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Bad Biology (Frank Henenlotter, 2008)


     Director Frank Henenlotter, who has always seemed like a somewhat less respectable version of David Cronenberg, returns to filmmaking after a sixteen year hiatus with the sleazeball film maudit Bad Biology. Firmly in line with his previous works (Brain Damage, the Basket Case series, Frankenhooker), it is the product of a distinctively warped mind. Thankfully for fans of Henenlotter’s past films, this oversexed and incredibly campy gross-out movie is outrageous enough to return the horror genre to his days of gonzo glory. Unceasingly offensive, but vital in a way that so few current genre films manage, Bad Biology generates a considerable amount of rough energy from its hare-brained concept, its complete disregard for political correctness, its copious nudity, and its tremendously awkward performances. 


     Bad Biology’s bizarre story starts out by introducing the seemingly innocent Jennifer (Charlee Danielson), a libidinous young woman who starts to explain her problem with the film’s first line of dialogue. She states bluntly, “I was born with seven clits.” Plagued by a two-hour gestation period, an insatiable libido, and heightened emotional sensitivity, she preys on a string of one night stands in an attempt to satisfy her sexual appetite. Just as her hate-fucking, malformed baby-abandoning, adventures begin to grow commonplace, though, Bad Biology throws its audience a curve ball, switching protagonists, to settle on a lonely young guy with a similar problem.


     Midway through Bad Biology, the script shifts focus onto Batz, a guy who’s been cursed with a literal monster cock. The product of steroid injections, his mammoth member is not only sentient, but also addicted to prescription drugs. Insecure and ashamed of his dick, Batz appears to be a recluse junkie to others. It is in Henenlotter’s willingness to explore the loneliness caused by Batz’s and Jennifer’s mutations and addictions that Bad Biology most closely matches the tone of his previous films. His protagonists’ parallel confessional monologues about their sordid pasts, and their dual, elaborate masturbation rituals suggest some common ground between the two, to be sure, giving viewers the expectation that, for once, one of Henenlotter’s loser anti-heroes will find happiness. In Jennfier’s twisted mind, Batz becomes an idealized mate. The director’s perversity ultimately ensures that her hopes will be crushed, however. The message here is simple. Our impulses, both natural and unnatural, must be kept in check.


     As kinky as mainstream cinema gets, Bad Biology somewhat downplays the sexism inherent in its setup by employing its twin narrative structure. Indeed, it helps matters that monstrous as she might be, man-eater Jennfier maintains fuller command of her sexuality than her male counterpart. Though women are certainly objectified here, such as in an extended, multiple rape sequence, in which Batz’s member develops self-sufficiency, the movie is not the misogynist nightmare that one initially fears (similar films like Teeth certainly gave us plenty of those already). At once tragically wounded and gloriously shameless, Bad Biology is a must-see for a certain, self-selecting breed of filmgoer. It lives up to the promise of its premise, and extends the career of one of the horror-genre’s most idiosyncratic and most blatantly obsessive artists.


Jeremy Heilman