Saturday, February 27, 2010


Sometime between Basket Case and Brain Damage, Frank Henenlotter tried to make a movie called Insect City. When he went to pitch the idea for funding, no one was interested, so he made up Frankenhooker on the spot and pitched that instead.

In Frankenhooker, Frank Henenlotter shows us that the winning formula to make a romantic comedy is simply: young love + mad scientist + crack cocaine + blowing up prostitutes.

Anyhow, we start the film off with Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) playing with his pet eye/brain creature. It doesn't seem to work quite right, so Jeffrey is forced to perform a quick bit of brain surgery... which of course involves a hammer.

This thing is straight out of The Crawling Eye

We're introduced to his girlfriend Elizabeth (Patty Mullen) just in time for her father's birthday party. She wanders around the snack tables eating pretzels and talking to whoever's around about her problems with losing weight. Soon enough she unveils Jeffrey's gift, a remote controlled lawn mower, and is quickly devoured by it. This movie is wasting no time at all, we're barely at the five minute mark.

Elizabeth's death inexplicably causes someone to squirt a lawn gnome with chocolate syrup.

After introducing Elizabeth just in time to kill her off, the movie shifts back to Jeffrey. He's moping in his room, but at least he's stolen Elizabeth's head to keep him company. He talks to his mother, has a romantic dinner with Elizabeth's head and begins his decent into monologuing madness. From this point on, unless the plot requires that Jeffrey talks to someone about something, everything he says is pretty much just him talking to himself. Since he does this pretty much constantly, Jeffrey is essentially the narrator for the remainder for the movie. But before he leads us to the next plot point, our narrator has to pause the film and take a drill to his temple because it "helps him to relax."

Once all of that is finished, Jeffrey decides to go out looking for hookers for body parts to rebuild Elizabeth. He heads out to browse the local hookers, and ends up taking them all back with him. Too bad for the crack-addled hookers, Jeffrey's recently whipped up a batch of super-crack.

As the movie explains, when it comes to super-crack, "Just say no."

With his hotel room now full of ladylimbs, Jeffrey now has plenty of stuff to reconstruct Elizabeth. As for the leftovers, he sticks them in his freezer along with his... purple.

Pretty soon, frankenhooker is born and completely steals the show for the remaining 30 minutes of the movie. She stomps around the town in her Frankenstein platform shoes, spouts all the catch-phrases from all of the hookers earlier in the movie, and sexes an old guy's head off (he doesn't seem to mind this at all).

Jeffrey eventually catches up to her (but only because she breaks down and needs repairs) and takes her back to his place. Elizabeth's memories and personality come back and they live happily ever after... but then there's a twist... and then another one.

As usual, Henenlotter sticks to his specific brand of comedic horror and hits it out of the park. I've watched this 3 times this month and I think I've got to agree with Bill Murray who famously said, "if you see one movie this year, it should be Frankenhooker."

Available on Amazon: Frankenhooker (Special Edition)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bad Biology

From time to time, I like to consider horror movies that just need to be made... a decent zombie western for example (We already have a lot of indians dying out upon the sudden introduction of strange new disease; you couldn't ask for a better zombie setup!).

I know that at some point I considered some sort of "zombie genitals" idea (I think this one of the possible ways I thought Flesh Eating Mothers might have been saved), but couldn't really see how it could work all that well. Luckily for all of us, Frank Henenlotter is a lot more creative with this sort of premise than I am.

Actually, "zombie genitals" is a little oversimplified for what's going on here. It's got a sort of Jekyll and Hyde feel to it too. Both main characters lead somewhat normal public lives, but with mutant self-aware genitals that happen to take over their hosts from time to time when they're feeling a little bloodlust (literally).

I'm always impressed with Henenlotter's characters. It seems like they're written to fail horribly, but somehow they just seem to work. Like Brian in Brain Damage, Duane in Basket Case, and Jeffrey Franken in Frankenhooker, the leads here communicate almost the entire plot through monologue.

It's hard to imagine a case where that sort of thing would actually work , yet Henenlotter seems to always give his characters some sort of barely masked mental instability that allows them to awkwardly mumble strings of soliloquy without seeming unnatural. On top of that feat, the monologue lines are great! Almost everyone of his films is hilariously quotable, and the great lines all come from these ridiculous monologues.

Of course, the monologue is only half of his winning formula here. Henenlotter always impresses me with his ability to find unknown actors that can actually pull off these odd characters so well.

Charlee Danielson does a great job as Jennifer ("Garden of Eden, Sodom and Gomorrah, Armageddon and all the disciples in my pussy at once!"), I can't wait to see her in more.

Anthony Sneed does just fine as Batz ("I got a drug-addicted dick with a mind of its own!"), owner of the raging rapenis. Bad Biology is his only credited movie role showing on IMDB, and if that's really the case, I'm even more impressed. I don't know where Henenlotter finds these people for his low-budget masterpieces, but I hope other low-budget filmmakers start looking there too.

One last thing that's significant here is that Henenlotter actually does use a little CG in this film. He doesn't stray from his favored stop-motion monster effects totally however, and usually just uses a little CG to patch a few things in the physical effects. Still, on one or two occasions we are treated to some purely CG effects like this.

Overall, I've got to say that I loved Bad Biology. It's great to see that after the 16 years that have passed since the last Basket Case movie, Frank Henenlotter is able to pick up right where he left off.