JUNE 15, 2010
Most folks told me not to watch Bad Biology, or at least not until I had seen more of Frank Henenlotter’s films and thus would presumably be a big enough fan to either enjoy it or easily forgive him for it (sort of like how you wouldn’t want Ghosts Of Mars to be one of the first Carpenter movies you see). But unfortunately I didn’t listen to those folks, as it seems they were right. This is a lousy movie, and has slightly dampened my desire to watch his others. I’ll get to Brain Damage next; I understand that is his best.
The main problem with this movie is that it doesn’t have any charm, or any characters to really root for. While I wasn’t ecstatic about Frankenhooker, I at least enjoyed the strange love story behind it, and despite being a killer, rooted for Franken to succeed with his creation. But here, our protagonists aren’t given anything beyond their mutations - she has 7 clits, he has a giant penis with a mind of its own. It’s a foregone conclusion that the two will meet up and be “perfect for each other” or whatever, but it takes about an hour for them to even meet, and the time before that isn’t spent wisely. Instead of making us sort of feel bad for their problems, we just get scene after scene of the girl taking on anonymous lovers, and the guy taking pills and smacking/talking to his dick to keep it under control. It’s amusing for a few minutes, but it gets awfully repetitive, awfully fast. Even the brief flashback scenes meant to evoke sympathy for them didn't work, because they were lousy actors and the scenes were just plain dull.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the fourth wall breaking, such as when Jennifer talks directly to the audience about how they shouldn’t be disturbed by what they just saw (which would be her giving birth to a mutant baby and leaving it in the tub), because it wasn’t a real baby as it only took 2 hours to be birthed from the point of conception. Later, another character speaks for critics by saying that what she’s watching is nudity for the sake of nudity, and nothing but shock value, etc. Har dee har.
And the acting is pretty terrible all around. Frankenhooker at least had good lead performances, but everyone in this movie stinks. On the commentary, Henenlotter reveals that some of the actors (including the male lead) were found via Craigslist - guess you get what you pay for. I mean, I know they can’t afford A-listers or whatever, but in New York of all places, there should have been a few decent actors willing to work for free.
One bright spot is the effects, which are a mixture of puppets and stop motion. There’s a scene late in the film where the mutated penis gets loose (cue King Missile) and goes on a would-be rape spree (the ladies all seem to enjoy it), and the effects are hilarious and gloriously practical. Also, the thing is so mutated it only resembles a penis in the most basic sense, which made it a lot easier for me to watch (some of the shots of the dude punching it made me wince though). I just wish the sequence had involved the two leads actually going after it (weirdest chase scene ever?), instead of arguing at his place until the thing came back on its own.
I also really appreciated that it was shot on film. I’m sure it would have been very enticing to use digital and have a little more money to spend on locations or actors or whatever, but Henenlotter and his crew sacrificed that in order to have a movie that actually looked professional. Lloyd Kaufman’s productions also still use film (just his though, I’m not counting the ones they merely distribute), so I guess New York is the place to be for independent filmmakers who still care about having a nice looking film at the end of the day. Maybe it’s because Duart is right there.
Extras are slim, not that I’m complaining considering how annoying the ones they provide are. Henenlotter provides a commentary with R.A. The Rugged Man, a NY underground rapper who co-wrote the film and appears in a small role. Frank is fine, but R.A. mainly just comments on “titties” and various “motherfuckers” in the cast and crew, and ultimately I got the impression that this was more his film than Frank’s, like Frank was a studio hire or something. Frank reveals that he had cancer during production (he is OK now though), so perhaps it wasn’t by choice, but even with my limited exposure to his work, it doesn’t seem like the film he would decide to come back with after well over a decade’s hiatus from directing. The commentary is also seemingly recorded with the same professional equipment I use for my own tracks (in other words it sounds like shit). The only other extra of note is a look at the process of the film’s DP, which is basically just an annoying 7 minute piece of a girl pretending to have sex while R.A. and the others look on. Some of R.A.’s videos are also included, but as I’m not a fan of rap music I can’t imagine I’d find much enjoyment in them.
The film concludes with a terrific (if obvious) sight gag, and I suspect that was the whole reason to make the movie in the first place - they came up with it and then figured out how to get there. It’s not even the worst idea for a movie, and the potential for gags (both funny and gross out) is high, and it could have even been a bit touching, with two outcasts finding each other and all that. But it’s mainly just boring, and with the exception of the FX guys, I just don’t anyone putting much effort into it. Ultimately, I’m sort of glad I’m not a big fan of the guy (yet!); I’d hate to have waited over 15 years to see a new film from him and end up with this.
What’s that you say? Carpenter’s first movie since 2001 is PG-13 and reportedly a giant bore? Awww!
What say you?