Frankenhooker – A Mad Scientist In New Jersey

Country: United States
Genre: Satire/ Exploitation/ Horror/ Science Fiction
Director: Frank Henenlotter
Year: 1990

Rating: ★★½☆☆


Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz), a budding mad scientist, has been kicked out of several medical schools. His day job is at a power plant in New Jersey, from which he smuggles parts for his lab in the garage. He’s engaged to Elizabeth (Patty Mullen), a typical airhead from New Jersey.

One day, when an accident happens at a backyard picnic, Jeffrey’s got to find a way to put back the pieces. And right over the bridge into New York City, there are plenty of body parts for sale, or at least there were back when Frankenhooker was filmed in 1990.

Writer/director Frank Henenlotter knew he wasn’t going to have much of a budget, or gifted actors, so he didn’t even bother to try to make a good movie. All he’s after is cheap laughs.

To be fair, he gets them, up to a point.

Frankenhooker lampoons the streetwalker scene at the time in New York, and Henenlotter earns some chuckles by placing the Frankenstein story in New Jersey. His hero, Jeffrey Franken, doesn’t try to hide what he’s doing from his mother (Louise Lasser), but she’s so dense that rather than react to what he’s telling her, she just continues to spout banalities.

Some of the imagery, such as the Frankenhooker herself, is amusing. Less so to me were the obviously fake exploding body parts and amateurish puppetry.

I applaud Henenlotter for the copious nudity, but in my opinion, he could have and should have gone much further with the sleazy elements. I mean, with a title like Frankenhooker, it’s almost compulsory.

I dunno. Did Henenlotter have to be this unambitious? Would it have killed him to make the story a little more logical? Pay a little more attention to pacing? Did the acting really need to be this amateurish?

It seems to me that Henenlotter developed a surefire premise rather lazily. There was a lot more juice he could have squeezed out of the concept.

For me, the best satire is taken deadly serious by the creators. Henenlotter has created a movie that you laugh at more than you laugh with.

If you’re not very demanding, and you’re in the market for a cheesy horror/ exploitation/ satire throwback redolent of the 80s, you might enjoy Frankenhooker. Otherwise, you’ve been warned.

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