October 3, 2008

Seen Between Fingers -- Chris Kelly Begs, "Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children?"

In this regular feature, wimp and noted horror non-enthusiast Chris Kelly reports back with his first-impressions of memorable scary movies. I figured David Lynch's slimy and grimy debut would really upset someone as sensitive and imaginative as Chris -- I had no idea he'd turn out to be even weirder than the film itself...

Sorry, guys, the joke's on you.

I'm the first to admit that I am a total lightweight. My sunny outlook and distaste for even the suggestion of physical pain leave me ill-suited for viewing most horror movies, not to mention many mainstream titles. On the other hand, the same innocence that prevents me from looking at the horribleness on the screen can also prevent me from recognizing it.

That's where Eraserhead comes in.

I'll admit to being slightly unnerved at first. The abstract opening moments, followed by the long, eerie silences and gritty, claustrophobic imagery generally made me feel as though I was literally trapped inside David Lynch's head. It made a certain amount of sense to assume that his brain is run by a confused, tall-haired man-child and a he-goblin pulling levers. In fact, the movie even supports this assumption once the characters begin speaking: they deliver wholly plausible lines in implausible and sometimes unpleasant ways. It's as though the tall-haired, angelic man on Lynch's right shoulder wrote a light melodrama about a couple with a baby, and the knobby demon on his left shoulder decided to direct with the black-and-white, pseudo-sexual mania of Suddenly, Last Summer as performed by a cast of zombies.

Unfortunately for those of you who hoped to see me crumble, I clung steadfastly to the bringing-up-baby angle of the story, which smoothed over the rest of the creepy nonsense. Sure, that hysterical blond girl apparently gave birth to a partial calf fetus. Sure, the man with the hair has a tumorous Betty Boop impersonator living in his radiator. Sure, the landscape is apocalyptic, the people are foul, and the apartment is crawling with oversized sperm. But there's a baby!

Others with whom I have consulted have assured me that I was supposed to find the baby unquestionably awful. You underestimate the depth of my blind empathy. It was sweet and little. Listen to the cute little burbling noises! As the movie progressed, I found myself increasingly concerned with the lack of attention and care being provided to this child. Clearly, this is a special needs situation, and if Sarah Palin can be trusted with Swatch or Brisket or whatever she named this one, then Henry and Mary can manage with their lump of joy. I watched the movie thinking about the changes needed to make the apartment suitable for raising an infant. You know: transfer the baby from the kitchen table to a crib of some sort, take the houseplants out of the mounds of dirt they're lying in and put them in actual pots, sweep up the mountains of hair lying everywhere... the little things.

In the end, I was mostly unsettled by the shameful parenting displayed in this narrative. I don't care how many times you dream about your brain being made into pencil erasers. That's no excuse for cutting up the bandages that seem to be the only thing holding your offspring together. You brought it home from the hospital: the fourth-trimester abortion is not an option.

I'll give you one thing, though: the girl in the radiator is one gross bitch.

Next week: I dunno. The Omen? Okay, The Omen.


Tom said...

That. is not. a baby.

Kevin Maher said...

I love this segment on the blog. Normally I hate sitting friends down to watch a favorite movie, because I worry they won't like it. But reading Chris' reviews are excellent. Do you take requests? You should watch DEMONS (1985)

Vncntgnzlz said...

Chris, between this and the Omen, I think you are opening a cottage industry of turning horror movies into Goofus and Gallant narratives of parenting. Run with it. Have you seen "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" Incidentally, 'tosis is wrong, that is the babiest baby ever. -makes cooing sound-