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  • Rev Horror

Frankenhooker

Dir. Frank Henenlotter (1990)

A medical student seeks to resurrect his dead fiancee by using the bodies of prostitutes.


The Frankenstein mythology, originally told by Mary Shelley in the 1818 novel of the same name, tells the story of a brilliant scientist who builds a body simply to show that he can. The lessons of the book, about the dangers of playing God and dabbling in science that you neither fully understand nor can control, have echoed throughout the history of horror. Bits and pieces of the narrative are present in every mad scientist story, and the mishandling of technology exists all throughout science fiction.


Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) is a failure as a medical student but a pretty damn good electrician. He designs a remote-controlled lawnmower for his girlfriend Elizabeth's (Patty Mullen) father, and when she accidentally is chopped into bits by the contraption, he vows to rebuild her out of fresh parts. In searching for the perfect combination of attributes, Jeffrey hires a bunch of prostitutes, intending to choose the best one and poison them with his designer drug, essentially a super-crack cocaine that makes its users explode. When the party gets out of hand, killing all of the prostitutes in the party, Jeffrey takes them all back to his lab and builds a brand new lover out of the best parts of them all, creating a... Franken Hooker.

Director Frank Henenlotter takes full advantage of the cesspool that was 80's New York, back before Giuliani used the power of taxpayers and fascism to clean it all up. As in his previous cult classic Basket Case, Henenlotter makes Frankenhooker into a movie that feels as sleazy as it looks. Soiled sidewalks, scantily clad hookers, and crack cocaine form the backdrop for a science fiction story that combines the best of Shelley's classic with modern B-movie horror. A later addition to the Troma catalogue, the film feels every bit representative of the company while becoming a cult classic in its own right.

It's a better movie as a whole than most Troma films, however, though it does a phenomenal job of blending a more upscale version of their laugh-out-loud humor with hilariously dated special effects. It's also entirely 80's, despite actually releasing in 1990. The feel of the film, from neon backdrops to the disgusting streets of New York City, dates the film to its potential detriment while also retaining an odd charm for those who miss the era (yours truly included). Mullen's performance as the titular Frankenhooker is fantastic, a stilted and wooden delivery that hearkens back to Karloff all the grace of the Toxie, and Lorinz's Franken is wonderfully deranged and hilarious. Don't be mistaken, however: this movie is far more Henenlotter than it is Hertz and Kaufman.

There's so much to love about this film, and I can't believe I didn't watch it until now. It's trashy as hell, and it's a film that feels disgusting. It's also uproariously funny, patently absurd, and a fantastic representation of both the era of American in which it was made and the quality of horror made during that time period as well. Copious nudity, vibrant colors, and a pulsey soundtrack fit the style to perfection, and it's well worth a watch for any fans of 80's horror. While it's certainly lacking in a few areas, most noticeably its visual effects and some film quality, it's a delight to watch and it's easily understandable why the film became a cult classic. And phew, that ending... some of the best and most disgusting body horror ever.


Who this movie is for: 80's horror lovers, Troma fanatics, Failed med school students


Bottom line: Frankenhooker delivers everything that was wonderfully perverse about 80's New York City with a style and sense of humor that you can only find in that late-decade sweet spot. It's a fantastic film, brutally funny, fantastically perverse, and cheesy as all hell. I highly recommend checking it out if you're a fan of 80's horror or Troma in general, and it's streaming right now on Peacock. Just don't watch it at work like I did.

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