At last. After rejecting as feminist horror films the likes of I Spit On Your Grave, Death Proof, and Lady Frankenstein, I finally found my anti-rape culture terror flick. It is Frankenhooker, and it is glorious!
Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) fulfills the Dr. Frankenstein role here. He has been kicked out of medical school several times and now works for the power company in New Jersey. Also an inventor, he built a super-duper remote controlled lawnmower for his girlfriend (appropriately named Elizabeth Shelley and played by Patty Mullen) to give her dad for his birthday. Alas, while testing it, poor Elizabeth is mowed to pieces in at her dad’s birthday cookout, causing what the amateurish local news calls her personality to spray all over the guests.
It turns out to be important that the news reporter described her body as her personality, because when Jeffrey brings Elizabeth back to life using her head and brain but the body parts of six or eight hookers, Elizabeth wakes up possessing the memories of all the dead hookers. Then she takes the train right out of Jersey and goes straight to Times Square. It turns out that in this story, a woman’s personality is in her body parts. (But of course, misogynists of the world knew that this whole time.) Repeating phrases the hookers said during their last two days of life, she kills several guys with electrified kisses and a supercharged vagina until Jeffrey finds her and brings her back to his mom’s (Louise Lasser) house. Yep, he even lives in the basement.
Elizabeth has by this time blown a fuse, so Jeffrey jump starts her, and she mentally becomes herself again, although she is confused and then angry at what he has done. However, she doesn’t have time to deal with Jeffery, because just as he is crowing about the way that they are going to spend the rest of their lives together, the hookers’ pimp Zorro (Joseph Gonzalez) shows up and cuts his fool head off with a machete. Not to worry. Jeffrey left good notes, and Elizabeth is able to put him back together again. But there’s a catch: Jeffrey’s homemade technology only allows him to bring women back to life, so Elizabeth attaches his head to a female body. Now at least one man knows what it’s like to be the sum of one’s female parts! *evil mad scientist laugh from your humble blogger goes here*
Although the sickness of the story is entertaining enough to stand alone, this is good satire. Elizabeth’s family acts like they came from the 50s, which was a sure sign of satire in the 80s. Jeffrey makes a speech to his mom about gazing into the abyss and she asks if he’d like a sandwich. Times Square is here in all it’s former glory, before it became a tourist destination, and basically the neighborhood is a character in the film. There’s a great bit where some Japanese tourists take pictures of Elizabeth as Frankenhooker while standing in front of a lit-up Fuji film ad, but mostly the area is full of lowlifes. The Times Square inhabitants are basically already the walking dead due to crack and human slavery, and a scene in the men’s room where Zorro holds court could go toe to toe with any horror vision of hell itself. The girls are supposed to be scared of Zorro, yet he is knocked out by the flying head of an exploded hooker and ends up as we last see him being dragged away by reanimated hooker parts that have reassembled themselves monstrously and as they see fit.
On the TV in the middle of the film there’s a woman on a Morton Downey type talk show complaining that prostitution should be legalized because it would eliminate the drugs and the pimping, but that solution still doesn’t do away with the idea of selling human beings. Anyway, who is the most dangerous? Is it Zorro? Elizabeth? No, it’s Jeffrey, the killer john. Without the attitude necessary to reduce women to boobs, asses, and legs for sale, there would be no Zorro and no need to get girls hooked on crack. You could make the business as legal and safe as possible, but the fact would remain that some men want to buy women. The money exchanged takes the place of consent. When Elizabeth turns it around and does surgery on Jeffrey without asking him what he thinks, he finds out what it’s like to have someone else making all the decisions. This movie takes the Frankenstein theme of the danger of playing God and applies it to gender politics in the form of an estrogen solution and some crude stitches.
Then again, nobody ever thinks to get advance permission to reanimate someone should death by dismemberment occur. And of course, it’s only a movie.