Call me low-brow. Call me plebian. Call me a low-brow plebian. Hell, call me Ishmael if you want, I don’t care! I just don’t like ERASERHEAD. I’ve watched the film at least a half dozen times, thinking maybe I’m missing something. Nope. ERASERHEAD to me is a tedious piece of work with nothing to offer. Don’t misunderstand, I like most all of David Lynch’s work. I know this is his first feature, but the man is capable of giving us so much better. There’s TWIN PEAKS, BLUE VELVET, THE ELEPHANT MAN, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, DUNE….okay, maybe not DUNE. It’s not Lynch’s surrealistic style that bugs me so much as there’s nothing going on here.
As for the plot…there isn’t one. Alright, I hear you out there saying it’s an “art film”, it’s the director’s commentary on the alienation of the outsider in society, blah blah blah. But the theme of the societal outcast doesn’t mean you can’t have a story to go with it. (see: LONELY ARE THE BRAVE, TAXI DRIVER, et al). What little story there is just serves to loosely hang a series of bizarre visuals designed to take viewers on a head trip. There’s a reason this film grew it’s cult following from “Midnight Movie” showings. The audiences that showed up were mostly stoners.
There are no likeable characters here. Go ahead, name one. Jack Nance as Henry Spencer? Mary and her family? Not anyone I’d want to get to know. Even TAXI DRIVER’s Travis Bickle, despite the fact he’s a psychopath, has some redeeming qualities that the viewer can relate to. The characters in ERASERHEAD, whether by design or not, are totally repellant. Not to mention they commit the cardinal sin of characterization: they’re boring!
As a film fan, I’d much rather find movies I can recommend to my readers, movies I think are enjoyable and worth your time. Sadly, ERASERHEAD isn’t one of them. I tried to like it, I really did, but in the end, there are hundreds of films out there more deserving of your attention than ERASERHEAD. If you’re a fan of this film, more power to you. But a good critic has to say what he means, and I’m saying ERASERHEAD is an overrated lump of cow dung I won’t be watching again.