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Synapse Films // Unrated // November 8, 2011 // Region 0
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted October 4, 2011 | E-mail the Author

"What began as a birthday barbeque ended in a bizarre tragedy in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey today. It was this power mower that brought a quick end to the life of 21 year old bride-to-be Elizabeth Shelley. Like wood through a mulcher, the
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girthful fianceé disappeared beneath the blades of the berserk mower that sent her personality raining down upon the horrified birthday revelers. In a blaze of blood, bones, and body parts, the vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad -- a salad that police are still trying to gather up -- a salad that was once named Elizabeth. But death-by-lawnmower is not the end of the strange twists in this case."

"Of course, it's hard to be real specific at this point, but it appears that...apparently parts of her are missing."

"Do you know which parts or how many?"

"Uh, like I said, it's hard to be real specific at this point. She's just one big jigsaw puzzle."

Elizabeth Shelley: girthful fianceé. A human tossed salad. Gentlemen, we can rebuild her. We have the technology. We have the capability to reanimate the dead. Elizabeth Shelley will be that woman. Better than she was before: better, thinner, bustier.

No, really: amateur bioelectric technician Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) has the whole thing worked out. He snatched some of the best parts of his mulched bride-to-be (Patty Mullen) off the lawn before the paramedics rolled in, and between his goopy serum and a cartful of copper and capacitors from the Radio Shack down the road, Franken has almost everything he needs to bring his beloved back from the dead. He just needs more parts is all. And, hey...lemons, lemonade, and that whole deal: since he's gotta put together a new body for Elizabeth anyway, why not make her look like a Penthouse centerfold? With as much as Elizabeth has been battling her ballooning waistline for the past few years, this whole ordeal might even wind up being a
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blessing in disguise. It's just that the fresh girly parts he needs aren't the sort of thing he can just buy off the shelf at Costco, and Franken's not really cut out to be a serial killer to hack 'em off himself. He eventually works out the perfect solution: all Franken has to do is drive across the bridge to find oodles and oodles of women selling their bodies on the streets. It's a call-girl cornucopia! A hooker jamboree! It's even okay that there's not one perfect whore in the bunch...he can pick and choose the parts he likes and stitch together a perfect ten. And, hey, the experiment is a success too! A couple zaps of lightning later, Elizabeth is alive and kicking again, with her cute-as-a-button face perched on top of a million dollar composite-hooker body. 'Sjust that her brain isn't exactly rated for that kind of wattage, so Elizabeth's mind winds up fused with the last few synapses that fired from all those whores, so she stomps off to 42nd St. to turn a few tricks. Her, uh, lady parts are electrified too, so anyone that Frankenhooker fucks winds up getting flash-fried. Toss in a steroidal pimp and reanimated whore leftovers, and you've got a stew going!

As batshit insane as (I hope?) all that sounds...geez, I've hardly
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even nicked the surface. Like everything with Frank Henenlotter's name on the marquee, Frankenhooker is so dementedly imaginative and gleefully twisted that words really can't do it justice. Coming off the darker and way more splattery Brain Damage, Henenlotter scratched his GoreZone-cover-spread itch and opted to follow that up with a cacklingly depraved comedy. Frankenhooker doesn't go for gore or gross-out so much, instead keeping the whole thing quippy and brilliantly cartoonish. Propelled by Henenlotter's unhinged imagination, the movie never settles into any sort of comfortable formula, and there's something sick and wonderful screaming out of left field every minute or two. I think I even blurted out "holy shit!" a couple times during the finalé, and just when it seems that the movie couldn't possibly get any more demented than that, it somehow manages to one-up itself anyway.

I love the holy hell out of this flick. Its twisted sense of humor scores a lot of laughs, the pacing never has a chance to drag, and the makeup effects are elaborate, inspired, and demented straight across the board. Oh, and Patty Mullen couldn't have been more perfectly cast. Not only is she supernaturally gorgeous and in that wholesome girl-next-door kind of way to boot, but Mullen pulls off the physical comedy brilliantly, from her stiff shambling as Frankenhooker to that reflexive snarl to the way she barks out all those "wanna party?" hooker soundbites. This Blu-ray disc dishes out the unrated director's cut of Frankenhooker, so you get all the supercrack-fueled exploding whores and the gaggles of tits that Frank Henenlotter always wanted you to see. Frankenhooker is such a ridiculous amount of fun, and...yeah, you need to grab that shiny new Blu-ray release of Basket Case while you're at it and make it a double feature. Highly Recommended.

Actually, ignore the screenshots scattered all over this review; they don't come close to doing this Blu-ray disc justice. Frankenhooker really is kind of a knockout in high-def. Detail and clarity are both reasonably impressive from the first frame to the last. The palette is frequently bright and candy-colored, and the robust contrast is reinforced by deep, inky black levels. There's not much of anything in the way of speckling or wear, and the AVC encode has enough headroom to stave off any hiccups in the compression. And...well, it's a Synapse Films release, so it goes without saying that the whole thing's mastered with a purist's mindset, shying away from artificial sharpening, heavy-handed noise reduction, or anything like that. A great, great Blu-ray disc.

Frankenhooker is served up at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and the movie and its extras have plenty of room to lounge around on this BD-50 disc.

Frankenhooker piles together two different DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks: the original stereo audio as well as a 5.1 remix. The harsher and more sibilant sound of the finalé aside, both tracks are
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clean and clear enough...nothing jaw-droppingly spectacular or anything, but the movie sounds the way it sounds, and the overall presentation pretty closely matched my expectations. The remix doesn't take too many liberties. The surrounds dish out a little ambiance -- crowd noise in that sleazy strip club, cars whizzing by in the streets when Franken is out on the fire escape, and some reverb as Frankenhooker stomps her way down towards 42nd St. -- along with beefing up effects like Zorro pounding on a dingy hotel room door, crashes of thunder, and...why not?...a cackling weatherman. The LFE really snarls in this remix, unleashing a hellish amount of bass. Personally, I found myself leaning towards the original stereo mix since it just sounded more comfortable to me, even if there's not much going on in the lower frequencies and I don't get to feel everything the room rattle. Nice to have the option either way, and it's definitely a solid effort.

Oh, and for anyone keeping track at home: no dubs and no subs.

The extras are pretty much a straightahead port of Unearthed Films' DVD special edition from back in 2006. Oh, and Frankenhooker isn't one of Synapse Films' combo packs, so there's no DVD in this set this time around. The cover's reversible so you get your choice of artwork, and that's pretty great to see.
  • Audio Commentary: When are Frank Henenlotter commentaries not an essential listen? You don't need a review...just give it a spin already. This really is another in a long line of phenomenal commentary tracks with Henenlotter, who's joined here by special effects makeup artist Gabe Bartalos. Among the highlights are Henenlotter completely adlibbing the premise during a failed pitch for another movie, working out a way to keep Jeffrey Franken sympathetic while also giving him lots of mangled hooker body parts to play with, the logistics of shooting this and Basket Case 2 back-to-back, lining up a small army of hookers for the flick, headaches with DPs, the MPAA, and hooker-leg-thieves...all the way down to getting a tagline outta Bill Murray and the talking case that helped make the VHS such a hit. Very comprehensive and an infectiously fun listen. Oh, and in case you don't see it at first, the commentary is hidden under the 'Setup' menu rather than listed with the rest of the extras.

  • A Stitch in Time: The Makeup Effects of Frankenhooker (21 min.; SD): Makeup effects mastermind Gabe Bartalos piles together a metric ton of behind-the-scenes home videos and snapshots from the Frankenhooker shoot, speaking at length about Elizabeth's fat suit, every step of putting the Frankenhooker makeup and prosthetics together, the symphony of exploding hookers,
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    and all those mangled, moving body parts from the movie's demented finalé. Rather than just sit around in his workship and gabbing away, Bartalos moves the interview to the Bunny Ranch and some random punk show because...I don't know why, and he also touches on his effects work in Basket Case 2 and Brain Damage. Very detailed and a lot more fun than what I'm used to getting.

  • A Salad That Was Once Named Elizabeth (9 min.; SD): This interview with Patty Mullen breezes through how much of a blast she had filming the flick, her favorite and not-so-favorite scenes from Frankenhooker, how much she loves the rest of the cast and crew, and the makeup taking so long to strip off that she'd occasionally strut around with stitches and a baby nipple-top even when cameras weren't rolling. Mullen also chats briefly about her shortlived stint as a scream queen before Frankenhooker and what she's been up to in the years since, and...yeah, turns out she still has that fright wig.

  • Turning Tricks (20 min.; SD): Interview numero two-oh revolves around Jennifer Delora, one of the movie's more memorable hookers. Delora mentions she's played kind of a lot of hookers in her years as an actress, and among the long list of other topics here are squaring off against the Miss America high sheriffs over her role in Bad Girls Dormitory, how much she's like her character in this flick, and some of the squabbles she had during the shoot with actors who wouldn't hold up their end of the deal. Gotta admit that a twenty minute runtime seems unnecessarily long, and this could've stood to be a lot more tightly edited, but it's kinda nice to get a different perspective on the making of Frankenhooker anyway, especially from someone who doesn't exactly mince her words.

  • Jennifer Delora's Frankenhooker Photo Scrapbook (11 min.; SD): Delora pops back again to show off a huge stack of Polaroids she snapped during production. There's commentary over the pictures as well as some talking head video snippets. Fake-hooker sisterhood and the exploding whore effects score a big chunk of the attention here.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Last up is Frankenhooker's really great theatrical trailer riffing on all those classic Universal horror flicks.

The Final Word
"Wanna date?" Yup. Highly Recommended.

...And Here Are Some Leftover Screenshots
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Highly Recommended

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