MAY 22, 2010
I know a lot of Frank Henenlotter fans, all of whom are constantly trying to get me to watch his films (as do HMAD readers such as Pyro, who recommended this one a while back), but Frankenhooker is the first time I’ve actually watched one all the way through. An attempt at watching Brain Damage in high school resulted in falling asleep and never going back, and I recently “watched” Basket Case 2 (or 3?) at a party but as we were all talking the whole time I couldn’t tell you a goddamn thing about it. And even Frankenhooker was sort of forced on me by my friends who “let” me borrow many of his films so I can finally catch up.
Well, it’s certainly an enjoyable film, but I can’t see myself wanting to watch it again (at least, not at home - maybe a revival screening would entice me), as it’s a bit too slight for my tastes. It takes a bit for Frankenhooker to actually be created, and she instantly gets loose and the rest of the movie is simply our hero (the Andrew McCarthy-esque James Lorinz) trying to find her. There aren’t any major complications, no other characters to identify with, etc. On the DVD, we learn that the movie was literally made up on the spot during a pitch meeting, so I guess it’s no surprise that it’s a one joke premise with little meat on its bones.
But it’s still amusing in its own cheesy, ridiculous way, not unlike a Troma film (though nowhere near as graphic). There are a number of great sight gags, such as when the obviously demented Dr. Franken (and the titular character’s surname is Shelley) “fixes” a framed photo on the wall by making it crooked, or when he offers a disembodied head some wine and it pools around the neckline. Plus, we have an extended scene of hookers blowing up due to smoking some explosive crack. Dead hookers are always funny.
I want to talk a bit more about Lorinz, who manages to make Franken likable despite the fact that he’s a selfish jerk and also batshit insane. I mean really, the entire movie boils down to a guy making a “perfect” body for his overweight girlfriend, using hookers that he killed without any remorse. But Lorinz brings an affable charm to the role that made him hard to dislike (for the record he’s not really portrayed as a villain - but if you think about it, he IS one). Though I still took pleasure in the ironic ending, which finds him essentially turned into a woman (oddest form of “just desserts” ever?).
I also enjoyed seeing all of the late 80s New York scenery (love the Burton Batman logo in Times Square!!). It seems a lot of independent horror films in the late 80s and early 90s were NY based, and their guerilla style productions allow them to film wherever or whatever the hell they want without getting caught (i.e. filming actual hookers). It must have been a great time and place to be an upcoming filmmaker, PA and other crew jobs must have been a dime a dozen during the period. And who’d choose working on some bland Hollywood production over working on something called Frankenhooker?
The DVD is jampacked with stuff, though sadly most of it can be skipped. The commentary with Henenlotter and makeup FX artist Gabe Bartalos is definitely worth the listen - they speak candidly about crew issues (apparently the DP was a nightmare to work with), the film’s origin, a castmate’s suicide... the whole nine yards. There’s also a great Bill Murray story that simply must be heard to be believed. And the 10 minute interview with Frankenhooker herself, Patty Mullen (who is smoking hot these days - how is it possible that this was her 3rd and final movie?) is very fast and fun. The same cannot be said for the other extras, which consist of Bartalos talking about his FX, though he does it in front of a strip club and other odd locations, and it goes on forever. My advice would be to shut it off after he talks about the Frankenhooker makeup design. And you can completely skip the recollections of Jennifer Delora, who played one of the hookers, as she speaks for a total of 35 minutes about her 90 seconds of screentime. Some of her anecdotes are a bit amusing, but she’s so annoying and takes so long to tell them, it’s not worth the effort to hear them (unless you are a fan of hers from her other stuff - if so then you will probably love the interview!). Trivia - these pieces are directed by Scooter McCrae, director of the equally overlong and pointless Shatter Dead. Good to know his DVD bonus features are produced with the same mentality as his films.
I’ve heard that this is Henenlotter’s best movie, which sucks as I like to see a filmmaker’s “average” film first. Like with Carpenter - you don’t want to start with Halloween or The Thing, because then it’s all downhill (my advice, for the record: start with something like They Live, and then go in reverse from that point. Then watch everything that came after at your convenience; no rush). Since I didn’t love the movie, I’m going to find it hard to muster up the enthusiasm to watch ones that aren’t as good. Bad Biology sounds like a wonderfully perverse delight though, maybe I’ll watch that one next.
What say you?