Frankenhooker sounds like a hole-in-one. A cheap monster movie with the promise of nudity, ridiculous splatter effects, and an over-the-top sense of humor? Sign me up. Sadly, director/writer Frank Henenlotter never really captures the promise of the movie's premise, spending far more time with Lorinz and his slow build to the big experiment and other random asides than the aftermath of his crazy ideas.
I first heard about Frankenhooker via Andrew Borntreger's badmovies.org. When Jeffrey goes to investigate his hooker idea, he discovers that their pimp, Zorro (Joseph Gonzales) has his girls addicted to crack. So, naturally, he buys a bag and uses science to pump it up into super crack, which turns out to be so potent, anyone who inhales a puff ends up exploding in a shower of sparks and chunks. Borntreger's write-up includes a free clip of a room full of hookers exploding, which is nothing if not a memorable sight. Sadly, this occurs roughly 3/4 of the way through Henenlotter's 85-minute movie -- Jeff hasn't even assembled his replacement girlfriend yet.
If that wasn't bad enough, the resurrected Elizabeth is the highlight of the film thanks to Patty Mullen's goofy performance. Frankenhooker hobbles along with a cheerfully vacant expression on her face, spouting snippets of conversations between Jeffrey and the hookers, pummeling and growling at anyone she talks to who isn't going to line her pocketbook. It's not that Lorenz is bad, per se, just that he's supposed to play the film with a straight face, and spending 60 minutes with the straight man isn't the funniest angle for a comedy.
The film also doesn't make very good use of Louise Lasser, who only has one amusing scene as Jeffrey's kindly mother. It feels like a set-up for another scene, but none ever arrives. I would've also enjoyed seeing more of Charlotte J. Helmkamp as the first lady of the evening to catch Jeff's attention, and a little more of Zorro, if only because he's an emotionally vulnerable pimp named Zorro. Henenlotter's effects are decent, if totally fake-looking (rarely have so many rubber body parts been thrown around in a single movie), but the movie's over-the-top final scenes are basically too little, too late.
The Video and Audio
Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is decent, but hampered by the limitations of low-budget. Dialogue is clear and strong, music is bright and crisp, and sound effects are replicated in all their squishy glory, but there's not much atmosphere going on in the quiet indoor scenes. A thunderstorm picks up the second half of the track, not to mention a whole room full of exploding hookers, but this is a strong track in terms of its accuracy, not the impressive nature of its design. A Dolby Digital 2.0 track is also provided, although it's disappointing that Synapse doesn't offer subtitles or closed captioning.