Directed by: Frank Henenlotter
Written by: Frank Henenlotter and Robert Martin
Produced by: James Glickenhaus and Edgar Levins
Reviewed by: Brett H.
ď In a blaze of blood, bones, and body parts, the vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad. A salad that police are still trying to gather up, a salad that was once named Elizabeth.Ē
Mad doctors bringing back the dead have been a staple in horror from day one, dating all the way back to 1910 when J. Searle Dawley directed a short version of Frankenstein. The thirties brought the James Whale classics Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein which are remembered amongst the greatest films of all time. Many variations of Mary Shelleyís novel have come and gone over the years, and a lot of them have been engraved as minor classics in horror history. 1985ís Re-Animator hit the scene and breathed new life into the mad scientist routine with Dr. Herbert West, who arguably is as iconic as Frankenstein among genre fans. In 1990, Frankenhooker inevitably made its way onto mad doctor the scene with a title that sleaze fans everywhere would kill to see. But, is it worth your hard earned dough for a slice of this pie?
Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) is a strange man. He works for the electric company, but his main interest is science, mostly involving odd creations such as his brain with an eyeball. Heís been kicked out of medical school three times (assumingly for the abominations he creates) and even performed a stomach stapling on his fiancť, Elizabeth (Patty Mullen). Although misguided and downright weird, Jeffrey is a very bright young man and while attending the birthday of his future father in law he gives him the gift any man would just die to have; a rigged up lawnmower that is controlled by a remote control. Elizabeth is proud of her husbandí s creation and demonstrates how to use it right in the middle of her fatherís birthday. She forgets one thingÖyou never turn your back on a remote controlled lawnmower. Steel blades never have much of a problem tearing apart human flesh.
Mourning the loss of his beloved future wife, Jeffrey devises a plan that will take all of his medical experience to pull off. He plans to bring her back from the dead using parts from hookers in the typical mad scientist fashion by attracting lightning through the corpse. He figures since he has to go through all the trouble of getting limbs and other bouncy bits, he may as well get the best he can find and even fix up some physical imperfections Elizabeth had. He invents a new drug, super crack, and plans to give it to the one hooker he finds that is absolutely perfect, which will kill her so he can use her body. Itís not killing if she wilfully takes it, right? The hookers of New York really love crack, and as he is looking over a dozen or so of them meticulously, they get into his hidden stash and all wind up exploding due to the deadly nature of the drug. He decides to take the best pieces of all the women seeing as all of them were dead anyways to bring his love back from the grave. On the night of the biggest storm in recent memory, he raises his Elizabeth up to the heavens until lightning strikes, breathing life back into the lifeless. Elizabeth returns to life all right, but rather than be her sweet self, she emerges back to the land of the living as Frankenhooker.
One could read the plot outline and think that thereís no way in the world that this could be a bad film, and that is absolutely correct. It is not a bad film, the problem is it isnít that good either. Frankenhooker is more of a dark comedy than a horror film and if you go into the flick looking for scares you will wind up disappointed. Itís got a dry sense of humor and isnít laugh-out-loud funny, but you do end up chuckling to yourself often enough not to want to turn it off. Most everything in the film has been done before, borrowing from movies like Lamberto Bavaís Macabre and most importantly, Re-Animator. A scene involving Jeffrey having dinner with the severed head of Elizabeth touches into something youíd see in one of the sleaze Italian classics horror fans know and love, although the tone is much different. It is straight up comedy all throughout.
The problem with Frankenhooker (aside from it not being very funny) is everything that it imitates was done better in another film. Not even the hooker parts are too creative, when Elizabeth/Frankenhooker returns from dead and begins to look for tricks, she just repeats some lame lines that the hookers she is made up of said earlier in the movie. I canít quite figure out why though, itís Elizabethís real head (therefore brain) being used, so why arms, legs and boobs affect her personality is beyond me. The film does have weirdness going for it, as Jeffrey is quite the specimen. Most of Jeffreyís dialogue is in the form of him speaking to himself and thereís no point in dissecting the character to figure out his motives or worry about him emotionally. Although at the beginning of the film you can tell heís in serious distress over the loss of Elizabeth, when heís out hooker hunting, he becomes more of a sex comedy character than anything else. Whereas Re-Animator and Bride of Frankenstein had a real reason to bring the female characters back to life, here you get the feeling that everything is happening just so the movie could be called Frankenhooker.
Itís really unfair to compare Frankenhooker to those movies though, as it is 90% a comedy and really, it does do a lot of things right. There are tons of nude chicks and the direction and set design are great, while the acting is intentionally cheesy. The hookers explode from the super crack, but not in a gory fashion like youíd expect, they more or less explode like robots and it looks like someone detonated a huge roman candle up a bunch of store mannequinís asses. If youíve seen Doom Asylum, you know what to expect from Patty Mullen and she is cheesy as Elizabeth and great as the rigor mortis ridden Frankhooker, putting on the best performance of her short acting career. Also present is a good Tales From the Crypt-like ending and very average gooey creations take center stage. Without a doubt, itís the best part of the movie and the last 20 minutes or so help round the film into something that isnít hard to sit through, but wouldnít be that hard to turn off either. To be frank, if the entire movie was like the ending, itíd have been pretty damn good.
It helps to go into Frankenhooker knowing fully what to expect. I went in expecting something different than what I got and the film is unique in its own way, it tends to reminds you of the Re-Animator series. I just basically wanted to pop open that thick green DVD case and have a little Herbert West action. The DVDís video presentation is fucking beautiful; Unearthed really rolls out the red carpet for this little obscurity. The transfer makes the film look like it was shot yesterday and that really helps out because so much of the film consists of bright neon colors, vibrant sets and purplish goop. It is loaded with a commentary, interviews, photos and trailers. Itís a real pleasure to look at and truth be told, the 10% of the film that is at least borderline horror/comedy (mainly the ending) is entertaining. I had hoped and expected that the film would be more like the grimy horror comedy that director Henenlotter had directed earlier in his career, Basket Case. Both films are set in sleazy parts of New York and in theory could very well be quite similar, but the tones of each film are on opposite ends of the spectrum. If it were more like Basket Case, I would have enjoyed it significantly more. Frankenhooker isnít good, nor is it bad. Much like every hooker you see in the movie, itís just an average loose pump. Rent it!
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