Stream to Scream: “FRANKENHOOKER”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
From what this writer hears and sees on a daily basis, many horror fans are turned off by what is being offered in the wave of modern macabre cinema these days. And while those fans might be a little dramatic and potentially a little blind to the excellent output on the independent level, this writer can agree that, in most cases, horror filmmakers just don’t make ‘em like they used to. Case in point: FRANKENHOOKER, the type of film that is both equally absurd and astonishing yet would never, ever be produced today.
So, what is FRANKENHOOKER? As much as the title is as apt as apt can be, the film follows a socially introverted scientist whose fiance is accidentally killed by a remote-controlled lawn mower. In his desperation to bring her back, the scientist devises a solution to revive her yet needs the property parts as her body was torn to shreds. Ultimately, the scientist decides to put her back together using parts from NYC prostitutes, but as one might expect, everything doesn’t go exactly to plan.
From the twisted mind of genre great Frank Henenlotter, FRANKENHOOKER is an absolutely hilarious horror flick that impressively makes the most of its FX budget as well as its crazy concept. Very loosely running off the guidelines of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, Henenlotter’s FRANKENHOOKER pulls no punches for the sake of storytelling, offering everything from killer crack rocks to tons of nudity as well as a focus on character and humor. And while the easily offended might want to steer clear from the title alone, FRANKENHOOKER also contains a certain amount of heart in the proceedings, with Henenlotter’s love for the lurid shining through his characters and set pieces that serves as a refreshing change-of-pace from the all-too-cynical horror output of today.
However, another reason FRANKENHOOKER works as well as it does thanks the the inherent ‘80s appeal of Henenlotter’s wicked work, evoking a time and atmosphere that contemporary films just cannot replicate. Firstly, FRANKENHOOKER is ingrained in a New York City culture that simply doesn’t exist anymore, where street-walking prostitutes were much more common, the NYC nightlife was a bit more dangerous and eccentric, and there was a bit more personality in the sleaziness of it all. Secondly, the FX on display is imaginative, gooey and decidedly off-beat in nature, a staple of Henenlotter’s splattery, surreal scare fare. And lastly, the appropriately exaggerated performances on display match the insane action on the screen, and help bring Henenlotter’s horror-fueled humor to life.
In fact, if anything, FRANKENHOOKER is relatively tame in the outright horror elements, even if it features exploding bodies, decapitations and disgusting FX work. With the exception of maybe the penultimate scene in the film, there is rarely any moments of FRANKENHOOKER played for scares as opposed to dark amusement. Even the goriest sequences of the film are so over-the-top and hilarious that it’s even hard to call the film gross-out entertainment as one is just as likely to be laughing or cheering as they would be gagging.
But above all, FRANKENHOOKER is a fantastic marriage of colorful filmmaking and off-color content that rarely rears its head these days, especially with the passion Henenlotter instills in the film. While a lot of contemporary horror filmmakers turn to Carpenter, Cronenberg, Polanski and Craven for inspiration, perhaps more jaded fright fans might be more willing to return to the genre should a filmmaker or two take Henenlotter’s lead for more icky, eerie on-screen madness.
FRANKENHOOKER is currently streaming on Hulu and Shudder.