watch an old European DVD copy and had been physically sick after seeing how dusty and scratchy his baby had appeared onscreen. Well the four years he spent restoring the original negative (almost as long as the five years he spent making the film in the first place) where worth every second, as it looks brand new.
Eraserhead is the story of Henry Spencer, a slum-dwelling factory worker who, unbeknownst to himself, has gotten his girlfriend Mary pregnant. That’s about as much plot as I’m going to give you, because to be honest that’s about as much as I can follow coherently. They have a (hideously deformed) baby. Mary leaves. He has an affair with an attractive neighbour. He has a dream where his head splits from his body and cracks open. Have I made my point? It’s an overused expression, but this film is truly one of a kind and unlike anything you will have ever seen before. No opening credits. No dialogue for almost fifteen minutes.
A sense of dread permeates every single second of this landmark movie; inanimate objects become grotesquely horrific (if you make it through that first awkward dinner intact, even after the chicken has started to bleed on the table, relax, you’re going to be fine), everyday situations become unnatural and bizarre, and lets just say the less said about their “child” the better. And yet, in spite of the frequent terror you will experience watching this, it hardly seems trite to call this film beautiful, and even spiritual in it’s aims. Nowhere else in his career, with the possible exception of last years magnificent Inland Empire, did Lynch strive so boldly and bravely into the realm of surreal. We are happy to go along with him, equipped without the traditional roadmap of a linear narrative and good guys and bad guys we can easily identify with, but armed with something far more powerful, our instincts.
Everyone has there own interpretation as to what exactly The Man in The Planet is (God?), everyone has there own theories as to what exactly the ending means, but at the end of the day they don’t matter. Eraserhead is a fevered dream, an unnerving and indefinable masterpiece that belies the fact that it is more than thirty years old, and continues to inspire and infuriate in equal measure to this day.