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Monday, September 06, 2010

Ruining Sex With Bad Biology (2008)

Despite his relatively brief filmography, writer/director/editor Frank Henenlotter has been at this a while. This being the writing, directing, and editing of a certain type of horror film that lives and dies on sexual panic. Sex is terrifying and messy, potential partners are just as likely to kill as love you, and the body will crave what it craves (damn the consequences). Think Cronenberg's body horror without the art, or in simpler terms the Debbie Harry/James Woods sex scene in Videodrome over and over and over again. And the Debbie Harry role is filled by a stripper.

Case in point, 2008's Bad Biology. It a bad movie but "bad" in the way in which Henenlotter excels. Starring newcomers Charlee Danielson and Anthony Sneed, BB is mostly about a woman's search for the perfect man, where the definition of "perfect" involves satisfying her mutant, hyper-orgasmic reproductive system, which, by the way, can also fully produce a deformed baby within two hours of coitus. Jennifer (Danielson) is a photographer and self-professed nymphomaniac who beds and occasionally murders her partners during the act of sex, snapping shots of her victims for her private portfolio. I hope you like the sound of her voice, because Danielson provides running narration throughout the film, her delivery reminiscent of some of the most awkward spoken word poetry of the mid-90's, all swagger and emotional content that has a tendency to grate. 

Anthony Sneed's Glenn Beck (really), aka Batz is the x factor Danielson is unaware she's always been seeking. Cursed with a pulsing, sentient, 4-foot-long penis, Batz spends his solitary life satisfying the drug addictions of his demanding member and constructing devices to give it release, all while holed up in his house that he optimistically hopes to turn into a club. Most of the movie's brisk 85 minute running time involves the two characters slowly entering one another's orbit until the climax sees he and she (him, "little him," and her) crash into one another in the final minutes.

There's a lot of sex and skin on display in the movie, but none of it is particularly titillating (at least for this viewer). Danielson, who comes to the role from a career of adoring photo shoots with rappers like 50 Cent and athletes in publications like Vibe isn't afraid to show a LOT of skin in the many simulated sex scenes. I kept thinking of Julianne Moore's Amber Waves, and how she described preparing for the role by imagining herself as an actress not in command of or in touch with her body. Awkward is maybe the kindest word for Danielson's performance with "disconnected" being the most apt. For a character obsessed with having sex, her Jennifer doesn't seem to know how to behave or move during the actual act. There is a LOT of flailing in this movie.

But bad acting is par for the course with Henenlotter movies, and the earnestness of the performances - well, they don't make up for the quality but they at least dull the blow. More uneven are some of the film's prosthetic/creature effects which aren't on-par with the wonderfully gross creations of Basket Case but again, their gags are emphatic.

The production is billed as the director's comeback feature - there's a 14-year gap between this and his last production - an almost Malick-like period in the wilderness. Weirdly, in spite of being unable to enjoy this movie I'd like for him to get behind the camera again to give us another whacked-out vision. 

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