David Lynch mines his experience living in Philadelphia for this industrial nightmare of a debut feature. Filmed over three years at the American Film Institute, Eraserhead arrived complete with all of the dread, unease and mystery that would define Lynch’s career. Actor Jack Nance would go on to appear in many of the director’s most celebrated works – Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Twin Peaks etc. – but it’s his starring turn here, as Henry, an anxious young man scurrying about after his timid girlfriend and their mutant offspring, that is most memorable. He provides a frightened centre to an otherworldly film full of alien textures, discordant sounds – Lynch scores Henry’s visit to meet the parents with newborn suckling puppies – and eerie, surreal imagery. Viewers familiar with the film will surely recall with trepidation, the wet, amphibian skin of Henry’s inhuman baby or the strange enlarged cheeks boasted by the lady in the radiator as she sings, “In Heaven, Everything is fine…”
It’s rough around the edges, but Eraserhead remains the same uncompromising, anxiety-inducing slice of tormented Americana that played certain theatres at midnight, night-after-night for years following its release. It’s in this spirit of the midnight movie, and London’s old Scala cinema that HOME present the film alongside Lynch’s earlier short The Grandmother – in which a young boy plants some strange seeds and they grow into a grandmother – as part of this year’s Scalarama.