Saturday, 14 May 2011

Bad Biology

Title: Bad Biology
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Released: 2008
Staring: Charlee Danielson, Anthony Sneed, Mark Wilson, John A. Thorburn, Remedy

Plot: Jennifer (Danielson) suffers from the unusual condition of being born with seven Clitorises (and that doesn’t even include the unknown ones inside her). As a result of this condition she constantly finds herself on a quest for sexual fulfilment, a quest which leads her to meet Batz (Sneed) who himself has his own unique condition of being in possession of a monster sized penis which has developed a mind of it’s own as well as an ever increasing drug habit….did I mention this is also a love story?

Review: Frank Henenlotter is a director I’ve had little experience with, yet it’s safe to say that he has certainly gained a cult like following since his memorable debut “Basket Case” (1982), which is frequently mistaken for being part of the “Video Nasty” list despite it only appearing as a film for rental stores to avoid, than one of the 75 titles on the banned list. Still this debut would set a tone for his work to follow, all showcasing his continuing obsession of bringing back the sleaze of the grindhouse films he grew up obsessing over, long before the like of Quentin Tarantino and Rob Zombie attempted their own stabs at the Neo-Grindhouse genre and while many of the 80’s horror directors would move onto more mainstream projects, with names notorious with the era such as Sam Rami and Peter Jackson heading up big budget productions like the “Spiderman” and “Lord of the Rings” Trilogies, Henenlotter has preferred to stick to the same 42nd st sleaze which continues to service as his inspiration.
Still on the back of a review by one of those same rabid Henenlotter fans, aswell one of my blogging heroes Jenn over at “Calavade of Perversions” recently giving this film her praise, I thought it was time I finally gave him a look.

Incase you haven’t realised from the plot outline, this really is a sleazy and extremely random film, which pretty much wastes zero time in going from normality to badshit insane as we open with bookish photographer Jennifer, explains her predicament while prowling for casual sex, to help curb her continuous urges, even suffering countless orgasms just by sitting in a particular way, yet constantly being faced with never being able to find a man capable of satisfying her needs, which might have a lot to do with her black widow tendency of killing these casual partners in the throws of passion, while also photographing them for her subtly titled photography project “Fuckface”. Another side effect of Jennifer’s condition is that by having sex, her body causes her to give birth to mutated babies mere hours after having sex, which she even more casually disguards, with no kind of emotional attachment, either leaving them were they are born or even more shockingly throwing them into the trash. Still the minimal level of concern she has for these children is clearly highlighted, when Jennifer suddenly breaks the forth wall, to tell the audience exactly what she thinks about their concern, while advising them to just walk away, as the camera suddenly moving to a handheld stance all the more effective as it forfills the now overwhelming desire by audience to see exactly what one of these mutant offspring look like, with Henenlotter clearly knowing the power and effect of telling someone not to do something.

On the other side of things Batz is a emotionally complex and fragile character, having become a recluse thanks largely to his condition driving him to the brink of insanity, especially as his drug addicted penis grows all the more frenzied, with his only relief coming from his industrialised jerk off machine and a steady supply of pornography which constantly streams into his dilapidated and crumbling mansion, were he hides away while trying to fight the urges of his possessed member. Batz also breaks the forth wall to provide an insight into his condition, via a drug induced haze rather than another sudden outburst like Jennifer’s. Still Batz proves to be the interesting counterbalance to Jennifer, which means unfortunately that Jennifer comes across as a frenzied nymphomaniac while Batz seems more depressed and almost suicidal, but honestly neither of these leads are particularly likable, with Jennifer frequently coming off like one of those pretentious art school students, who ramble off bullshit to make their work seem more interesting than it is.

Henenlotter is clearly going for sheer shock factor here, but seeing how this has been the running theme throughout all his movies, it’s not surprising to see it back with a vengeance here. Throughout the realitivly short running time, he frequently seems to be playing a constant game of one-upmanship with himself from the laughably over enthusiastic sex scenes, to a bizarre photo shoot with the models all wearing vagina face masks. Still this all pales in comparison to when Henenlotter having run out places to go or perhaps seeing how far he can push things, has Batz see’s his penis detach itself and head off on a mass rape spree of nubile young ladies, who bizarrely don’t seem to mind to much, though Henenlotter sadly misses the opportunity to have the weirdest chase sequence ever, instead having Batz and Jennifer arguing while it eventually comes back on it’s own accord to then engage in a scene which I’m sure can be seen as more than a little blasphemous, but chances are that if you’ve made it this far, there won’t be little left to shock you when Henenlotter throws this scene in.

All the cast here are amateurs and unknowns, which makes it a real mixed bag of performances, though when questioned about this use of no name actors in his films, in an interview by “Film Threat” Henenlotter responded by saying

“I always [use amateurs]. They are easier to work with – they’re not SAG. When you say amateur, it’s not a denigration. It’s just their first time acting. Charlee [Danielson] and Anthony [Sneed] are great in ["Bad Biology"]. One of the reasons they are so great is that they never learned they are allowed to say no.”

It’s this belief which seems to explain why Henenlotter is so keen to push the boundaries of taste so much throughout, especially with such a willing cast to help him, bring these warped ideas to life. Still this use of questionable acting talent, when combined with cheap digital film stock, doesn’t help the film from looking like another direct to video cheapie. Still it does have some creative old school effects, including Batz’s stop motion penis which he constantly fights even at one point punching it in an attempt to bring it back under control aswell as taping it to his leg, which is all before it truly takes on a life of its own, detaching itself and punching itself through walls, as it slithers from victim to victim on its mini rampage.

"Bad Biology" is not the film to win me over to the cult of Henenlotter, though it has furthered my curiousity for the rest of his back catalogue, especially as this is usually the place to find most directors best and inspired work, I mean just look at John Carpenters career and the less said about the Japanese poster the better really.


  1. Love that artwork. Can't say I've seen that before. Sorry this didn't win you over completely. You might have to go watch BASKET CASE about forty times first :) Batz is the new Duane. Or maybe a love child between Duane and Brian (from BRAIN DAMAGE). Plus, all the great anti-addiction stuff Henenlotter is so fond of is right in your face here. It's a great flick.

    Thanks for the shout-out too! You rock!

  2. My pleasure on the much deserved shout out, as still managing to amaze me with some of the titles, you find to feature which make me wonder why we don't get these amazing VHS stashes you keep finding in the UK?

    "Basket Case" is on the to watch list and I like Henenlotter's general attitude towards film making, as he seems like a fun guy in the interviews I've read, so who knows maybe his films will win me over yet :)

  3. I highly recommend Frankenhooker! Its one of his craziest and funnest flicks! Fun to watch! If you havent seen Brain Damage, I highly recommend it, its my personal favorite of his films.

    As for Bad Biology, it's exactly the kind of film I'd expect from Henenlotter, but with an added level of sexuality.

  4. I actually got an old school VHS for "Frankenhooker" the other day, which has one of those novelty covers, which when pressed screams "Wanna Date?". Still the prospect of exploding hookers has me intregued.

  5. Dont forget, the explode after the take a drug called "Super Crack!"

  6. It's films like this which remind me, why I stopped talking to my parents about the films I review for this blog. I'm sure that "Frankenhooker" is only going to further cement that reason. Still it's got my intrest a hell of alot more than the majority of the Mainstream output at present.


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