Sunday, October 30, 2011

#440. Frankenhooker (1990)

Directed By: Frank Henenlotter

Starring: James Lorinz, Joanne Ritchie, Patty Mullen

Tag line: "She's hot. She's sexy. And she's sutured to please"

Trivia:  A family in the movie is called Shelley...after Mary Shelley, the original author of Frankenstein

As Frankenhooker opens, mad scientist Jeffrey (James Lorinz) is in the midst of conducting a crucial experiment. Having grafted an eyeball onto a human brain, Jeffrey is hoping to stimulate his newest 'creation' so that the eye will follow his hand as he waves it. He picks up a scalpel and gently buries it into the brain, then drives it even deeper with a hammer he pulls out of a toolbox. This slight adjustment seems to do the trick, causing the eyeball to move independently. Jeffrey's jubilation at this success is interrupted when his girlfriend's mother (Joanne Ritchie) asks him to pass the ketchup.

Ok, so Jeffrey isn't conducting his experiments in a lab; he's at a kitchen table. And maybe he isn't exactly a mad scientist, or indeed any sort of scientist at all. Truth is, Jeffrey's flunked out of med school three times, and works as an everyday stiff at the local power plant. Still, he has a dream, and he's gonna follow it to wherever it might take him.

But Jeffrey's dream quickly turns into a nightmare when one of his latest inventions, a remote controlled lawnmower, accidentally runs over his fiance, Elizabeth (Patty Mullen), chopping her up into little pieces. Unwilling to part with the love of his life, Jeffrey gathers as many of Elizabeth's body parts as he can find, including her head, and preserves them for future use. What 'future use', you ask? Well, Jeffrey feels he's ready to take his research to the next level, and hopes to successfully graft Elizabeth's head onto the body of another woman, perhaps even the perfect woman, in order to bring her back to life. To this end, Jeffrey scours the streets of New York, looking for the most beautiful prostitute he can find. With the help of a super-potent drug he's concocted, Jeffrey sets his plan into motion, but will his conscience allow him to follow through with it?

I recognized James Lorinz right off the bat as the wise-ass doorman from 1987's Street Trash, a minor role that also marked his big-screen debut. Here, Lorinz is the star, and while he wasn't destined to walk off with any awards for his performance as Jeffrey (nor should he have), he does a fine job carrying the first two-thirds of the movie by himself. We spend a great deal of time early on alone with Jeffrey in his bedroom, where he talks with him mother (Louise Lasser) and, from time to time, drills into his own head, an action he's convinced helps him to think more clearly. At one point, Jeffrey even sits down at the dinner table with Elizabeth's severed head, carrying on a conversation with her as he pours wine into her mouth (which promptly drains right out of the bottom). For most of the movie, Frankenhooker is a one-man show, and Lorinz proved the right man for the job.

On paper, Frankenhooker has all the makings of a bloody slasher film, with severed limbs and flying body parts aplenty. But director Frank Henenlotter chose instead to focus on the humor of the story, with almost no blood whatsoever (not even where seven hookers explode into pieces). Though occasionally shocking, the film is never gratuitous, and is always more interested in getting a laugh then in making its audience squirm.

No comments: