Back Comments (4) Share:
For us, there are few things that give us the Christmas spirit more than certain movies. OK, this discounting the more obvious ones, such as watching the George C Scott version of A Christmas Carol every year, but the Dreamland films of John Waters and Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case also instil the warm, tingly feeling of the festive season.

Bad Biology
Yep, when Santa left us the original Palace edition of Basket Case, it became inextricably linked with Christmas, and consequently became a sentimental favourite of ours. Basket Case was a movie that captured the sleazy feel of the 42nd street grindhouse scene, becoming almost a document to it as the neighbourhood was cleaned up in the name of progress. Henenlotter took five long years to come up with his follow-up, and Brain Damage—transplanting the boy-and-his-dependant-parasite theme into the drug scene—became one of the few movies which suffered less at the hands of the BBFC than its American counterpart.

After two middling Basket Case sequels—Henenlotter himself was quoted as saying: ‘Basket Case 3? What was I thinking???’—and the popular Frankenhooker, he fell back on his career as a genre authority, with his superior knowledge used to superb effect as the backbone behind the Something Weird video/DVD label. Now, after eighteen years of cinematic silence, he’s back with another look at addictions of the flesh with Bad Biology.

The story is pretty simple: two people, both with genital abnormalities, are battling with their addiction to sex. Jennifer (Charlee Danielson) is a young woman born with seven clitorises and a resulting sex drive of homicidal proportions—she picks up men in a very undiscriminating manner, has sex with them and has a tendency to get carried away and kill them. Batz (Anthony Sneed) is a young guy whose John-Thomas was accidentally snipped off at birth, but when sewn back on and injected with steroids to get an erection, it developed its own consciousness and insatiable lust. Batz struggles to keep his mammoth penis under control, but this little head gives the big head a run for its money. For whatever reason, fate seems to be bringing them together, so the two of them can hopefully find the sexual fulfilment that two such anatomically unique individuals need.

Bad Biology
Henenlotter takes elements of two of his best movies, Basket Case and Brain Damage, and expands upon them. In Basket Case, Duane Bradley was constantly having what were seemingly one-way arguments with himself, but in actuality heated telepathic disagreements with his mutant twin brother, Belial. Brain Damage saw protagonist Brian battling against a parasitic worm-like creature, Elmer, in a movie that was essentially about drug addiction. In some respects, all of Henenlotter’s movies have been about addictions, with Basket Case 3 being his own personal failure to wean himself off of making unnecessary sequels to a good movie. Bad Biology is a tale of addiction to sex, with the female lead looking not to free herself from her desires, but to find ultimate satisfaction. Batz, on the other hand, is sick of being controlled by his craving, and seeks an end to it.

Good ol’ Frank has said in the past that he has found it very difficult to watch any of his movies to the end, as he is embarrassed by them, mainly from a technical standpoint, almost crippled by minor things which nobody else would criticise. It’s a fairly safe bet that Bad Biology is probably the first film that Henenlotter will be able to watch all of the way through, as it is more technically assured than his previous movies, but this does not necessarily mean that it is a better film; for all the crumpet, social commentary and thrills, there are still a few flaws on display, but onto those later.

Essentially, Bad Biology is a retooling of Brain Damage, with a phallic appendage controlling the actions of its’ host through a driving, primal urge. This in itself was a extension of the themes from Basket Case, but the difference here is that Batz is trying desperately to stop the little head ruling the big head—Henenlotter even resorts to the old joke about the owner of a large penis strapping his appendage to the inside of his leg. This highlights the real blessing that Bad Biology treads the fine line between social-sexual satire and straight-ahead schlock, so once you have had your brain scratched from the inside, just lay back and enjoy the thrills of a monster cock on the rampage, parting company with its owner and seeking out a succession of any old ports in a storm!

Bad Biology
Among the numerous surprises to be found come with the changes at the BBFC in the last decade. Censor-watchers (or Melonfarmers, to use the technical term…) will note that here is some material that would have given James Ferman a stroke and his predecessor, John Trevelyan, a hard-on. The primary cause for concern are that whilst you could get away with female crotch-shots in the 70s due to the preponderance of hairy bushes, naturally covering the offending gash, the modern tend for bare beavers affords Bad Biology some surprising pudenda shots when female cast members unexpectedly flash as they get off a bed or any other activity which separates they knees.

There is a real freshness to the movie, never seeming forced to be relentlessly trendy, and this is largely due to the use of street language, allowing the supporting cast to use their own dialects instead of the words a scriptwriter spent ages coming up with. This echoes the New Yorkers in Basket Case, and Henenlotter knows how to let performers off the leash to extract naturalistic work from them. It’s these sensibilities which got lost during Franks’ late 80s, early 90s films, and is a welcome return.

Much of this breath of fresh air comes through the use of rappers among the cast, with dialogue playing with much more realism than employing a streak of piss from a theatre group reading lines to which they clearly have no connection. The downside of this is that there are some very weird monikers flying around the credits, including J Zone Remedy, Reef the Lost Cauze & Prince Paul. With so many way-out names, you expect to come across one Raymond Luxury Yacht—pronounced Throat-Warbler Mangrove, of course.

Artistry is at the core of Bad Biology, with Jennifer’s photos of ‘fuck-faces’ she takes as her partners’ orgasm being things of beauty, although far from the conventional sense—they are morbid enough to put a smile on even the most miserable of Goths’ faces. Better than this is the alarming and strangely erotic site of gorgeous, naked women wearing masks which turn their faces into pouting pudenda! Is it merely shock value or a comment on what men truly see when they stare a woman in the face? Who knows, but it’ll give you your surrealist fix for the next month!

Bad Biology
When taking a harder look at the movie, a problem with Bad Biology’s writing crops up, and that’s how the story of Batz is far more interesting than that of Jennifer. Our heroine is painted as a pretty unpleasant individual from the outset, having sex with men, frequently killing them during the act, getting pregnant and leaving the babies to die. By stark contrast, Batz is a guy who struggles to keep himself under control and generates far more audience sympathy than Jennifer. Henenotter’s previous protagonists have always elicited positive feelings from an audience, and they are on their side as they struggle with their respective addictions and problems, but Jennifer is just a woman whom most viewers would like to see killed off very quickly. Henenlotter makes a fundamental mistake in starting out with Jennifer—this is essentially the story of Batz, but for reasons best known to himself, ole Frank opens the movie with Jennifer and sidelines Batz when he is the more interesting and compelling of the two.

While the above covers an imbalance between the protagonists, the only real misstep comes during a scene where Batz goes to see his friendly neighbourhood drug-dealer in an attempt to quieten down his rampant member. As with most movies involving drugs and drug-dealers, it comes complete with the obligatory annoying bitch girlfriend of the dealer; it’s the standard deal—attractive-looking young woman, scantily-clad and looking for something that she can’t find and getting increasingly irate and irritated about it. It makes for a very wearying sequence, but to the detriment of the final film.

OK, if we have to be brutally honest, there is another thing which only qualifies as a ‘niggle’ rather than a real problem and it is that the notion of the instant offspring being generated by her never-ending quest to get laid is one which is frustratingly throwaway in nature, shown in great detail without leading anywhere by the end of the film. In short, it seems to be in there as fleeting social commentary on unwanted babies being created through reckless, libido-driven sex, with the monstrous nature of the sprogs being merely incidental.

Bad Biology
You can accuse us of picking at scabs if you like, but there’s also a rather curious instance for a Henelotter movie. Said anomaly comes during one of Sneed’s first major scenes, where he sits in a diner whilst a bunch of kids are discussing the merits and drawbacks of appendage sizes. With Henenlotter being a man who makes movies in a very distinctive style, it comes rather jarring when said teens rattle off a Tarantino-like diatribe about Johnny Holmes. This has the same drawback as the girls in Death Proof being clearly too young to deliver the dialogue written by the director about events and people he lived in at the time. Henenlotter’s work has refused to ape any other (apart from his own themes) before, so such outside influence stands out all the more when he does, subconsciously or not. Henenlotter was someone who used to do his own thing, but including a scene that has him trying to keep up with cinematic trends is something that frankly (or should that be Frankly…) Henenlotter should have discarded

In spite of a few problems, Henenlotter still is dead-on most of the time. We’ve all heard the age-old assumption when it comes to the more fetishistic areas of sex is that a sadist and a masochist would get on like a house on fire, one feeding off of the other, and Frank addresses the folly of such ill-thought suppositions. A true sadist revels in the genuine pain inflicted on the victim, and for the target of his endeavours to show any sign of pleasure would be an affront to his sadistic sensibilities, thus causing an incompatibility. Henenlotter’s film charts the efforts of an insatiable vagina to find the ultimate satisfaction, and most would naturally assume that the monstrous, twenty-four inch penis would be a match made in Heaven, but will the union be a happy one? Henelotter is too savvy a filmmaker to have things pan out that easily.

Bad Biology
The decision to take a gag and really run with is something not to be taken lightly, and Henenlotter pulls one off (boom-boom!) beautifully this time. When Batz’ little head rules the big head, and he picks up an unsuspecting lay, the poor girl has a longer orgasm that expected due to a two-foot member inside her, which keeps going… and going. And going! Long after he’s pulled out, she’s still going! After the forty-five minute mark is reached, you know that it’s a damn funny gag, with the superb use of dissolves to show time passing only making the scene even more amusing. It’s like a sexual version of the ED-209 boardroom sequence in RoboCop, where it’s a funny idea that keeps on going and becomes all the funnier for passing the point where any other director would have called it a day.

Henenlotter seems intent on bringing religion into this movie—even though he’s done this before, as Basket Case seems to showcase that Duane and Belial Bradley were Gods’ mistakes, even if the latter was named after the Devil. Bad Biology has a theme running through it that seems almost purpose-built to upset Christians, in that the sexually-rampant rampant Jennifer says several times that she knows what her true purpose on Earth is—‘God wants to fuck me’. It would be pretty difficult to come up with anything else that could outrage religious groups more than this—one has to wonder if Henenlotter included this deliberately to get on people’s wick or if he put this theme in as a way of getting inside the head of a seriously disturbed person.

You couldn’t review Bad Biology without mention of the FX, and it is with a big smile that we welcome back the great Gabe Bartellos to the world of Frank Henenlotter, who created all manner of freaks for the Basket Case sequels. To be asked if they can create a two-foot mutant chick-splitter is a challenge which would have a queue of FX artists forming in a disorderly fashion. Bartellos is probably still annoyed that some of his (and Savini’s) career-best work was lost when The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 suffered at the hands of Cannon, but his incredibly fun work in Bad Biology must go some way to restoring his pride.

Bad Biology
In Basket Case, Henenlotter employed stop-motion animation, to depict Belial going on the rampage in his seedy 42nd Street hotel room. This sequence was crude to say the least, but it was able to charm a number of the critics first time around, including noted misery-guts Leonard Maltin. Nearly thirty years later, Henenlotter utilizes this nearly obsolete cinematic art to depict Batz’ mutant penis on the prowl—the methods employed are much more convincing than the ones used in Henenlotter’s debut movie and they raise a chuckle most times the stop-motion phallus is seen on the screen.

As well as using traditional stop-motion animation and prosthetic winkles, there are also one or two uses of CGI in Bad Biology—this is mainly confined to the occasional flapping of Batz’ boxer shorts as his monstrous todger begins to rear its ugly (little) head. This stuff is pretty amusing and works rather well, bringing ole one-eye to life for the purposes of trouser-snake establishing menace when needed.

Whilst this isn’t the first film to have monstrous nobs on the rampage, it certainly is the first to have one brought about through the overuse of steroids in the name of getting a boner. Who can (or would want to) forget Soul Vengeance, which not only proves that black guys are much better endowed, but their enormous appendages can strangle their enemies for them! Troma (as much as they are in trouble) had the Penis Monster as one of their mascots from Tromeo & Juliet, but the first time we heard of such a beast was courtesy of a drunken uncle one Christmas during the early 80s, as he went on about the Penisaurouses from Flesh Gordon.

Bad Biology
The performances in the movie are variable—Charlee Danielson is good, but not great, in the role, delivering dialogue about her sexual conquests straight to the camera in some sort of twisted take on Alfie, though her performance has more in common with the Jude Law than Michael Caine. Anthony Sneed is quite impressive as Batz, delivering a performance that has an audience sympathising with his ridiculous biological condition. It might be psychological, but he pleasingly brings to mind Rick Herbst, the star of Brain Damage, another troubled young guy at the mercy of a snake kept in his trousers.

Speaking of past actors from Frank’s movies, when a nosy neighbour complains about the continuing noise and possible rodent infestation problems, fans of Henenlotter will be pleased as punch with a cameo by the one and only Beverly Bonner, the only actor to appear in all the directors’ previous films. For some odd reason, she is credited under a pseudonym for Bad Biology, being the rather obvious Casey Belial, but a thank-you to her at the end of the titles confirms her presence, if ever such proof were needed.

With a movie intrinsically linked to sex, there comes the obvious question: what’s the totty like?  Well, we’re happy to report Henelotter has a fine eye for the ladies, and that there’s something for everyone. Sure the Dirty Macs will go away happy, and the visual charms of Danielson are more than apparent, but once the mutant Old Chap cuts loose, we get to a stream of fine-looking females, with one of them getting our award for the best bird of the movie. We won’t tell you which one it is, so you’ll just have to go through and take a stab at yourself—which is precisely what we’d want to do with her, as well!

Bad Biology

Video


With such talk of sleaze and filth, it makes you wonder how something so dirty could possibly scrub-up!  You need ponder no longer, as we delve into the transfer.

The film has a digital look to it, even though it was apparently shot on 35mm, making it cleaner than most of Henenlotter’s other movies, but almost looking a little too pristine for the material. The upswing in affordable ‘cleanliness’ during Frank’s absence behind the camera has given Bad Biology a modern appearance within his budget. To paraphrase that masterpiece of modern cinema Bachelor Party: I don’t like my filth to be this clean. The movie was watched on both a digital TV, a plasma displays and—for the sake of being thorough—sampled on a DLP projector, and we have to report that while the image looked rather nice, there were one or two digital gremlins on the image, but nothing which would spoil an otherwise nice job from Revolver.

Audio


The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is a pleasing one, with heavy music given a nice bit of weight to it, and generously put out through the rears to surround you with aural delights. There are a few smile-inducing moments where you will look behind you when a well-place spot-effect catches you off guard. The thing which will have you spouting off to the lads about is that this is probably the only time you will get a POV shot looking out from a vagina in glorious discrete surround, with ominous dripping split between the rear speakers—may we quote our beloved Lux Interior (R.I.P) when we ask ‘Whatcha got in there you tryin’ to hide…?’ Oh, there’s also a 2.0 option, but you shouldn’t settle for less.

Extras


Not a sausage.

Bad Biology

Overall


Even though Bad Biology might not the glorious resurrection for bona fide cult director Frank Henenlotter fans had been hoping for, this reworking of past glories is saddled with a damn good premise, lots of gratuitous nudity and when the giant mutant penis goes on the attack, it really perks up (no pun intended). Stick this on for a few mates one night and we guarantee that they’ll be so grateful that they’ll spring for the beer and pizza. Welcome back, Frank: it’s been too long!  Check it out!


Links: