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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review: Bad Biology (2008)

Writer, director and film historian Frank Henenlotter is certianly one of Horrordom's most unconventional voices.  His wonderfully over the top features are few, but they have all been inventive, subversive and highly comical to say the least.  Basket Case, his first feature, earned well deserved cult status and later even warranted two sequels.  Brain Damage, his decidedly twisted comment on drug addiction during the Reagan Era came at a time when others were playing safe, and it stands as one of the most deviant works of the 1980s.  Then came Frankenhooker, where he would protract more laughs than shocks, but his trash aesthetic and extreme tendencies still made it a camp classic.  Silent since 1992, Henenlotter finally returns to the scene with this inspired bit of lunacy that proves that the old fart hasn't lost his edge.  In a time of so many slick productions and high falootin' concepts, Henenlotter again comes along and does things the only way he knows how - the independent way.

Bad Biology's premise is typically bizarre in keeping with the director's exaggerated inclinations.  Jennifer, an aspiring photographer, is born with seven clits. You read that right - not one, but seven.  She struggles through life with enhanced sensitivity and an insatiable sexual appetite which she cannot quench. This disposition inevitably leads to the demise of her chosen partners in a violent frenzy during copulation.  Her advanced chemistry also enables her to give birth to deformed babies within thirty minutes of coitus and she thinks nothing of discarding them like used candy wrappers.  Jennifer frequently addresses the audience as she struggles to find the ultimate orgasm in a series of deadly amusing encounters.  I should also mention that she photographs her victims in their final death throes in a novel work in progress she coins "Fuck Face".

We also meet Batz, another sexual oddity.  To compensate for penis size ridicule as a youth, he injected steroids into his member to a very frightening degree of success.  His manhood is now of tremendous proportion and has a mind of its own, causing many an awkward moment.  The ladies on the receiving end of his freaky phallus experience endless orgasms which promptly renders each of his lovers completely useless.  In lieu of a compatible mate, Batz gets by with a self-made monstrous metal masturbation machine when the pressure becomes too much.  He also often has to sedate his wacky willy to keep it under control, but its tolerance to the chemicals has gotten out of hand.

Now in theory these two should be unnaturally perfect for each other, don't you think?  Unfortunately, you won't find out whether that is so until almost the end, but there's enough zany things going on to keep your mind firmly in the gutter in the meantime.  And that is definitely where it belongs to enjoy a story of this particular mold, I assure you.

Bad Biology might just be Henenlotter's most accomplished film, at least stylistically.  His direction and production values are a little more polished than previous efforts, but are still well below the standard of the mainstream.  The visual effects are somewhat crude (think Troma), but put to creative use; sometimes bordering on the surreal.  In addition there are plenty of what-the-fuck moments to keep you delightfully disturbed.  The acting is typically amateurish, but really nothing to complain about - this isn't exactly high art here.  Bad Biology is not nearly as gore drenched as past adventures and it does try a little too hard at times, but it succeeds in being both edgy and a lot of fun.

Henenlotter proves once again that bad taste and comedic sensibilities can work well within the Horror genre if done cleverly.  Good natured, yet inherently perverse, Bad Biology thankfully approaches its absurd subject matter with its tongue tucked very firmly in cheek.  I'll admit it actually seems rather tempered when held up against his earlier entries, but it still feels like a breath of fresh air in an all too formulaic climate.  If you are already a fan of the director then Bad Biology is a no-brainer - it does for sex precisely what Brain Damage did for drugs.  And if you happen to be new to the wild world of Henenlotter, then I do believe it's time you get acquainted.  Bravo for brazen bravura!

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