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Film / Eraserhead

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In Heaven, everything is fine.
In Heaven, everything is fine.
In Heaven, everything is fine.
You've got your good things. And I've got mine.

Eraserhead is a 1977 Surreal Horror film by David Lynch, notable for being Lynch's feature-length film debutnote , and in his own words (and very few at that), his "most spiritual film".

Henry Spencer was on vacation. Mary X, his old girlfriend, had a deformed baby. "They're still not sure if it is a baby." She gave it to him and left. He had difficulty raising it.

There was a lady speaking from his radiator.

There was a Beautiful Girl Across the Hall.

There was a man in a pencil factory.

There was a planet.

Henry's baby got sick. He tried to help it.

The film is slow-paced, almost completely void of dialogue (there isn't any until 10 minutes in), and can safely be called the most popular student art film ever made. It was also the product of a considerable Troubled Production despite being produced with the assistance of the school Lynch was attending at the time (the American Film Institute); at one point, the production was kept afloat exclusively by donations from actor Jack Fisk and his wife Sissy Spacek.

The film initially opened to small audiences but gained a cult following after several runs as a midnight movie. Among its frequently acclaimed elements are its atmospheric industrial sound design, which required a year of work, and its hauntingly realistic effects (which Lynch has kept a secret to this day, to the point of blindfolding the film's projectionist to avoid revealing its nature).

Not to be confused with the Filipino rock band The Eraserheads, or the codename of Pro Hero Shota Aizawa.

"A dream of dark and troubling tropes":

  • Alien Geometries: Henry walking into the "factory" door (actually an unusually shaped bridge abutment in industrial Philadelphia.)
  • All Just a Dream: Another common interpretation is that Henry is having a dream about his life and problems, and the light at the end is the sun waking him up.
  • Asshole Victim: Henry kills the Baby. It comes back and eats him.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Subverted and deconstructed in the case of the Baby. Despite their love for each other, Henry and Mary were certainly not expecting a baby, and they are forced to become a family due to the birth of said baby. Eventually, Mary gets fed up with the Baby's crying and leaves Henry alone with the Baby.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology:
    • The chicken kicks its legs and bleeds out a lower orifice when stabbed with a fork.
    • The baby looks like a deformed dinosaur head and it later turns out that the rest of its body is just a bunch of organs, with the gauze wrapped around its body to keep it together.
  • Blade-of-Grass Cut: Frequent, unsettling cuts to unrelated, often unidentifiable objects.
  • Body Horror: Several characters have horrific deformities and unsettling anatomy.
    • The Man in the Planet has a disease-ridden face and on closer inspection, the rest of his body isn't in better shape as his chest seems to be mutilated.
    • The Baby resembles less an actual human baby and more an alien fetus that was born prematurely. It gets worse when Henry kills it by slicing its chest open with scissors before piercing one of its lungs.
    • The Lady in the Radiator has strangely bloated cheeks with blemishes that resemble a skin infection.
  • Body Motifs: Heads are a major theme of the film.
    • The Baby has most of its body wrapped in gauze with its head the only part exposed, at least until the end.
    • In a strange sequence, the Baby chops off Henry's head, which is then used to create erasers.
  • Crapsack World: Crapsack mainly in the sense of having a world with no logical order or cause of events. Also in the sense of The Man in the Planet controlling things or if you believe Henry's baby is the personification of fate.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The entire film is in black and white.
  • Deranged Animation: At one point, Henry finds a worm-like creature in his bed and throws it away. In the next scene, the worm, which is animated in claymation, writhes across the ground in and out of holes before splitting open its body to form a mouth.
  • Dream Land: One interpretation of the world in the radiator is that Henry dreams of its existence.
  • Drone of Dread: A single, continuous, unsettling sound is used extensively throughout the soundtrack.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Used extensively due to the film's eerie cinematography often bathing characters in darkness.
  • Evil Laugh: Near the end of the film, the Baby begins cackling incessantly, which seems to be the point where Henry finally decides to kill it.
  • The Eyes Have It: The Baby. While it isn't completely still, most of its other movements are stiff and artificial enough to make it look like it wasn't alive anyway. The eyes mainly move to remind you this thing is alive and is apparently some kind of human in order to add to the wrongness.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: The Man in the Planet is introduced with his body and face partially obscured by the shadows to emphasize the mysterious nature of his role in the story.
  • Gainax Ending: Henry kills the Baby, and the Man in the Planet's planet explodes. The film's final scene has Henry and the Lady in the Radiator hugging as they are bathed in white light before the film inexplicably and abruptly stops. When specifically talking about the beginning (in a case of inversion), one of the more difficult scenes to place chronologically is the beginning, a slow zoom onto what appears to be an asteroid. It is inhabited by the Man in the Planet.
  • Ghost City: Very few people seem to live in the city where Henry does.
  • The Grim Reaper: A common interpretation of the Lady in the Radiator is that she personifies death.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Baby. Lampshaded by Mary:
    "The doctors aren't sure it even IS a baby!"
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Henry.
  • Informed Ability: Henry is very clever at printing, but he's on vacation.
  • Kick the Dog: Henry kills the Baby because it prevented him from cheating on his girlfriend and generally drove him insane.
  • Large Ham: The Manager of the Pencil Factory, who has No Indoor Voice.
  • Made of Plasticine: The Baby is ridiculously vulnerable and fragile, as shown in the scene where Henry kills it.
  • Mind Screw: What is this movie about?
  • Nameless Narrative: Almost. There are only four named characters (Henry, Mary, Bill, and Paul) and most characters are simply called by vague descriptors like The Man in the Planet and The Beautiful Girl Across the Hall.
  • No Ending: The film just stops at the part where Henry embraces the Lady in the Radiator while everything goes light.
  • No Indoor Voice: The manager of the pencil factory shouts constantly.
  • No Name Given: Most of the films' characters are nameless. Lampshaded in the credits.
  • Nostalgic Musicbox: The first time we see him go home, Henry plays seemingly his only record (one of Fats Waller playing the organ), and reminisces about Mary.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Parts of the film play with the primal horror of being scared of something without actually seeing what it is.
  • Off with His Head!: One of Henry's stranger visions is when his head inexplicably pops off, the Baby creeps up out of the stump produced in its wake, and it ends up falling into a pool of blood onto a street where a boy finds it and takes it to a pencil factory to be made into erasers.
  • Ontological Mystery: Henry with his commitment to the Baby.
  • Overly-Long Gag:
    • Paul, the desk clerk at the pencil factory, continuously buzzing his manager (with an incredibly obnoxious buzzer sound) for almost thirty seconds without interruption.
    • Henry awkwardly waiting in the elevator for a good fifteen seconds before the doors finally close.
  • Parental Abandonment: Downplayed, while Mary eventually leaves, Henry sticks around to take care of the Baby, at least until he decides to kill the Baby.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: It's implied that psychic trauma is the reason for Henry's nosebleed at the X's home as Henry experiences strange visions that occasionally hint at future events.
  • Random Events Plot: And it's non-chronological, too. Have fun!
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Jack Nance's haircut is why Henry has it. Also, some theories are that the film is based off of David Lynch's fear of parenthood. The city is also inspired by Lynch living in an impoverished neighbourhood of Philadelphia while attending art college.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: If the Baby, looking like the love child of a tadpole and the Loch Ness monster, counts as reptilian, then it's as sinister a reptile as has ever been created.
  • Riddle for the Ages: A rare meta-example, in that absolutely no one involved in the production has ever explained how the prop for the Baby was made, except for Lynch, whose answers are as exactly as helpful and clarifying as you would expect from him.
  • Scare Chord: A frightening chord is heard when it turns out Henry's baby is sick.
  • Scenery Porn: Beautiful black and white photography is one of the movie's biggest strengths.
  • Sex Is Evil: In real life parents already have a good chance of producing mentally and physically deformed children, and this is a fear of many expectant parents. In Henry's world, however, this tends to go off the deep end.
  • Silence Is Golden: The majority of the film has no dialogue.
  • Slasher Smile: Mr. X has one for way too long when Edward is trying to eat his (squirming) chicken.
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: Surreal.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The Lady in the Radiator's song. "In Heaven, everything is fine / In Heaven, everything is fine / You've got your good things / And I've got mine."
  • Speculative Fiction: The movie feels like Science Fiction at times, but is almost old fashioned in many other aspects.
  • The Speechless: Mary's grandmother is silent, apparently because she's paralyzed or something.
  • Surreal Horror: The film is one of the most notable works to dabble in surreal events that come off as disturbing and scary. The Baby provides the trope image.
  • Take Our Word for It: David Lynch refuses to say how they made the Baby.
  • Title Drop: Somewhat: "His head... Has some erasable qualities..."
  • The Vamp: Beautiful Girl Across the Hall tries to seduce Henry.
  • The Voiceless: The Man in the Planet and Paul never speak.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The Baby, which exhibits only basic human characteristics but is on all other levels inhuman.
  • World of Symbolism: The main plot is a metaphor about a man who is not ready for marriage and parenthood. The other characters, such as the Man in the Planet and the Lady in the Radiator, are symbolism as well although what exactly they are supposed to symbolize can vary depending on the viewer.


Video Example(s):


Oh, You are Sick!

When Harry's 'baby' falls unwell, the camera closes in to how sick it really is, complete with added scare chord.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / GrossUpCloseUp

Media sources: