Dumbland, David Lynch’s Twisted Animated Series (NSFW)

David Lynch’s cult masterpiece Eraserhead freaked me out the first time I watched it back in high school. Few movies I’ve seen managed to operate so purely on dream logic, and fewer still had such an ability to stir the murky waters of my subconscious. And though the movie gave me nightmares, I was strangely drawn to the film. So I watched it again. And again. By the tenth or so viewing, I found myself laughing as if I were watching a Will Ferrell movie. Eraserhead might evoke all kinds of half-understood primal fears but it is also pretty damned funny.

That thread of black comedy extends in one form or another through all of Lynch’s work, from Frank Booth’s profane insistence on Pabst Blue Ribbon in Blue Velvet to the bumbling hitman who accidentally shoots a woman in the ass in Mulholland Drive. Lynch, like Hitchcock before him, realized that the horrible and the hilarious are, depending on your perspective, a hair’s width apart.

After the Mulholland Drive, Lynch became disenchanted with making movies while at the same time he grew intrigued by the possibilities offered by cheap digital cameras and the internet. In 2002, he made the animated series Dumbland, which Lynch himself called “very stupid, very crude.” Indeed, the simple black and white line drawings of Dumbland make Beavis and Butthead look like something out of Hayao Miyazaki. Lynch did everything himself, including all the voices.

Each short, which lasts around 3 minutes, centers on Randy — a semi-feral, prodigiously flatulent beast of a man who is just as likely to shout profanities at you as punch you in the face. Basically, think Homer Simpson meets Frank Booth. He lives with his unnamed wife, who looks like she’s always on the brink of mental collapse, and his young son. And since this is a David Lynch production, motives are unexplained, the atmosphere is filled with menace, and the dialogue is pregnant with a subtext that is utterly obscure.

The first episode, which you can see above (and be warned, there is a lot of swearing), shows Randy staring covetously at his neighbor’s shed before barking at a helicopter hovering overhead. His reedy neighbor reveals that he’s missing a limb and has some unusual sexual proclivities. The episode is absurd, disquieting and pretty funny. You can see the rest of the series here (or here). You can watch it all in about a half hour.

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What David Lynch Can Do With a 100-Year-Old Camera and 52 Seconds of Film

Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow.



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