Brain Damage. 1988. USA. Written and directed by Frank Henenlotter. With Rick Hearst, Jennifer Lowry and Gordon MacDonald. 4K restoration courtesy American Genre Film Archive. 86 min.
On the spectrum of queer-themed cinema, Brain Damage, made by New York–based independent Frank Henenlotter, falls somewhere between celebrated work by underground filmmakers like the Kuchar Brothers and the mainstream master of camp, John Waters. A handsome ladies’ man gradually becomes addicted to chemical injections from a crude, stop-motion animated, penis-shaped, talking parasite that’s attached itself to his body, and he soon finds it hard to avoid a lifestyle of cruising low clubs and shower rooms for fresh brains to drain. This low-budget satire of sex and substance addiction is as disarmingly subversive as horror gets. An exploitation market “video nasty” if there ever was one, the film was largely ignored on its original theatrical release, but has since developed a cult following that includes director Guillermo del Toro. Henonlotter and performer Ari Roussimoff will be present at the screening.