‘Frankenhooker’: Movie Review

When Mary Shelley first envisioned the concept of Victor Frankenstein and his monster, she never could have imagined the impact her creation would have on the horror community.

The eight-foot creature, assembled from old body parts, first debuted in Shelley’s gothic story in 1818, and it wouldn’t take long for him to make the jump to the stage.

Frankenstein’s monster would make his first recorded theatrical appearance in Richard Brinsley Peake’s 1823 play titled ‘Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein.’ Along with it being his first appearance on stage, it also marked the first appearance of Victor Frankenstein’s faithful servant Fritz, better known today as Igor.

This would be the only adaptation that Mary Shelley would ever see of her work before her death in 1851.

1910 would mark Frankenstein’s monster’s film debut in Edison Studios’ sixteen-minute silent film ‘Frankenstein.’ The creature’s most iconic role would come in Universal Studios’ ‘Frankenstein’ in 1931. It was shortly after this film’s release that the monster would adopt its creator’s name and be forever known as Frankenstein.      

Shelley’s vision would continue to grace the screen in different forms over the years until Frank Henenlotter’s 1990 film ‘Frankenhooker’ took the character in a direction that no one would have ever thought imaginable.

‘Frankenhooker,’ the first film in history to ever receive an “S” rating from the MPAA, for “shit,” followed the character of Jeffrey Franken who, following the tragic death of his fiancée Elizabeth, devises a plan to bring her back from the dead. The problem is that her body was ripped to pieces and the only remaining parts he could salvage were her head and one of her hands.

Needing a new body for his fiancée, he devises a plan to kill a New York City prostitute, as it would be unlikely anyone would notice if one of them disappeared.

Jeffrey lures a large group of prostitutes to a hotel room under the pretence that he is planning to throw a party and needs to find the “perfect woman.” His plan is to give them a lethal dose of “super crack” that Jeffrey himself created. The prostitutes find the “super crack” and start smoking it, which results in them exploding.

Jeffrey collects the scattered body parts and rushes back to his lab, where he is able to bring Elizabeth back to life. The problem is her mind is fractured and she begins speaking and acting like the dead prostitutes her body now consists of.   

Elizabeth overpowers Jeffrey and heads to the streets of New York, where she starts unintentionally killing people.

Following an altercation with the dead prostitutes’ pimp, Zorro, Jeffrey is able to escape back to his lab with Elizabeth and successfully restore her mind. Zorro meanwhile tracks Jeffrey and Elizabeth back to the lab for the final showdown.

In a finale that involves reanimated creatures made of the left-over pieces of prostitutes, a beheading, and a final experiment, you’re left wondering if maybe sometimes one isn’t better off dead. 

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The movie sets up the premise quickly, as it doesn’t take long for the heroine to meet her end at the blades of a rogue, souped-up lawnmower.

Following this opening scene, the movie abruptly slows its pace and for the next fifty minutes, the movie relies heavily on the acting performance of James Lorinz as the neurotic Franken, who manages to deliver in every scene.

His ability to play each scene with conviction is what allows this movie to ride out the long runtime until we meet our reanimated heroine. From plunging a drill into his head to attempting to solicit prostitutes, you never get the sense that Lorinz doesn’t deliver on every line.

The scene where he is examining each prostitute to find the perfect woman would not have worked as well as it did if not for Lorinz’s ability to act the scene as seriously as he did. The fact that he delivers his lines with such a straight face allows you to stay in the moment. If he would have smirked at the camera at any point throughout this movie, it wouldn’t have worked as well as it did.

His deadpan performance in an insane film is, I believe, what makes this movie work. 

His performance, as good as it was throughout the movie, is quickly overshadowed by the performance of Patty Mullen when she debuts as the resurrected Elizabeth. The fact that she practically shouts every line of dialogue, mixed with her ability to move her upper and lower lip in different directions simultaneously, although a subtle action, helped relay the fact that the person we see on screen is severely unhinged.

Just like Lorinz, Mullen delivers in every scene and conveys that she is giving everything into this character. She never once makes you feel like she isn’t a walking, reanimated hooker.

If you’re a fan of bad movies, then this movie is a must-watch for you. From the terrible special effects (clearly mannequins blowing up in the “super crack” scene) to every laughable death scene throughout this movie to the “what the hell” final battle that words can’t do justice to, this film establishes itself as the queen of B-movies.

If you are not a fan of movies that fall under the they’re so bad, they’re good category, then you are going to want to stay away from this movie. You will not enjoy yourself because, at the core, this movie is completely bonkers.

On a scale of 1-5 stars, I give this movie 4 stars.

I would have given it full marks if it wasn’t for the fact that it took a little too long for Mullen to debut as ‘Frankenhooker’ because once she arrived, this movie really got started. Not to take anything away from Lorinz, but her scenes were hysterical and the best in the film. 

This is a movie I will definitely be watching again and again.

‘Frankenhooker’ is currently available to watch on Shudder (US).