Review: Frankenhooker (18) / Director: Frank Henenlotter / Screenplay: Frank Henenlotter, Robert Martin / Starring: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Joanne Ritchie / Release Date: Out Now
Frank Henenlotter seems to have had the career that Sam Raimi would have had if he hadn’t harboured a secret desire to be taken seriously and make films with wide appeal rather than a cult following. Since debuting with Basket Case in 1982, Henenlotter has stayed firmly in the low budget horror field, churning out more and more outrageous films before taking a long hiatus between Basket Case 3 in 1992 and the little seen Bad Biology from 2008. Arrow Video are currently doing a great job of re-releasing cult classics from the '70s and '80s, with unique covers that wouldn’t have been out of place in video shops at the time and they have just released Frankenhooker from 1990 made at the peak of Henenlotter’s productivity.
Frankenhooker is a low budget scuzzy riff on the Frankenstein myth and tells the story of Jeffery Franken (James Lorinz) who loses his fiancée Elizabeth (Patty Mullen) in a bizarre accident involving a remote control lawn mower. Jeffery has been tinkering with amateur science experiments and unable to deal with the loss of his beloved, he sets about bringing her back to life after stealing her head from her remains. After many weeks of research, he realises that he must create Elizabeth a body made up of several body parts. Therefore he goes on a search for hookers in a hellish Times Square (this was the late '80s remember when NYC was generally thought of as a cess pool) he hooks up with about 8 or so prostitutes and examines them for their best parts. Due to an incident involving a ‘super crack’ that Jeffery has created, the hookers wind up exploding all over a seedy hotel room and Jeffery has all the parts that he needs. He returns to his lab and puts Elizabeth’s head back on to a body made up of various hooker limbs. During a lightning storm, Jeffery channels the electricity into the body and Elizabeth is brought back to life. Trouble is she has taken on more of the hooker traits than Elizabeth’s and has super strength. Ignoring Jeffery she heads back to the city to wreak some havoc.
For a film about bringing a dead lady back to life with dead hooker parts, Frankenhooker is played remarkably straight faced for the first half of the film. James Lorinz may not be the best actor in the world but he gives it his all, emoting where necessary and playing a driven man. Once he hits on the idea of using dead hookers as spare parts, the film shifts into full on silliness and Lorinz’s performance matches. Suddenly it is as if the actor realised that this was all a joke and starts to act really over the top. During the scenes with the ‘super crack’ (one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while) it’s not clear if Lorinz is just having a ball or if he really is this bad of an actor.
It seems silly to whine about performance and tone in a movie called Frankenhooker but I couldn’t help but be confused by the first half. The film delivers enough silly so that enjoyed with a few beers late on a Saturday it will do its job. However watching the film sober, you can’t help but think that the film didn’t go far enough in either its silliness or its gore content.
Frankenhooker is sleazy, silly fun and a document of a time when you could get away with this sort of thing in low budget films and still get a decent enough release, but there are better films in Arrow’s growing catalogue.
Extras: Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphries; Double-sided fold-out artwork poster; Exclusive collector's booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Calum Waddell; Brand New High Definition Transfer of the film (1080p); UK exclusive audio commentary with director Frank Henenlotter and star James Lorinz; UK exclusive introduction to the film by actor James Lorinz; original trailer and five featurettes - Your Date's on a Plate: The Making of Frankenhooker; A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth: Patty Mullen Remembers Frankenhooker; A Stitch In Time: The Make-Up Effects Of Frankenhooker; Turning Tricks: Jennifer Delora Remembers Frankenhooker.