Horror has the power to dissect, disembowel, and unpack the viewer in ways few other genres can. It hooks into our most primal fears, pulling them screaming to center attention.
There are few sub-genres of horror that do this more effectively than body horror. At its core, body horror captures the terror in trying to escape the inescapable, ourselves.
As the acclaimed exploitation directer Frank Henenlotter put it when asked why he makes the films he does, “I don’t find vampires scary, or werewolves or anything else. I don’t find the supernatural scary! But something wrong with your body is scary.”
In celebration of his contribution to cinema, The Alamo Drafthouse is putting on a month long retrospective of Henenlotter’s films, along with the movies that inspired him. Included in these viewings will be the wily banter of Henenlotter himself, after, before, and sometimes even during his films -as he will be present for Q&A’s throughout the month.
Last Tuesday started off the event on an appropriately dark, foggy night, with a showing of Henenlotter seminal 1982 classic, BASKET CASE. Given a 4K restoration of the original celluloids by the MoMA, the film beautifully captures the gritty New York of the 80’s. The story is one of revenge, following two formally Siamese twin brothers (Duane, and Belial Bradley) who are out for bitter, bloody reunions with the doctors that separated them as boys.
Also showing that night (and accompanying a few other films this month) is Henenlotter’s rarely seen early short, SLASH OF THE KNIFE a perfect example of body horror as an effective commentary. With the intention of showing the humor in 1950s style sex-hygiene films, SLASH OF THE KNIFE uses the morally riotous format against itself, parodying twentieth century thinking on male circumcision, and manifesting it to the point of hilarious absurdity.
“NOBODY got the joke back in 1976.” Henenlotter started, dedicating his first Q&A in the series entirely to the short. “We had one showing to an audience and they were appalled.”
“The guy who was the manager comes over and hands me the can [canister containing the actual film short] and he says, ‘here take this with you, leave. We’re never going to show this again, goodbye.’”
“42 years later it has returned!”
Returned it has, along with many others from the mind of Frank Henenlotter. Below is the full schedule of the retrospective series running all month at the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn.
FRANK HENENLOTTER RETROSPECTIVE
Monday, April 16th at 9:30pm
Dir. Frank Henenlotter
Starring: Anthony Sneed, Charlee Danielson
The trademarks of Henenlotter’s best work are all over BAD BIOLOGY: physical deformity, intense sexual problems, hilariously over-the-top dialogue, and of course, unrequited love. Underneath all the flesh and blood Henenlotter always has some sort of heartache and bittersweet, missed romantic opportunity. Jennifer (Charlee Danielson) is an insane, sociopathic sex fiend, destined to never find “the one”, and Batz (Anthony Sneed) is a nervous loner who’s shut himself off from society … both happen to have genital afflictions that make other “body horror” films play like they’re PG-13! Punctuated with an aggressive hip hop score from the film’s co-writer R.A. The Rugged Man, BAD BIOLOGY was Henenlotter’s triumphant return to filmmaking after the 16 year hiatus following BASKET CASE 3. Talk about making up for lost time – many hardcore Henenlotter fans consider it his finest. Henenlotter in person; preceded by “Slash of the Knife,” a rare short film by Henenlotter.
2008 | 84 min | NR