Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Frankenhooker (1990)

"If you only see one movie this year, it should be Frankenhooker"
-Bill Murray

Frank Henenlotter, the genius (yes, this label definitely applies) behind Basket Case and Brain Damage is back with perhaps his wildest, and funniest, picture, Frankenhooker. Ignore the "PG" on the poster above, this one is a fairly hard R, full of breasts, thongs, exploding hookers, drug use, and a look into the seedier side of vintage Times Square. Also included is an absolute looney tunes performance by James Lorinz as Jeffrey Franken, the resident med school dropout/electrician/inventor. Lorinz is almost overshadowed by former Penthouse Pet, Patty Mullen as Elizabeth Shelley, Franken's overweight fiance/lawnmower victim. I'm thinking you should probably stop reading now and just see the thing.

Franken and Shelley lead a quiet, pre-title sequence, New Jersey type of life. He messes around in his fiance's kitchen attempting to register some kind of higher function in a brain that he stuffed with a giant eyeball while Shelley (Mullens in a fat suit) entertains the guests outside who've arrived for her father's birthday. Shelley presents her father with his gift, a souped up radio control lawn mower invented by Franken. The lawn mower turns on, runs out of control, runs over Shelley and later we see a reporter describing her as being "instantly reduced to a tossed human salad." Also, certain parts of her (in particular, her head) have gone missing. Hmmmm...

Jeffrey Franken is traumatized by the accident. He tells his mother he's becoming "antisocial, dangerously amoral, can't tell right from wrong" and finishes with "I'm scared Ma!" to which his mother replies "let me make you a sandwich." Of course, this is just the sort of enabler he needs to continue his experiments in reanimation. He'll find his girlfriend a new body, a less fat one. He explains all this to Shelley's head over a romantic Italian dinner of pizza and a nice Bojole wine. He then shows her pictures of her head on new bodies (all naked, of course). "I could make you the centerfold goddess of the century! I just need the right parts."

After drilling into his head to jar his brain, he comes up with the perfect idea: Hookers. He drives into Times Square, meets a couple, deals with their pimp, buys some crack, and arranges to meet a gaggle of hookers the following night. He's got the dough and he'll have the blow. Of course, he's also a chemist so he modifies that crack a bit, turns it into "supercrack", tests it on his guinea pig and, after seeing the results, declares "this could get ugly." Shit man, there is a lot of plot going on here. Without going much further, let's just say he feeds the crack to the hookers, they explode, and he takes the body parts back to his garage laboratory where he puts his fiance back together and reanimates her with a well timed lightning bolt. Only, when she comes back it was not exactly as the Elizabeth he had hoped for. Now, he's got to deal with his fiance (turned into a lethal hooker), this pimp named Zorro, and several moral conundrums.

This picture is pretty close to perfection. James Lorinz and his perfect Joisy accent is absolutely hilarious as Franken. If I had to single out one scene, it would be where he's trying to rationalize giving these hookers a lethal form of crack that he knows will separate their limbs from their torsos; "I'm not killing anyone, it's not like I'm holding a gun to their head" and "They can always just say no. It's not me, it's the crack." If he just puts the crack down on a table or something and they happen to use it, it's not his fault. The drug will kill them eventually anyway. He's just "speeding up the process."

Mullen is almost as good as Franken's creation, a stitched together abomination of a hooker. Purple hair, a black forearm, I think an Asian leg, etc. She twitches, spasms, repeats things like "wanna date", "lookin for some action" and "got some money" ad nauseum. This ain't the woman Franken was engaged to marry. She's an amalgamation of every hooker he blew up. It's a great physical performance from the former Penthouse Pet and I don't just say that because she bares her breasts.

The special effects in this picture are awful, but loveable. Clearly the exploding hookers are dynamyted mannequins. That's fine, just adds to the fun. There's a scene at the end where flailing, shunted body parts leap out of a fridge that probably stole all the effects budget. I loved Franken's explanation for why he can only reanimate females (he "deals strictly with an estrogen based blood serum"). This also explains the hilarious, and predictable, finale.

If this sounds like the height of camp, well I suppose it is. Still, it feels more grounded somehow. This isn't a Troma picture (thankfully). There's no winking at the camera, no singing. I mean, we get ridiculous lines like (when Franken is measuring a hooker's breasts) "if I take the circumference and divide that by Pi..." and "nice bouyancy" but they're all delivered fairly straight (or, as straight as Lorinz can muster which I suppose isn't very). The world of the picture may not be our world, but it's Hell, maybe Times Square was really like this twenty years ago with crazy pimp branded hookers, wild crack parties, random Rutger Hauer sightings (I swear that was him), and a guy in a bar who explodes after going down on frankenhooker under the table.

When the hell is Bad Biology going to be available for my viewing pleasure?


elmo said...

Cough it up, bizz-atch.

brian said...

I'll bring it saturday.

Megmo Eskimo said...

WOW...exploding hookers, "a human lawnmower salad," supercrack AND a pimp named Zorro??!! What more does a film need????

Fab review, Bri!! By far one of your best :)

F-Stop said...

You had me at "overweight fiance/lawnmower victim" but then you lost me at exploding guinea pigs.

I agree with Megmo though. Excellent review.