From the 1931 Universal classic which defined the green neck bolted look of the Monster to Kenneth Branagh’s worthy adaptation with every comedy, parody and crazy twist in-between the simple story of obsession, creation, love and man’s desire to have power over life and death has stayed relevant and prevalent since it was first published in 1818.
The 1990’s comedy horror Frankenhooker may not appear at first to be one of the more faithful, respectful or innovative adaptations on Shelley’s serious story however underneath all the sex, gore and violence there are some interesting elements which surprisingly elevate this above average.
A film that gives its plot away in its title Frankenhooker revolves around Jersey boy and aspiring scientist Jeffrey Franken who becomes obsessed with bringing his beloved back from the dead after she is killed in a freak automated lawnmower accident.
Determined to give his fiancé the perfect vessel he concocts a plan to use the body of a prostitute procured from New York’s shady streets. However after the super drug he has invented to lure them in causes the bevy of bad girls to explode he finds himself having to hastily sew together body parts while on the run from the law and a badass pimp.
Shocking his mismatched masterpiece into life he discovers all has not gone well for his insane plan, and instead of the woman he once loved returning to him he has created a mismatched monster with a psyche snatched from a host of hookers and a body prone to falling apart; all which gets a lot worse when his Frankenhooker breaks loose and heads out onto the streets.
Directed and co-written by Frank Henenlotter Frankenhooker is packed full of nudity, graphic gore and wonderfully crazy moments such as one scene featuring an exploding guinea pig on super crack all of which you would expect from the man behind Basket Case 1 to 3.
The pleasant surprise is that the story is well done and the acting is excellent. The film takes the time to develop the character of Jeffrey Franken, charting his descent into madness with pathos as well as parody and Street Trash’s James Lorinz does a great job balancing both remaining strangely sympathetic even when psychotically performing brain surgery on himself with a power drill.
Former Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen is equally excellent playing both Jeffery’s fiancé Elizabeth Shelley and the sex obsessed Frankenhooker with aplomb. Giving a great physical performance she struts around spasming and gurning as she wreaks havoc on the New York streets. Quite tragically she’s stuck in a loop of the combined last few hours of all the dead women she is made from displayed in her dialogue which is made up entirely from the prostitutes previous lines.
The gore is gratuitous and well done, especially the make-up for the Frankenhooker herself and the special effects on the deeply disturbing John Carpenter-esque ending – which takes body horror to a level beyond the Troma and Fantastic Factory feel that the rest of the film has.
With elements of Weird Science, Re-Animator and obviously Frankenstein the film still very much remains its own movie thanks to the clever combination of humor, horror and a more serious side which stops the film slipping into a boring parody.
Frankenhooker may not be everyone’s idea of entertainment but it is a funny gorefest well worth watching, especially for the principle performances.
I’m sure if she were resurrected from death, Mary Shelley would have loved it.