Don’t you just love saying “Frankenhooker?”
I may possibly have watched Frankenhooker on a certain online video platform where it probably shouldn’t be running. I watched it with Spanish subtitles. The Spanish title was just as elegant and flowing as “Frankenhooker”, if even more shocking and vulgar: “Frankenputa.”
The VHS box cover for Frankenhooker used to be on display at the video store near my college. It had a button you could press and one of those electronic voices you find on very expensive greeting cards, very manly, would exclaim “Wanna Date?” It would make me burst into hysterical laughter for no good reason.
Directed by: Frank Henenlotter
Written by: Robert Martin, Frank Henenlotter
Notable cast: Joseph Gonzalez, Heather Hunter, Shirley Stoler, Louise Lasser, James Lorinz, Patty Mullen
Plot: In this horror comedy, the gruesome death of his girlfriend Elizabeth (Patty Mullen) in a lawn mower accident inspires hobby scientist Jeff Franken (James Lorinz) to re-assemble her using Elizabeth’s head and a variety of body parts he has “harvested” from a group of attractive New York City prostitutes. A convenient thunderstorm gets the experiment underway as “Frankenhooker” is set to roam the streets of New York. – source: ROttenTomatoes.com
Commentary: One wonders what Mary Shelley – or even her mom – might have made of Frankenhooker. This movie is of course a morass of 1980’s Z-grade Troma titillation, a heaping serving of WTF exploitation that has built a cult following. I myself am torn between being severely entertained and being ashamed to take the time to view a movie that has exploding prostitutes, boob monsters, weird pseudo-transphobia, and a mad scientist with a Jersey accent and an absolutely pathetic view of women. It’s not that I didn’t laugh – I did – but I have no way of taking this personally, and 9 times of out 10 I love Z-grade trash.
And with that said, is there actually a subversive progressive element to Frankenhooker? I’ve been reading and Twitter following a few sex workers’ rights advocates. There is a segment where Jeff Franken is watching a talk show with a Morton Downey, Jr. analogue is questioning a woman advocating for legalizing prostitution, citing reasons of safety and control for the prostitutes. The talk show host is of course deriding them and asking himself and his audience what it would cost inn taxes to pay for prostitutes’ condoms, motel rooms, etc.
And then we have our titular Frankenhooker, creating chaos all over Manhattan for johns and pimps. Grant Morrison’s idea of a female Frankenstein’s Monster as the reincarnation of Kali is an idea that really has legs, the more I think about it (see my post on Penny Dreadful‘s Lily Frankenstein, another Frankenstein-revived killer prostitute).
- The movie is authentic 1980s grime, and Times Square, as well as New Jersey, are characters in this film. You don’t need nostalgia shows about gritty Times Square when you can watch Frankenhooker.
- Gorgeous adult film star Heather Hunter is in this movie. Hunter was ubiquitous on The Robin Byrd Show, the infamous and iconic New York City public access porn talk show.
- The ending is ridiculous and absurd, but what is it about? Homophobia? Transphobia? Feminist revenge?
What We’re Afraid Of: This movie probably isn’t designed to engender any fear. But for the reasons stated above, women and sex workers may very well have reason to fear.
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