Thursday, September 3, 2015

Random Horror Of The Week: Frankenhooker

Horror Sub-Genre:  Frankenstein
Year:  1990
Country:  USA
Language:  English (brief random Times Square Swedish)
Time:  85 minutes
Tagline:  None
Bonus:  Exploding Crack Smoking Prostitutes & last gasp of Gritty NYC
Watched:  Free on Hulu via IMDb
Recommendation:  Recommended for those who love low budget horror comedy, Troma Film fans, fans of Larry Cohen, true Sci-Fi nerds.
All weekly reviews contain spoilers.

The film is a "quick off production" in homage to a number of other films mostly from the 1950's & 60's.  So many parts of this film, for example, remind me of comedic in color re-imagining of The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)--only the music is better!  The basic story is the same, only told in an over-the-top silly manner.  Instead of the girlfriend being killed in a car accident, the girlfriend here, one Elizabeth Shelley (get it) gets dead via a robot lawnmower gone berserk at her father's birthday party.  Like in The Brain, the only part of her that is "salvageable" is her head.  Her fiance', one Jeffery Franken, then spirits her head away and places it in a special bath, and then goes on the search for the perfect body to which to attach the head.  If it were not for the actual Frankenstein monster element to this film, I would be inclined to call it a comedy remake of The Brain That Wouldn't Die, right down to the drugging of women to try to get them to cooperated with his plan.  That drugging by the way, goes horribly wrong--almost wonderfully wrong!  Being the mad scientist that he is, he invents a new "drive 'em crazy" crack cocaine that has very unintended consequences.

Exploding Hookers!

But, you know everything's going to be okay, because Jeffery has his own "estrogen blood serum" across the river in "Hohokam" New Jersey (looking more like the real rather idyllic Ho-Ho-Kus NJ, rather than the real Hoboken NJ--believe me I know first hand!).  This doesn't stop him from hilariously apologizing to all the dead ladies as he stuffs them into garbage bags to get them to the serum as fast as possible.  And about that name Jeffery, it may just be me, but I think it's got to be an homage to actor Jeffery Combs specifically riffing off his appearance as Herbert West in Re-Animator, right down to the colorful serum (in this case hot pink of course, because it's estrogen based). [Of course, there is also Bride Of Re-Animator--so there's that tongue in cheek, "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" reference to the super classic Bride Of Frankenstein (1935).]

When we finally get to the actual Frankenhooker part of the film--all types of hilarity ensue--with her getting loose on the streets of Manhattan screaming all sorts of stuff about johns and money in a rather robotic manner.  Though, one does have to wonder where the hell she got her Franken boots!!  This part has to be seen to be appreciated--no discription needed (though one outcome can be seen below).  Eventually, Jeffery shocks Elizabeth back to her old consciousness, only to have the tables turned on him in a twist ending--the FrankenMoster becomes the Franken Doctor!

The film was directed by cult New York independent director Frank Henenlotter who has a pretty large crowd of true devotees and "uber fans." My favorite movie of his by far, it's one of my favourite horror films period, is Basket Case. I'd only seen this film once before years ago, I didn't quite find as enjoyable on the second and third viewing recently.  In general, though his directorial output is not a long list, I haven't been as big of fan of his as I have been of Larry Cohen, or even Troma films, which are much more outrageous (to be clear, I'm a bigger fan of earlier Troma). Some of the bits that grabbed me were the blood splattered garden gnome in the aftermath of the lawnmower accident.  Also crazy funny was the news cast covering the death calling Elizabeth a "girthful finance'" and "vivacious"--saying that the lawnmower sent her personality "raining down on everyone," culminating with calling her a "tossed human salad."  And, though made in 1990--it's vibe is firmly stuck in the 1980's--my god the hair alone is scary!  On the other hand, the self trepanning that Jeffery does with a hand drill is silly--it would have been ridiculous once--but more than once, give me a break!

One the best highlights of the film for me was the appearance character actor (actress) Louise Lasser as Jeffery's mother, Mrs. Franken.  She is most well known for being in early Woody Allen films, but she has shown up in a whole host of classic television programs, had a recurring role in "Taxi" and was in the starring role "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman".  She has also shown up in other horror films, my favorite of which is The Wolves Of Wall Street (2002).  I am a fan of hers and it was a nice piece of casting.

Overall this was watchable and funny; at 85 minutes, it doesn't belabor much, though it does take longer than it really should for Frankenhooker to show up, and, in my opinion, doesn't devote nearly enough screen time to her rampaging.  I would basically say that it's "Troma Light" but it lacks the truly disgusting cheese factor that us Troma fans love, in fact from a comedic point of view, it's not disgusting at all.  But I love the New York scenery and the Jeffery Franken trolling the red light district--nice touch that!

Brain in a vat anyone!

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