Other Movies Seen By This Director (1)
- Brain Damage
|04.28.21||Internet|| I feel like it's been quite a while since I've watched anything interesting. And of course, by "interesting" I mean bizarre, depraved, and total trash. Even though my viewing habits don't really reflect it any more, I still do have a soft spot for late night cable movies and weird random oddities and crazy genre fare. And with the fate of fantastic fest still undecided (as well as my attendance), I'm feeling a pretty far distance between now and 2006-me. As such, I somehow wound up on Frank Henenlotter's imdb page and noticed he made a movie a dozen years ago that I never heard of or saw. I have fond memories of watching the first two Basket Cases on cable and renting Frankenhooker from my local video store growing up, so I decided to see what this was about.|
Much as I thought and feared, even with the best intentions, I don't think making a movie like this good is possible anymore. While you probably can make a decent movie on whatever budget this had, it would have to be some Primer-esque "cool" concept or something. Nothing approaching the level of bad taste of this... which is kind of a shame? I mean I don't remember Frankenhooker being high art, but I was entertained. Perhaps I might like this too if I was 13 again... That's when I was going for all those Full Moon and Troma movies and loving them. But the problems are soooo blaring. And (I mean this is the weirdest way) it's such a great concept... it's a shame that the movie can't deliver like it wants to. Like I think a late 80s video/drive-in market would allow.
Basically, a girl has a monstrous vagina that makes her insatiable, and there's a guy who's mad scientist'd his penis into a monster with a mind of its own, and you spend the movie waiting for them to get together.
I will say, the rap during the end credits - performed by the movie's producer - is amazing. It's all about how fucking hard it was to make this movie and all the shit they had to put up with. It's basically like reading the trivia page on imdb in hip-hop form. Did you know the main actor was found on myspace? Did you know the house where they shot had no water or power? Did you know the director shot this movie while undergoing chemotherapy? It's almost like an apology for watching... while you're still watching. So that's one great thing to cherry-pick out of this, which is why one watches these sorts of things. So...in a way, success?
Another thing I haven't done in a long time is throw on some extra paragraphs to an entry because it's late and I'm in the mood to ramble and this movie triggered some memories. So I want to dedicate this screening to a guy named Cameron. Cameron lived next door to me when we moved to Maryland. He was a couple grades older than me but willing to be friends. We bonded over my comic collection (He was a good artist, mainly copying Jim Lee's style) and we wound up being pretty damn tight for several years there. I went to my first concerts with him, saw my first porn because he snuck it from his step-dad, and generally hung out quite a lot. I have to credit him with two pretty huge influences in my life. The first is music. I think that type of thing... was a bit of a right place/ right time situation. I was entering my teens... starting to grow into myself a bit... I think I would've gravitated toward music at some point, but he definitely kickstarted it. Before that, I basically had a vanilla ice tape and a ton of Weird Al, but he was into stuff like Fishbone and The Cult and most heavily Red Hot Chili Peppers. Largely because of him, Uplift Mofo Party Plan was the first CD I ever bought (I already had Blood Sugar Sex Magik on cassette of course). Pearl Jam's Ten was the first CD I ever heard (borrowed from a guy at school and played on my dad's boombox in the garage), and I still remember how hearing the intro of that basically sold me on cds forever, but for my momentous first official purchase it had to be the chili peppers. He was the first person to play Nirvana's Nevermind for me (I thought it was too heavy, which I wasn't into. It wasn't until Lithium was a single that I came around). He was the first to get into industrial, bringing Pretty Hate Machine and Ministry's The Mind album on a camping trip in our back woods one weekend and playing them on repeat until the boombox's batteries died. We went to Lollapalooza 92 to see both the Peppers and Ministry (with Pearl Jam and Soundgarden thrown in for good measure) and his tastes generally rubbed off on me and set me in a more mature musical direction. Music that I still connect to today. His Step dad Lionel was a musician (i think?) and had guitars around their house. I remember one day Cameron said that Lionel had, like, reverse engineered NIN's song Wish on guitar, and that it had taken him hours. I thought that was like magic. He took us to see a good handful of shows in DC. Probably stuff I was too young to get into or see, but I think he was a DC native. I remember him saying he was one of the guys who made the obstacle course that Jodie Foster runs through in the beginning of Silence of the Lambs.
Anyway, the other thing Cameron and I got really deep on were horror movies. My mom loved movies and used to tape 3 to a vhs off cable when I was a kid. As soon as we got cable anyway. By the time I was in highschool she had like 300 tapes with a rolodex full of index cards to choose from, but those were old movies, John Wayne movies, that kind of thing. Stuff she liked. Cameron was into schlocky stuff. Since we were neighbors, we haunted the same local video store (B&B Video, which became Hilltop Video when the dude bought the place I think?, next door to a bar and a convenience mart). He got me into Evil Dead, Puppet Master, Hellraiser, and random stuff like Amazon Women on the Moon and Kentucky Fried Movie. Half of it I kinda had to hide the titles from my mom but she let us rent them anyway. Together, we (along with every other young man in the early 90s) succumbed to ninja fever and couldn't wait to go to the theater every friday to see the new Steven Segal movie, or even the knock-offs like The Perfect Weapon starring Jeff Speakman. We were both somewhat intimidated but driven to watch Faces of Death, Faces of Death 2, Traces of Death, Death Scenes, Faces of Death 3, Macabro, and pretty much anything else on the shelves that mentioned the word "BANNED." Some of that stuff I was definitely too young to see... one of them (I think Traces of Death) had a clinical vibe to it... showed a lot of medical footage and I believe some stuff that was much more real than anything in the Faces... series. But on the bright side, I was totally familiar with that dude who shot himself during a press conference when that Filter song came out. Totally got that reference.
I feel like there's a lot of nostalgia now for people my age who did the same thing I did which was go to the video store practically every day on the way home from school, spend an hour looking at box art willing some hidden gem or new release to appear, then bringing it home and usually sitting through 90 minutes of crap. After a while though it became GOOD crap. While there were some titles I could never get past my mom (I Spit on Your Grave being the most notorious, but also flagrant stuff like Stripped to Kill and Slumber Party Massacre), I still saw A LOT of stuff, and for some reason even the stuff I never watched I can still remember box art for (Woody Harrelson in his boxers splattered with blue paint?) and I owe a lot of that to Cameron. Of course they weren't all hits. There was the time we picked Rocky Horror Picture Show because we liked Tim Curry from Clue and thought it would be scary. And I think we had to turn a movie called Subspecies off because it was like vampires but they were legit farting in every scene?
Even as high school went on and we started drifting apart - him getting a girlfriend, graduating, starting getting high), my interest in movies and music carried over to my other friend circles who were more obsessed with D&D, Jimi Hendrix, and video games. Even after starting college, on breaks where I'd be home I would binge stacks and stacks of movies. By then I had graduated from the tiny neighborhood Hilltop video to the mecca that was Wonder Book and Video (W. Patrick street location). Much farther away, but almost mythical in my memory for their endless rows of towering VHS on one side, a labyrinth of stacked and cluttered used books on the other with a long ramp connecting the two. That place had everything. Want a Danish supernatural soap opera that you pick because it says "Like ER on Acid!" but you don't realize it's 9 hours long until you start watching? They have it. Need a silent Fritz Lang movie based on Die Nibelungen because you have to do a report on him for German class? They have it. Reefer Madness / Night of the Living Dead double feature on one cassette? Yup. A Deliverance knock-off starring Hal Holbrook? You got it. Dawn of the Dead 2-vhs special edition with a half hour of tv spots at the end? Come on in. I don't really miss much about Frederick (all my friends are gone, my old high school was torn down and rebuilt, all the old mall movie theaters have closed) but I do miss Wonder Book & Video and I'm happy that it's still around even in this streaming Amazon apocalypse.
Isn't it funny how tastes form. I think I owe a lot of my cinematic sensibility to a video store and cable. Being a pubescent teen in the early 90s, I watched a lot of Cinemax at a time where they didn't really have Red Shoe diaries or whatever. So to keep the Friday nights interesting they wound up programming a decent amount of European movies that shows boobs and bush. Despite my ulterior motives, I wound up seeing some good stuff on there! 2069: A Sex Odyssey holds up (in my mind anyway) as being a crazy German/Austrian 70s sci-fi sex comedy! I can still hear the dubbing in my head ("I've never had machine head"). And just the other day Criterion announced their release of Lizzie Borden's Working Girls. I saw that movie like three times but its title had completely left my memory. There was some movie I quite liked that followed a pack of cigarettes around the world, passing from person to person in a totally pre-Slacker type meandering structure. All of these fragments of scenes still float in my head disconnected from any credit or titles... there was some movie where a woman got a run in her stocking and used lip gloss or something to hide it? What? Maybe they will pop up years from now and finally connect the mental circuit like Working Girls did.
But I digress. I haven't talked to Cameron in probably 25 years. Like me, he has a pretty common name so googling him is tough. I have no idea where he lives or what he's done with his life. But I want to put this out into the ether just in case coincidence strikes and one of his mental circuits gets completed. This one's for you, Buddy!