Cult Cinema: Frankenhooker

Ms. Kisner rocks out a stellar review of '90s comedy horror, Frankenhooker.

"MMMMM.....that feels so good."
It should come as no surprise to anyone that a movie called Frankenhooker is utterly crass and not politically correct in the slightest. That being said, it’s also hysterically funny and so completely out there that it just begs to be watched with a group of friends on a Friday night. Frank Henenlotter is not known for making subtle and delicate films—he’s a schlockmeister of the highest order. His other infamous film Basket Case (which spawned two sequels), is a testament to jacked up situations, sexual perversion, and gross-out humor. Henenlotter is fully aware of his station in life and was quoted as saying: "I always felt that I made exploitation films. Exploitation films have an attitude more than anything – an attitude that you don’t find with mainstream Hollywood productions. They’re a little ruder, a little raunchier, they deal with material people don’t usually touch on, whether it’s sex or drugs or rock and roll."

So that brings us to Frankenhooker. It’s based on Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, but it takes gigantic liberties with the story. James Lorinz plays Jeffrey Franken, a half-assed mad scientist who tries to bring his fiancĂ© Elizabeth (Patty Mullen) back to life after an unfortunate accident. Lorinz’s performance in this film is freaking hilarious and he carries the entire movie. He constantly has running commentary on everything that is happening around him and most of it sounds ad-libbed. Honestly, even though he is basically a sexist pig in this movie, he’s just such a doofus that you can’t help but like the guy. He has made the rounds in several video nasties, most notably the exploitation classic Street Trash.

Patty Mullen, who was a Penthouse Pet at the time, is excellent as Frankenhooker. She has wonderful comedic timing both with line delivery and physical acting. While I’m sure they wanted to exploit the fact that she was in Penthouse (and yes, they do show her boobs), she’s actually a very likable in this role and did as much as someone can do with an undead prostitute character. Her make-up work is great, and she really does look like someone who has been cobbled together from numerous different body parts. She also has purple nipples—gotta love that attention to detail.

"Oh yummy. Tastes like chicken."
The gore work in this film is awesome and one-hundred-percent practical. Some of it is intentionally campy, but at other times they really pull out the stops. I have two words for you guys: exploding hookers.  That right there should be all the glowing endorsement you need. Really though, some of the monster creations for this film are downright disgusting and it’s a joy to see them brought to life with such care and love.

Unfortunately, a film like this wouldn’t fly nowadays, with the current climate of extreme political correctness. Frankenhooker definitely puts the exploit in exploitation with tons of nude scenes, dirty sex jokes, racial stereotypes, violence against sex workers, and just general depravity. To be completely honest, I love films like this because it serves as escapism from the rules of normal life. It’s not meant to be taken seriously at all, and these terrible things are served with a wink and a smirk. There are films that still do this today, but they have been forced far underground—which may be for the better actually. It keeps them punk rock and independent.

So what are you waiting for?  Go to your local VHS rental place and pick up a copy of Frankenhooker!  If you don’t wanna take my word for it, listen to this glowing review from Bill Murray (he really said this): "If you see one movie this year, it should be Frankenhooker".

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- Michelle Kisner