While its certainly not for everyone, I think Frankenhooker is an amusing and brilliant horror comedy with its unique and bizarre mix of tones.
This 90s’ cult film from director Frank Henenlotter is about Jeffrey Franken, a medical school drop-out who is trying to rebuild his deceased girlfriend with body parts from exploded prostitutes.
You’d fear that Frankenhooker would revel in the obscene side of its premise and would simply consist of toilet humour. Fortunately the film doesn’t do that. It indulges in the ridiculous side, glorifying the silly notion of a scientist making a Frankenstein’s monster out of New York prostitutes.
The best and most amusing example of Frankenhooker‘s comedy is the scene where Jeffrey attains the required body parts. He hires a group of prostitutes and, unintentionally, allows a bag of ‘super crack’ he made to fall into their possession. The substance causes the women to explode like fireworks in an incredible montage of exploding mannequins, with limbs and sparks flying all over the place.
If Frankenhooker consisted of nothing but absurdest humour, I’d probably consider it to be nothing but an intentional so-bad-its-good film that was trying too hard. Frankenhooker doesn’t just indulge in the comedic angle of its premise but also the horrific and dramatic ones.
There’s a very poignant scene where Jeffrey and his mother have a talk, discussing his grief following his girlfriend’s death. He says he’s become antisocial, losing his sense of right and wrong and worries he’s descending into madness. The scene is dramatic as it attempts to make us understand and empathise with Jeffrey.
There are moments of tension and disgusting body horror in Frankenhooker. The best example of the film’s tension is when Jeffrey goes to a pimp called Zorro to discuss hiring some prostitutes. The atmosphere is tense as Jeffrey enters Zorro’s lair, moving through narrow corridors that are covered in graffiti and crawling with thugs and hookers.
In terms of gore and body horror the most disgusting scene occurs towards the end of the film. I won’t spoil it but in the words of James Rolfe in his 2016 Monster Madness series, “it needs to be seen to be believed”.
With its balance of comedy, horror and drama, I think Frankenhooker is kind of amazing. Its not for everyone, some may find the mixture of tones disturbing but if you want to laugh and see something you haven’t seen before, I highly recommend Frankenhooker.
I give Frankenhooker a loving 8 out of 10.