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Film4 Fright Fest Reviews: Frank Henenlotter's BAD BIOLOGY And The Extreme French Horror Flick MARTYRS!

Beaks here... It's really been sixteen years since Frank Henenlotter's diseased mind assailed us with BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY? How did he not rate an invite for the MASTERS OF HORROR series? Sure, the BASKET CASE sequels weren't quite up to the level of the first film, but BRAIN DAMAGE alone makes Henenlotter worthy of induction into the club. Maybe they knew he'd have Miike-like problems with the Showtime censors. In any event, it's great to Henenlotter back, and it's a relief to hear that his BAD BIOLOGY went over at the Film4 Fright Fest in London last weekend. Our reviewer "Spence" also weighs in on the French horror flick MARTYRS, which is apparently eliciting some very strong (i.e. vomiting) reactions from audiences.
Hey chaps I always send you a few fright Fest reviews and you always kindly print them and I always get slagged of in the talkbacks...... so let us begin It is Sunday morning and I am writing to share with you reviews of two sides of the same horror coin that I have seen at this years Fright Fest. First off let me tell you I met Frank Henenlotter on Friday night and I geeked the fuck out, Basket Case and Brain Damage are up there with the finest exploitation movies ever made and the chance to say hello to the legend thhat made em was a thrill (to boot he was a really nice guy and couldn't believe how many people wanted a piece of him at the festival) why am I telling you this? Well because Frank and his young cast were there to screen his first film in 16 years.... Bad Biology When I heard that R.A The Rugged Man and Jedi Mind Tricks were throwing up the money to finance this movie I was puzzled, then when I heard Price Paul was scoring it and R.A had written it (with Frank) I just kept thinking how the hell is that gonna play out, what do these underground rap crews have in common with Henenlotter ? Well it turns out R.A isn't some play acting deviant he loves him some old school 42nd Street and Basket Case as much as the rest of us and he just happens to have the scrilla lying round to fund a movie! "I was born with seven clits....' is the opening line spoken by one of the films main leads Charlee Danielson, it seems that the seven clits can make her have incredible orgasms but also leads her to kill anyone that is wiggling their wanger in her when she comes. Oh yeah did i mention she gives birth two hours after fucking? No? Sorry, she does. It seems there are a lot a lot of babies crying in trash cans in NYC. She eventually meets Batz played by Anthony Sneed a man whose cock has a life if its own and is completely addicted to roids. He constantly needs to feed his 30 inch dick drugs to keep it under sedation, and it's so big that he has had to fashion a steam powered love pump to get himself off! So usual Henenlotter territory there really. It's a great return for Henenlotter and while not as sleazy as Basket Case or as funny as Frankenhooker it makes you realise that people just dont make this kind of shit anymore. It's twisted,fairly gory and full of naked porn stars and I for one can't get enough stop motion cock (that wrong!) as CGI dick just aint the same. It's pure trash but as usual with Henenlotter there is a lot of sexual/political and drug allegory going on so it's enjoyable on all levels! Its shot on 35mm too which is nice. Gabe Bartalos supplies the effects and there is a great cameo from Hennenlotter regular Beverly Bonner. A solid midnight movie. Now onto the most controversial movie of this years festival Martyrs a French movie that when shown in Cannes had critics in uproar and a couple of them upchucking. People are calling it a landmark horror movie, in fact a landmark movie full stop. It is horrific but I wouldn't call it horror, It is a strange mix of 70's exploitation such as Last house On The Left, Clive Barkers Hellraiser and Hostel (the second half owes a lot to Hostel in feel and look) but at the same time it is it's own beast. Martyrs The basic story (and it will have to be basic as anything more in depth would be major spoiler heavy) finds a girl Lucie struggling to come to terms with the fact that 15 years earlier aged 10 or so she was imprisoned in a disused slaughterhouse and kept there for an undisclosed length of time, she had not been sexually abused but the physical and mental torture she endured was enough to put her into a mental institution where she made one solitary friend Anna (a victim of sexual abuse) the girls grow up together and Anna has a lesbian crush on Lucie although it is never made clear if that is reciprocated.The first half plays out as some kind of revenge flick as she sets about tracking down her captors and exacting terrible revenge on them and their family. once she finds them and attacks them in their house the film shifts gears somewhat as they discover an series of underground vaults and walls lined with photos of people in the throes of death. What happens next would really spoil the movie but lets just say it features extended scenes of such brutality that it makes Hostel (which it closely resembles) seem like a walk in the park. What struck me with the film is that it is brutal and shocking but so beautifully scored and shot that it really does make you uncomfortable while watching, the sound design is sparse to say the least and the choice of music on some of the more shocking scenes offers a real juxtaposition to the ugly violence you are seeing making it quite a surreal experience. I don't know if I would ever want to see the film again as there is no way this is entertainment as we normally experience it. The way it is presented is so matter of fact and blunt that 50 minutes in I found myself totally numb to the violence onscreen and very uncomfortable watching, at some points I was even wondering why I had paid my hard eared to see it. The guy sat next to me left and apparently there were two or three people that were sick during the film. As I said his isn't horror but it is horrific, it offers up just how fucking ugly this world has become. Too cerebral for your average gorehound and frankly too rough for your arthouse lovers, I dont know what crowd this film will play too and even if it will find itself an audience. I have a feeling that my opinion will change on this film over the next few days as it is deeply affecting and even though I know people say this shit all the time but "it really is one of the most disturbing films I have ever had the (dis)pleasure to sit through'. There is some respite from all of the violence near the end of the movie during one particularly ugly scene when Lucie has a strangely tender and touching scene with one of her captors that offers a chance for you to catch your breath and ruminate on everything that has gone before. It is a heavy going movie and certainly a brave one to make. I know this review is vague and even helping to fuel flames on the hype machine but to tell you more would be a real disservice to those that want to see it. Director Pascal Laugier was present and informed us he was suffering from depression while writing and directing the film and that is the reason it is so bleak, he also said that his dear friend and effects man 'left this earth two weeks ago' although he did not elaborate how. This movie is going to get a lot of hype, it will be interesting to see peoples reaction to the film as the hype grows. The moral right will have a field day with this and I can see this movie running into a lot of trouble in the US. cheers guys Spence

I can't say that I'm looking forward to seeing MARTYRS, but after reading reviews like that, I kinda feel like I have to.

Readers Talkback
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  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:21 p.m. CST

    French horror

    by gavdiggity

    Is quickly becoming my favorite.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:24 p.m. CST

    R.A The Rugged Man and Jedi Mind Tricks?

    by tonagan

    You kids and your slang. Could someone enlighten us old timers?

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:34 p.m. CST

    Martyrs trailer

    by gavdiggity

    http://www. martyrs-lefilm. com/

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:40 p.m. CST

    Stop motion cock!

    by buffywrestling

    Hilarious, glad to see Frank back, definitly checking that one out. The second however....I mean, I'm a huge horror fan but I like the fake rush of being scared in a relatively safe enviroment. I think there is a difference from being shocked with torture pron and being frightened; although I'm guessing some people use the terms "shocked" and "frightened" interchangablely - which they aren't.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:55 p.m. CST

    The Martyr's target audience...

    by PotSmokinAlien people who could see past the gore in Hostel & Hostel II and appreciate the subtext. (IE, me and seemingly 10 other people on this earth.)<P>I'm predicting the torturers are her own family, maybe? As long as it doesn't turn out that she is the torturers, like another French horror movie I am not gonna mention.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 12:59 p.m. CST


    by gavdiggity

    I see what you're saying, and I agree to an extent. I remember reading a quote by Stephen King once. He said, "Horror is physical, terror is psychological." While I'm not a fan of the Hostel or Saw movies, after seeing things like Haute Tension (except for the last few minutes), The Descent and À l'intérieur, I'm willing to give Martyrs a look. <P> Shit, I sat through Men Behind the Sun once... how bad could this be?

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1 p.m. CST


    by PotSmokinAlien

    So you're saying 'torture pron' somehow transforms a viewing experience into a real rush of being scared in an unsafe environment? How's that work? You're still in a movie theatre...

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:05 p.m. CST

    Who cares when AVATAR is fucking our eyeballs...

    by Motoko Kusanagi 2009?

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:14 p.m. CST

    Mmmmm, Smells Like Fantastic Fest

    by psychedelic

    With any luck these two will play at the fest.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:19 p.m. CST

    Bad Biology is insanely fun

    by Shepard Wong

    I'm really looking forward to seeing it again. I also met Hennenlotter when he premiered Bad BIology at the Philly Festival. He was a really cool guy. He even hung around the festival a few days after his film ran and went to the screening of Stuart Gordon's Stuck.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:46 p.m. CST

    Martyrs' makeup artist....

    by whatever1964

    took his own life according to

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:49 p.m. CST

    MARTYRS and the New French Horror...

    by krull rules

    First it was the Japanese, now it's the French...MARTYRS, FRONTIERS, INSIDE, and before HIGH TENSION and IRREVERSABLE...I highly look forward to seeing MARTYRS...

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 1:54 p.m. CST

    Yeah, what's up with French horror?

    by TroutMaskReplicant

    You could make some wanky link to the French use of the guillotine, but I'm sure that would be bollocks. It's funny how they all come to Hollywood and fuck their careers up though.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 2:38 p.m. CST

    Both sound like useless crap...

    by Ninja Nerd

    Beaks...the next time you "kinda feel like you have to" see something like Martyrs, just imagine the first victim on-screen is your mother, sister, etc. I'd bet it's the last time you'll have the urge to see useless shit like this.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 2:45 p.m. CST

    Again with Hostel?

    by Raindog789

    Hot sticky Jesus...if I hear the words "Landmark" and "Hostel" used in the same sentence again, I'm gonna CGI my own cock. That's right, you heard me.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 2:53 p.m. CST

    R.A The Rugged Man and Jedi Mind Tricks

    by Series7

    Thats fucking awesome I love their music. Well not so much R.A.'s but Jedi Mind is fucking awesome.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 3:04 p.m. CST


    by axemurder

    sorry R>A and Jedi Mind tricks are under ground rappers that somehow hooked up with frank and funded his film...sorry should have made that clear Raindog789 the second half of the film resembles hostel in that it is set underground where the victims are chained up and tortured, it is a lot more cerebal than hostel.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 3:17 p.m. CST

    Vault of Horror

    by drunkenmonkey73

    I stayed up late to watch this. Starring Tom Baker and Denholm Elliot ,Plot: Five men trapped in the basement vault of an office building share visions with each other of their demise. Sweet childhood memorys.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 4:21 p.m. CST

    hey ninja nerd

    by SpawnofAchilles

    what does envisioning my mom in a fake horror film have to do with anything? If I did that I'd be like, holy shit my mom is an actress?! Then I would be really pissed she never told me, and I would marvel at how she kept it a secret... it certainly would *not* damage my urge to see awesome and affecting horror films... I just fail to see the connection you're trying to make.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 5:04 p.m. CST

    Thanks axemurder

    by tonagan

    I'm glad they helped him out!

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 5:18 p.m. CST


    by buffywrestling

    No, I meant that bit about the scary aspect of horror movies. I think torture porn movies are only shocking and not scary just for the fact that the shocks wear off. I don't think that makes them better or worse, just different.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 5:33 p.m. CST


    by RumpleWho

    Shrek 2 - $503,040,600 (441,226,247 adjusted) Give it another week.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 7:02 p.m. CST

    Torture Porn = Yawn

    by G100

    Why even bother with the pretext of a story anymore one wonders ?<p> <p>Simply fill up a movie with scenes from the Spanish Inquisition or the Marquis De Sade and it seems you have a ready market of idiots who will lap it up these days.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 8:10 p.m. CST

    Well, if hating torture porn makes you...

    by Baron-Von-Poopie-Pants-the-3rd

    part of the moral right, then call me mother-fuckin' Pat Robertson. Nice argument, cockface.

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 9:13 p.m. CST

    brain damage was about gay love - like topgun!

    by ironic_name

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 9:44 p.m. CST

    martyrs = old people torturing girls to see if there is an after

    by ironic_name


  • Aug. 28, 2008, 9:45 p.m. CST


    by ironic_name

  • Aug. 28, 2008, 10:45 p.m. CST

    I want another Basket Case!

    by disfigurehead

    I love me some Belial

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 1:27 a.m. CST

    Bad Biology was great. Mum and Dad was dull.

    by Dolmes

    I went Friday and all the films were great except for the two Brit entries :-( Mum and Dad, dull, dull, dull. I've seen worse in an episode of Dirty Sanchez...and Freakdog from the Shrooms director. That was dull too. A Dolemite trailer was played before Bad Biology which woke us all up though :-D

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 3:31 a.m. CST


    by Marxeffect

    If you have just spoilt this film, then you sir are a cock and I hope that you get chained up and tortured until you have to use your "emergency" phone and call your mother who comes to rescue you and inadvertently gets gang raped by the guy with the 30" cock!!

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 3:51 a.m. CST

    ironic_name did indeed spoil it

    by GetEveryone

    Others: avert your eyes!

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 4:29 a.m. CST

    ironic name

    by axemurder

    you fucking twat why would you do that? why would spoil the movie out of pure spite. you are officially a dickhead and harry and co should kick your ass off the site you titwank

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 5:29 a.m. CST

    Where was this site's coverage of INSIDE?

    by MaxTheSilent

    I don't fucking believe it! The greatest horror film of the decade went almost completely under the noses of the bozos that write for this site. God help you when the utter masterpiece, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, gets a general release. I guess it will have to make way for more horse-shit articles about Fucking VOLTRON!!

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 6:14 a.m. CST


    by TheNorthlander

    Well what doesn't kill a franchise only makes it... Stranger?

  • Aug. 29, 2008, 6:36 a.m. CST

    A lot more cerebal than hostel?

    by Iowa Snot Client


  • Aug. 29, 2008, 8:31 a.m. CST

    if I can stop a tortureporn from getting even a few dollars

    by ironic_name

    then I consider that a job well done. <P> that being said, bad biology sounds excellent.