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Jack Nance
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David Lynch.
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Running Time
89 minutes

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David Lynch's first of many forays in to the surreal and bizarre, this time featuring a mutant baby.

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Henry has increasingly bizarre dreams, each one more horrific than the last. He falls in love with a girl who then falls pregnant only to give birth to a mutated baby. All the while watching his lady in the radiator who sings to him.

It's hard to believe that David Lynch was in a six-year struggle to make Eraserhead on a piffling American Film Institute grant. It's harder still to believe that its closeted body horror and mind-blown surrealism have since almost become a part of the cultural landscape. Almost. For no matter how many cheesy pop videos or arty horror flicks rip off its (very late-70s) aesthetic of slimy industrial decay, this film remains as powerful, original and disturbing as ever.

The central conceit of boy-meets-girl-has-mutant-baby is still the stuff of American Gothic nightmares and Lynch's repertoire of soft squelches, thin skins, horrible blobs and panicky gestures remains an enduring archetype of puritan sexual disgust. What is surprising is how Jack Nance's grumpily delicate performance as the frustrated father, Henry, has become a period piece. With his trademark props — pens in breast pocket, electro-shock hair-do, white socks — he has come to resemble an old silent comedian stranded in a Bunuel twilight zone where the familiar punch-lines don't work anymore. He is at once more charming and less grotesque than he used to be.

What emerges most clearly from the film, post-Twin Peaks, is the offbeat humour. The old black comedy is still there — Henry's crazy in-laws and their nervous tics, the mini-chickens which come alive on the plate, the final infant apocalypse — but it is now boxed in by a more insistent tone of uncanny menace which surely amounts to a put-on. Think of the smiley lady-behind-the-radiator stomping the foetal worms which are ruining her act, or the creepy, echoey sound-effects, or Nance's puzzled reaction shots — they are like that moment of blankness which precedes a surprise party. Except, with Lynch, the blankness goes on forever and the party never happens.

One of Lynch's earlier works, this bizarre offering warned what was to come, yet somehow this is a lot more radical and enjoyable than his later Hollywood efforts. Gothically shot in black and white and numerous shots that have influenced the next generation of directors, this is a classic, no matter how comfortable it is to watch.

Reviewed by Steve Beard

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Eraserhead
Empire Star Rating

Breathtaking cinema

Arguably the most purely nightmarish film ever made, Eraserhead is a dark, surreal and powerful masterpiece from the great David Lynch. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Mr Gittes at 00:59, 07 May 2013 | Report This Post


This disturbing, surreal experience of a movie. It appears that many are giving this bad reviews because they found it "disturbing" and they "don't get it". That's fine, nobody is really expected to "get it". But the logic behind it all comes later, it's incredible how Lynch can convey these palpable feelings of dread to the viewer despite the fact nobody genuinley understandsthe plot. And it works...almost too well. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by krisjcummins at 19:51, 19 January 2010 | Report This Post

Weird, Pointless, Surreal, Confusing, Brilliant!!!

David Lynch in a world of his own. First-class confusing gunk. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 10:19, 21 April 2008 | Report This Post


I love all of Lynch's other films (maybe with the exception of Dune) but Eraserhead, I really struggled to get through. For a 90 minute film, so little plot or sense is just too hard to deal with. Maybe if I understood a bit more then I might give it a higher rating. I'm not criticising Lynch because he probably doesn't care if people like me don't get his film but I just cannot see how this film could get five stars in a review. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by giospurs at 21:01, 25 January 2007 | Report This Post

... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Darcy45 at 19:53, 20 December 2006 | Report This Post

Very surreal

This one is yet another weird one and probably the weirdest of all of Lynch's films and maybe the weirdest film ever. The plot well ummm babies and erasers come to mind but i have tried to wipe my mind of what actually happened as it is just to weird for someone my age to have in their head. But definetly a worthy contender of most original film of the 70s and if your a fan of surrealist cinema (El topo etc.) then is one to watch!! Go get it now. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by OMGWTFBBQ at 22:33, 02 July 2006 | Report This Post

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