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Frankenhooker (1990)

Review

Author
Date
07-08-2004
Comments

Frank Henenlotter, the director of Frankenhooker and other films I've had the pleasure to see, is someone I'd like to meet. If his movies are any indication of his character, there isn't a pretentious bone in the man's body. He's a master in the art of grindhouse exploitation sleaze. His stories invariably involve seedy characters set in even seedier locations engaging in the seediest actions imaginable. And this is what sets Henenlotter's work a step ahead of the pack, because he's got a wonderfully demented imagination. Add to this a twisted sense of humor, a determination to offend, and a dash of social commentary. The end product is still garbage, but it's garbage of the highest grade.

In this outing, the viewer is introduced to Jeffrey, a New Jersey doctor wannabe who works for the electric company. He wasn't exactly normal even before his fiancée was accidentally turned into mincemeat by one of his inventions, a remote-controlled lawnmower. Prior to the accident he was attempting to perfect a living biological specimen that combined a brain and an eyeball. Now, things have progressed from eccentric to downright bizarre. He still has the eyebrain, which he keeps in a fish tank. He also has the head of his fiancée preserved in a chemical vat. He occasionally takes out the head and treats it to candlelit dinners, poetry, and wine.

His primary objective, in the true Dr. Frankenstein spirit, is to piece together a body, attach the head of his beloved, and then zap her back to life. It's a complicated plan, so when inspiration is needed he drills holes into his brain. His solution is to whip up a batch of supercrack that, when smoked, causes the user to explode. Now all he needs is a motel room and some hookers, and everything else will fall into place. Unfortunately, like Dr. Frankenstein, he runs across a variety of factors that he just didn't account for. Far be it for me to ruin the surprises, but just to give you an idea, some of these factors involve personality changes, gender changes, mass bodily dismemberment, sex that is literally electrifying, and a pimp named Zorro who's built like a beer keg and is not known for his patience.

Watching this movie had me in stitches the entire time (yeah, clever pun, moving on). It reads like a splatter film, and there are plenty of scenes that deliver the goods in that area, but the handling of the material is pure black humor. This is a picture that gleefully goes over the top at every opportunity. In other parts the humor is a bit subtler, which in turn requires some skill on the part of the actors. Fortunately, the performances in Frankenhooker bring it off quite well. James Lorinz gives Jeffrey a smooth blend of psychonerd personality, and Patty Mullen uses hilarious body language in more ways than one for the part of the resurrected fiancée. But my hat has to go off to Louise Lasser, who plays Jeffrey's mother. She's got a lot of pictures under her belt, many of them under the direction of Woody Allen. She has one scene, and she damn near steals the movie with it.

So, in the end we've got an original take on the Frankenstein story, as only Henenlotter could bring it. Sick, depraved, morbidly funny, ultraviolent, and highly recommended from a personality type who can appreciate this kind of entertainment. If you're reading this, you should have a good idea whether or not this is your thing. Check it out. Bring a date if you're feeling bold. It can either solidify the bond between you or break it completely, depending on the desired effect.

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