DECEMBER 2, 2010
Relax, Frank Henenlotter fans – I liked this one.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of Frankenhooker and found the first half of Bad Biology’s title to be quite apt, I truly enjoyed Basket Case, which suffered from a few of the same problems as his others (i.e. lousy actors) but had a much better script, some awesome stop-motion animation, and not as much of an emphasis on comedy.
See, one thing I learned from the other two movies is that his sense of humor and mine are radically different, hence why I haven’t been exactly in a rush to watch this (I borrowed it from my friend the same time I borrowed Frankenhooker –over 6 months ago!). Had I known it was slightly more “serious”, I wouldn’t have waited so long. Not that it’s without humor entirely – it IS, after all, a movie about a guy who keeps his mutant “brother” (who resembles one of those finger monsters) in a basket – but there’s an actual plot to deal with and even some minor characterization, which keeps the movie from dicking around too much.
It also helps that the “hook” of the film is right there at the start. Frankenhooker took forever to set her loose, Bad Biology took forever for the guy and girl to meet... but this one wastes no time. A guy is killed in the opening scene, and not too long after that we learn that he is one of the three doctors who separated the brothers when they were younger, and now they want revenge. They kill another one about 25 minutes in, and the final one at the top of the 3rd act. So the revenge is paced well, and its mixed in with scenes of Belial occasionally getting loose, or Dwayne romancing a young lady who worked at one of the doctor’s offices.
It could be tightened a bit though – there are a few too many scenes of everyone in Dwayne’s building hearing noises and crowding the hallway outside of his door trying to see what is going on (for a place with only 7-8 apartments, they sure have a lot of residents). While I was watching the movie I assumed that Belial would escape and kill them all, but apart from the Beverly Bonner character (she appears in all of Frank’s films) and one other guy early on, Belial never really has any encounters with them. He could have at least killed the landlord guy!
But again, the stop motion stuff is awesome. There’s a great bit where Belial destroys the room, and it’s impressive even today (even more so when you consider the movie’s $35,000 budget – and shot on film!). More often than not his movements are done by off-screen puppeteers or the actor he’s attacking just pretending that they are struggling, but I’ll take a little bit of stop motion over anything else. Also, Belial's breathing creeps me out. It sounded like a combination of Michael Myers' breathing and a cat purring.
And, like Frankenhooker and other indie NY films from the 80s, I just loved seeing the New York locations back in their prime (i.e. when they still had a lot of porno shops), and the fact that it had a genuine feel to it that you never get in today’s films. Dwayne’s shitty hotel room is a real shitty hotel room, not a set somewhere. Plus there’s the hookers, the drunks, etc.... I also particularly liked the drug dealer who tries to sell Dwayne pretty much every single drug that’s ever existed – it would be like a full paragraph if written out.
Sadly, also like Frankenhooker, the DVD bonus features are largely worthless. Behind the scenes footage is just a bunch of random stuff without sound, the radio interview with the actress is like 90% the DJ asking questions, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the point of “Beverly Bonner’s Laugh Track” is. The only thing that is worth a look is “In Search Of The Hotel Broslin”, where Frank and the RA guy who wrote Bad Biology go around showing where everything was filmed, plus what the Belial model looks like today. The commentary with Frank, Bonner, one of the producers, and Scooter McCrae is also enjoyable, since Frank talks a mile a minute and never stops, thus packing the track with info and anecdotes (the others basically only talk in single word sentences, and/or to correct him on a detail he got wrong). He points out some of the low-budget awesomeness (the “concierge” office for the hotel was actually built inside a freight elevator) and reveals some wonderful stories from the set, i.e. when the (already small) crew all walked out during the climax. Good stuff.
I thought my friend had let me borrow Brain Damage too, but I guess not. I’ll have to track one down. But I’ll be watching Basket Case 2 (and maybe even 3) soon, so I can give the DVDs back to them. And that’s all of them, right? He only has 6 movies, correct? I actually watched BC2 at a friend’s place earlier this year, but we were talking the entire time (plus he had an Entertainment Weekly with a pretty long/awesome Fletch article, so I left the room to read that), so I can’t recall a damn thing about it. Plus it seems like they were both dead at the end of this one? So now I’m actually interested to see it.
What say you?