July 7, 2012

Movie Review: Frankenhooker (1990)

Every so often, perhaps even more often, I come across a movie that I should have seen a long time ago. It is partially my fault for having found my love for movies relatively late and trying to play catch up on a number of fronts. However, I also blame all of you out there. Well, those of you who are into this sort of thing and are sitting on the secret. I understand it can be cool to know about something that no one else does, but please help me out once in a while. If you could not guess, Frankenhooker is one of those movies that you have all kept secret from me. Shame on you, I say, shame on you.

Frankenhooker is one of those titles I was certainly aware of, but for some reason had never gotten around to seeing. Now, if I had realized that it was directed by Frank Basketcase Henenlotter, I probably would have tried to see it a lot sooner. If you couldn't have guessed it, I had a blast watching this movie. It is over the top, funny, crazy, and is just a lot of fun. It is a movie that stands out in the crowd. Sure, it is a take on Frankenstein, and probably owes a lot more to Re-Animator, but it manages to stand on its own and does not really need to be seen in terms of those other titles. Frankenhooker is crazy enough all on its own.

As the movie opens, we meet Jeffrey Franken (get it?). Jeff is a wannabe scientist and has crafted a remote control lawnmower for his fiancee's father. The project goes awry and winds up chopping his girl, Elizabeth Shelley (get it?), to bits. The only piece left is her head, which Jeff spirits away and puts into a cryogenic freeze until he can figure out what to do.

His plan turns to rebuilding her. The problem is not the science of attaching/reanimating a head, it is that he doesn't have another body. So, off he goes from his home in New Jersey to New York City, back when 42nd Street and Times Square were a little sleazier, not the tourist attraction it is now. He goes on a shopping trip, looking for a hooker with the right body to put Elizabeth's head on. He is unable to find just the right body, an ends up hiring a bunch to play doctor with.

The problem takes a turn for the worse when the roomful of hookers uncover another of his experiments, super-crack. Yes, you read that right. He has cooked up a batch of a new drug and he had it with him. The side effect is that it makes the smokers explode. All of the hookers get high and explode, hooker pieces fly all over the room. Hey! Problem solved!

Jeff takes the parts home and puts together his perfect woman. Lightning is applied and Jeff inspects his creation. She comes to life all right, but she is more hooker than Elizabeth. She gets loose, gives people a charge while Jeff chases after her.

I guess you can figure out the rest. In all seriousness, this is probably the best thing that Frank Henenlotter ever directed. It is just the right blend of comedy and horror, sold by some fun performances. This is a movie to sit back and enjoy, pure and simple.

The performance to pay attention to here is Patty Mullen as Elizabeth/Frankenhooker. The girl is a riot. Patty Mullen is not an actress, she only has two titles to her credit (this and an earlier horror movie called Doom Asylum, which I have not seen) and is a former Penthouse Pet of the Year (1987). I think it is her lack of experience that makes her performance work so well. Her delivery of the signature line, "WANNA DATE?", followed by her screwed up expression is timeless. She really owns this role and clearly had fun making it.

Frankenhooker lives squarely in the realm of the absurd. It is very much in the style of a comic book, more comedy than horror. It also serves as a time capsule of Times Square before it got cleaned up. They just don't make them like this anymore. Also, if you take into consideration the way the movie ends, it makes an interesting statement on the objectification of women and how you need to show respect. It is an interesting message buried in what is ostensibly an exploitation flick.

If you have not seen this movie, make sure yo put it on your to see list. You won't be disappointed. "Wanna date?" "Got any money?" HAHAH! Brilliant.


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