Wednesday, 12 January 2011


Is a nightmarish film based around the run down apartment building which Henry Spencer lives in. Many strange things occur such as the lady within the radiator which sings about happiness and his girlfriend Mary X gives birth to a strange mutant child which cries frequently to add to the horror. The film deals with the ideas of meeting a partner, then the parents and then the idea of procreating which is all mixed up with horrific and nightmarish sexual imagery to provide an extremely uncomfortable hour and a half.

Eraserhead is to an extent not a film but more of an experience. The reason for this is that yes there is some horrific imagery produced through the visuals but without the soundtrack they would be much less discomforting for the viewer. It constantly drones out low frequency sounds as view the horrors of Henry’s nightmarish encounters to which it becomes a feeling of claustrophobia, gasping for air as these sounds fill the room and make an unbearable and extremely uncomfortable watch. Lee speaks out about his second viewing of the film and says “the discovery that to see the film means nothing - one must also hear it. Viewing it alone in the dark in my bedroom, its aphonic oddities may have been diminished on TV, but they well enough amazed. Watched on an appliance, it sounded like one: a refrigerator on the fritz perhaps, or a vacuum cleaner stuck in the bathroom. In the larger reaches of a grand old space, bounding off marble and chandelier, the soundscape of Eraserhead opened a vast new dimension.” (Lee, 2007)

The film provides instances of comedy, Henry’s appearance is generally the core of this accompanied with actions. Henry’s hair is an iconic signifier of the film in it being ridiculously tall, and the way in which he trundles along brings forward the general discomfort of Henry towards his predicaments which the audience shares because of the soundtrack and strange and surreal imagery. Accompanying Henry’s strange walk is his which doesn’t seem to fit well making him look anxious and clumsy. Bitel takes note of Henry’s appearance and writes “ Sporting an impossibly tall haircut that has become one of the film's most iconic signifiers of otherness, Henry is immediately recognisable as a freakish misfit, his very appearance and physical stiffness embodying the discomfort that the film inspires in its audience” (Bitel, 2008)

The mutant child of Henry and Mary X becomes a metaphor for the dehumanisation of the couple. It becomes an ongoing horror as it shrieks, unnerving the audience with each wail yet it is undeniable that it puts across helplessness and feelings of guilt in wanting to care for it but being able to do nothing. Lynch states that he had a fear of fatherhood which became a source of inspiration for this film and the horrific child enforces his fears upon the audience , by at one point in the film the mutant changes from horrific wails to a sinister laugh as it mocks Henry. “In more ways than I ever expect to truly grasp, the visual centerpiece of the film - a limbless, deformed child conceived from a past romance between Henry (Jack Nance) and Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) - seems to function as both a product of this dehumanization and an unsettling metaphor for it. It's persistent, entirely human (and yet not) wailing is one of the most purely terrifying things I've ever experienced (at one point, a chorus of voices seems to escalated in unison, and it was about then that my head almost popped off as well), if only because it strikes so close to home as regards the nature of our own humanity, which we too often take for granted. Yet despite its horrific outer shell, this life form - call it what you will - seems as human as anything else in the film, if only physically representative of our deepest fears and insecurities (I won't lie - it's crying made me want to reach out and hug it in numerous instances, if only to ease its suffering).” (Humanick, 2007)

Eraserhead may not be to everyone’s taste, it goes down to a level of surreal that becomes uncontrollably bizarre. Although it deals with normal fears of growing up it brings them into a nightmare twisting them into a menace and mixing them up with unnerving sexual imagery. The film is much more of an experience than a story as it combines these strange visuals with its constant soundtrack which conjures up an unnerving claustrophobic feeling.


Nathan Lee, 9 January 2007, David Lynch Made a Man Out of Me

Anton Bitel, 3 September 2008, Eraserhead review

Rob Humanick, 3 July 2007, Eraserhead review


Movie Poster -

Henry Leaving the elevator on the way to his room -

Henry -

Mutant Child -

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