Director: Frank Henenlotter
Starring: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Joseph Gonzalez, Louise Lasser, Jennifer Delora
Yes, I am indeed doing another bonus entry and latching Frank Henenlotter's 1990 horror-comedy Frankenhooker to my Universal Frankenstein Retrospective. When else am I going to get the chance to write about a beloved trashy little film of mine. This felt like the opportunity with the slightest window open to do so. And after all, the film is one that was inspired by those original films and Mary Shelley's story too. It has some little things and details here and there while also moreso being its own original story.
So, let's get into it. I'm sure most of you probably hear the title or see the box and assume this movie is a complete piece of garbage. And, to some people who don't like horror or don't get the horror-comedy hybrid or can't appreciate some of the sleezy low budget films of the 1980s (This was 1990, but for all intents and purposes things didn't just change in 1990 from the way they were in 1989)...I guess you'd probably think of it as that. But, this little film is much better than you'd think. It's also way way better than it has any business being.
First, the effects in this movie are terrific for its time, holding up decently now and are a joy to watch. Back then, when you were crafting low budget horror movies, you threw most your budget to gore effects and make-up. That way, if your film's story didn't hit, people at least recommended the film for the effects and gore. Seriously, that was a thing back then, people could watch a movie for just an aspect of it and appreciate it. You also get a scene in a hotel room with about a dozen hookers blowing up in grotesque fashion. Its just a parade of prostitutes erupting blood, guts, body parts and sheer mayhem. The scenes is not only amusing in a gorehound sense, but its also absolutely hilarious in terms of this film's comedy.
This film is not meant to be taken seriously in the slightest. I feel like a lot of these low budget effects-faire, horror-comedies may have been taken the wrong way upon release. Frankenhooker sort of has the soul of a Re-Animator mixed with its own take on the Frankenstein story. But, with the aesthestic of Basket Case or other trashy 70s/80s dumpy New York settings. We follow our mad scientist (Who's like a cross between Michael Moriarty and Andrew McCarthy) as he tries to revive the head/brain of his ex-girlfriend killed by a remote control lawnmower. He encounters silly pimps and hookers as he feels that he can off hookers because nobody will know or care if they disappear. And there is plenty of crack/cocaine fiendish humor from the hookers side of things. The film also sports a nifty Twilight Zone-esque ending...and surprisingly actually confronts the misogyny of what our protagonist has done to bring Elizabeth (Frankenhooker) back.
Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen takes on the title role in the film. As the character of Frankenhooker, she doesn't show up until the final act, but she's absolutely one of the best parts of the movie. Surprisingly, she goes all in for the role. The make-up work on the character is still phenomenal today, seriously, its outstanding even on Blu-ray. But, her ability to move her body the way she does and her facial expressions in the film help to make the moments great. Her squeaky, comical super Jersey accent is just the icing on the cake. Its a performance that I think people like, but maybe it flies over the head on how terrific, smart and well done it actually is.
My earliest memories of the film came from the ol ma and pa VHS rental store days of my youth. This one was a staple of the independent stores, not the commercial ones. The box of the film was a bigger one. Henenlotter, always the home video showman, put a button to press on the box that has a clip of Frankenhooker saying "Wanna date?" on it. It was a film I didn't see until I was older and could rent on my own. This was not one of those I even wanted my parents to know I was interested in renting let alone having to hand them over the box being like "here's what I chose" and having to convince them that I should see this. And thus, it was one of those that stayed a mystery for a few many years, always wondering...what kind of movie does that box contain.
This is not some unheralded masterpiece that the casual viewer must rush out and by the Synapse Films or Arrow Video Blu-ray release. Its for those with a more open mind, appreciation for cinema of this type or fans of things like Cult Cinema Cavalcade (PLUG! No Shame!). Its a film I'm quite fond of for many different aspects now-a-days. Honestly, like I said, the film is better than you'd expect or that has any business being with a title and idea like that. I'm most happy that I actually found a spot and day on my blog that I got to write about it!
NEXT TIME: Ranking? No, we'll do one more...