Film Review: Frankenhooker (1990)

 

SYNOPSIS:

Eric Balfour stars as a professor who may be the world’s last hope for redemption on Judgment Day. Evil creatures have been imprisoned under an abandoned church in Paris, but they are now freed from their cages and can wreak havoc on humanity. The fate of men and women around the world depend on a small group of people’s ability to fight the dark forces.

REVIEW:

Directed by: Frank Henenlotter
Starring: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Carissa Channing, Joseph Gonzalez

“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.”

It is truly a rare phenomenon when a director is able to combine elements of comedy, horror and bad taste all into one package. Frank Henenlotter has made a career out of it; you may remember him from a little film by the name of Basket Case. Mr. Henenlotter brought a great new film into the world of genre entertainment in the early 1990’s when he released his film Frankenhooker.

Frankenhooker tells the story of Jeffrey Franken a young electrician and medical school drop out (actually word is he got kicked out of them) who in his spare time tries to animate objects and give them a life of their own. In the first few seconds of the film we see one of his projects, it kind of looks like a brain with an eye in the center of it, he is trying to get it to respond to his commands but his wiring is not quite right and of course everything begins to fritz. Jeffrey is a rather strange man, while he is playing with his “creation” his fiancé’s family, the Shelly’s (get it!), are celebrating a birthday party for Elizabeth’s father; Elizabeth is of course his fiancé who in a very early scene admits to letting Jeffrey perform surgery on her in order to lose weight. Elizabeth is played by former Penthouse pet Patty Mullen, and in the beginning of the film she is shown wearing a fat suit, though it is only implied Elizabeth obviously isn’t the happy one about her body type.

When Elizabeth reveals her father’s birthday present however things suddenly get a bit complicated. Jeffrey has rigged a powerful lawn mower with a remote control, so the lazy father won’t ever have to push his mower around his yard again. Elizabeth is so proud of Jeffrey’s invention that she shows her father how to use the remote control, of course no one told her that standing in front of a high powered lawn mower wasn’t a good idea. The family is soon covered in Elizabeth’s blood as her body parts are fed into the mower and thrown around the party; actually the viewer only gets to see a few splashes of blood, however during a later scene when Jeffrey is watching the news report for the accident we are treated to the scene of body parts scattered throughout the yard. It is also during this scene that we learn that certain parts of Elizabeth’s body were never recovered by the authorities, I wonder who has them.

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The next few scenes have quite a bit of laughs involved, we get to meet Jeffrey’s mother who is a character all in herself. Jeffrey also starts to hatch his plan on how to bring Elizabeth back using electricity; he even has a life size chart that he draws all of his circuits on. There is also a great scene involving Jeffrey having a “date” with Elizabeth’s head. It is hard not to be shocked, but also laughing so hard it hurts as you watch Jeffrey pour wine into his dead fiancé’s mouth, only to have it of course spill out onto the table in a puddle. During all of these scenes we also figure out where Jeffrey gets his inspirational ideas from, he simply finds spots on his head and drills a hole there with a power drill, after a few seconds of doing this he is able to solve most of his problems rather quickly. Jeffrey also finds out about a rather large electrical storm that is coming his way, a storm with enough electricity that he could easily revive his now dead fiancé, but first he has to make an entirely new body for her. Body parts of course aren’t just lying around in the street so after a little bit more head drilling he figures out that he could easily use prostitutes.

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While cruising the red light district in Jersey Jeffrey meets a couple of working girls, he tells them that he wants to have a party where he will need about six girls. The prostitutes are skeptical at first until they see the wad of cash that Jeffrey is flaunting, once the money is seen the girls are ready to party, but first Jeffrey has to get permission from their pimp Zorro. Jeffrey meets Zorro in his “office” a scene you just have to see to believe and arranges all of the details, before he leaves though Jeffrey makes sure to buy a bag of crack from the pimp, what’s a party with prostitutes without some crack involved?

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Jeffrey is too nice of a guy to just go around killing people even if they are only prostitutes so he develops a way for them to die, a way that will allow them to make up their mind what they want to do. How does Jeffrey do this you ask, well he takes that bag of crack he bought from Zorro and proceeds to make a batch of “super crack”. The super crack causes the user to explode after taking too much of it, literally explode, if the women just say no than nothing bad with happen to them.

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The next few parts are full of gratuitous nudity as Jeffrey “plays doctor” trying to find the best parts on all of the girls. When it comes time for him to choose one, like the initial deal was arranged, he gets cold feet and changes his mind. The prostitutes in a fit of anger begin to go through his stuff trying to find his money when they find the batch of super crack. The crack party ending with exploding prostitutes is a scene anyone who is still reading this really needs to see before they die. Now Jeffrey’s got the parts and the storms coming, it seems like his plan is coming all together and he will get to live happily ever after, well except for the fact once animated Elizabeth only seems to remember the body parts former prostituting lives. She lashes out at Jeffrey once she is awakened and goes immediately back into the red light district, the only things she is able to say are statements made by the hookers’ right before they exploded, did I mention that the men she sleeps with also explode? Needless to say it looks like young Jeffrey certainly does have his hands full. I realize after typing all of that up that Frankenhooker might sound like one of the most ridiculous films ever made, and it really is, however Henenlotter’s style never lets the film stray on one of the ridiculous elements for too long. There really is a certain charm to the film and there really is never a dull moment, we are treated to the death by lawn mower scene before the credits even roll!

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The makeup effects in Frankenhooker are also very top notch. There are so many body parts flying around everywhere and buckets of the red stuff. There are even some creepy looking puppets near the end of film that simply have to be seen to be appreciated. There are a lot of computer generated FX, mainly involving electrical currents and they aren’t really even that bad, but then it could be you are watching a movie titled Frankenhooker you already know somewhat what you are getting involved with. Also keep your eyes open for a wonder Tales From the Crypt like ending.

Frankenhooker is definitely another one of those call up your friends and pick up some beer to enjoy films, just try to pay attention to the stuff behind the exploding bodies on the screen such as the plight of prostitutes being addicted to crack cocaine. Henenlotter’s tongue is pressed firmly in cheek but he does have some messages to convey, and a brilliant way to bring them into each and every one of our homes.

Frankenhooker is available on Bluray from Synapse Films

Frankenhooker (1990)

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