Movie Reviews 110 – Frankenhooker (1990)

FrankenhookerThis hybrid title and all that it implies seems to offer a potentially great amalgam of classic horror and sensuality that should please any hormone laden genre fan. Even more enticing is the poster art which teased me for years.

The first ten minutes that sets up the story are both hilarious and promising, and for the most part the movie delivers on that promise. We get a decent horror story and hookers aplenty prancing around in skivvies (or much less) and occasionally blowing up. I guess I need to explain the “blowing up” bit.

While an exceptional experimenter and tinkerer, Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) never managed to get any formal degrees in medicine or science. But as a mere electrician and budding mad scientist, he’s done quite well. We find him sitting at a kitchen table working out the kinks on his latest creation: an oversized, fully exposed human brain floating in a aquarium with a glimmering eye directly attached to the frontal lobe. Jeff is trying to get the ‘brain eye’ to respond to his commands to look in various directions. At the same time there is some sort of family function going on with most of the family sitting out in the back yard. Jeffrey’s gorgeous fiance Elizabeth (1986 Penthouse Pet for August Patty Mullen) is in the midst of praising Jeff’s latest invention, an intelligent autonomous lawn mower, when she turns it on while standing right in front of it. The obvious (and bloody) consequences leave Jeffrey despondent and fiance-less with only a recently detached head to solve his predicament.

Not only does he set about reconstructing a mate, but seeing as he wants only the best he directs his body part expeditions towards the seedy red light streets of New York city. His methods for collecting parts involves getting the girls to take a drug which has a side effect of exploding, leaving Jeff with a selection choice morsels of limbs, torsos and other random body parts to pick from.

But his collection endeavors puts him in the cross-hairs of a steroid bulging pimp named Zorro, aside from the cops whore also trying to piece together the story.

Once Jeff has all the needed body parts (and plenty of extras as we see him picking and choosing from his newly collected stash), he finally goes about the actual design and operation. The resulting reanimated Frankenhooker seems less interested in rekindling her relationship with Jeff and goes off on a spree of her own. Mullen may not have any real thespian chops, but the twisted snicker that she carries on her face has become as famous as the movie poster.

Directed by Frank Henenlotter (best known for the “Basket Case” series of movies), the hijinx in Frankenhooker are accented by Jeff’s mother (Louise Lasser) and even a cameo role featuring  New York’s own legendary late-nite horror host Zacherley as weather forecaster on TV.

The FX are pretty but not the least bit convincing (not that it matters). The put in a lot of effort in re-creating each of the ‘girls’ in Jeff’s little harem, only so that we can see them getting blown up. That alone is worth the price of a ticket (or a DVD).

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