Frank Henenlotter's films are amazing works of DIY weirdness, and for two of them he made magic with the assistance of composer Joe Renzetti. Sure, Renzetti's work for Child's Play was of a higher profile, but the music he composed for Basket Case 2 and Frankenhooker are arguably far more entertaining.
Child's Play is an iconic film, but the work Renzetti did on these two Henenlotter flicks demonstrates the range the man has. Basket Case 2 and Frankenhooker are both blackly comic horror films, which helps tie them together - as does the theme of a character who is very much "the other."
On the Basket Case 2 side, Granny Visits the Freakshow is like a madhouse calliope, and very much evocative of certain aspects of the rambunctious weirdness inherent in the Basket Case series, but Photographer Killed by Freaks is a swirling cacophony of weirdness, taking you down a rabbit hole. They're very much two different things, yet the underlying sense of disorientation really ties it all together.
Basket Case 2 is, arguably, the "scarier" of the two scores on this LP, given that it's more of an actual horror film than Frankenhooker, which is essentially a comedy with dismemberment. Basket Case 2 is the film which can sport a piece of music entitled Susan to Duane: 'I'm Pregnant' and actually have it be supremely, uncomfortably dark, whereas even Frankenhooker's Elizabeth Kills Her John is still a little light and silly.
That said, Frankenhooker’s main titles are wonderfully modern and old-school all at once. Much like Richard Band’s score for Re-Animator paid tribute to Bernard Herrmann, so does Renzetti’s work pay homage to Franz Waxman. It also reminds us of what Fred Mollin did for Friday the 13th: The Series right around the same time, in that it manages to use a synthesizer and samplers to create a score which feels much bigger and ornate than one man’s work.
All that said, Lookin’ For Hookers is delightfully cheesy in a way we absolutely adore. All pretension aside, it’s the goofy weirdness of tracks like this which make Renzetti’s work stand out beyond the standard single person scores of the era.
The cover art's not exactly our thing, looking like it was done by a particularly talented high school art student for a friend's comic book. We’re all for trying something unique, but given the iconic poster art for both of these films, we really would have preferred that to this. The strange purple marble vinyl does an excellent job of evoking both Elizabeth’s facial colouring and Belial’s mottled flesh, though, so good on Ship to Shore for making an odd choice work well.
Joe Renzetti’s liner notes are pretty great, especially the details he gives regarding Frankenhooker’s score, which was actually explicitly designed to be an homage to Waxman’s score for The Bride of Frankenstein, much as Frankenhooker is essentially a parody of that film. There’s a little more self-aggrandizement and plugging than necessary. I would’ve preferred a little more depth.
All said, these two scores pair wonderfully together, and having either one as an official vinyl release would be excellent - especially given that the CD’s been out of print for over 25 years now - but both make for a fun listen, and a solid release.
BASKET CASE 2 & FRANKENHOOKER (1990) / COMPOSER: JOE RENZETTI / PUBLISHER: SHIP TO SHORE PHONOGRAPH CO. / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW