Frights, Fun, and Feminism: Frankenhooker is a B-horror movie romp that not only delivers laughs but also an empowering message.
Directed by Frank Henenlotter, Frankenhooker (1990) follows medial student Jeffrey (James Lorinz) whose girlfriend, Elizabeth (Patty Mullen), is killed in a freak accident involving a remote-controlled lawn mower. Feeling guilt over her death, Jeffrey becomes obsessed with bringing Elizabeth back from the dead, and he uses the body parts of prostitutes to do so. Things don’t go quite as planned, however, because the memories and personalities of the hookers used to rebuild Elizabeth come back with her.
Many might see Frankenhooker as just a pile of B-horror movie fun – and it is, don’t get me wrong – but the film is not just full of body parts, but the feminist subtext, as well.
When we first meet Elizabeth, it’s established that she likes to snack on pretzels, something her mother nags her about. Elizabeth also doesn’t have a “perfect” body – apparently, all the pretzels just go right to her hips. Regardless of those “flaws,” Jeffrey still loves her and is distraught to the point of madness over her death.
Given the nature of Elizabeth’s death, though, Jeffrey must find other body parts to rebuild Elizabeth, which leads Jeffrey to the hookers, as he can easily get them alone. Jeffrey can also easily control them with the drugs the hookers are addicted to, leading him to create a super-drug which causes the prostitutes to explode. A hilarious scene, post-explosion, shows Jeffrey collecting the body parts and apologizing to them, promising the hookers he will put them all back together after he has Elizabeth back.
As Jeffrey is putting Elizabeth back together, we see him finding “errors” in the body parts (like bunions on a hooker’s foot and things like that), which Jeffrey quickly corrects. In an earlier scene, when Jeffrey is drawing up the plans for his experiment, we see him planning out Elizabeth’s “flaws” that he is going to correct, as well.
Once Elizabeth is finally brought back, the many hookers used to rebuild her take over and she can only repeat the lines they are so used to saying: “Wanna date? Got any money?” This distresses Jeffrey, which is interesting considering he had no problem using the hookers for their body parts but doesn’t accept their mannerisms for his own girlfriend.
This shows the high standards women are held to when it comes to beauty and manners, Jeffrey is ok with using the hookers, but heaven forbid his own girlfriend were to act like that.
When Elizabeth’s own personality finally comes back at the end of the movie, she immediately notices the changes in her body and confronts Jeffrey about it, who explains that because there weren’t many pieces of her left, he had to improvise. After Jeffrey is killed, Elizabeth brings him back, but with a woman’s body, as his serum is estrogen based. Jeffrey panics, much like Elizabeth did, asking where his Johnson his, etc.
The irony here is tangible as Jeffrey doesn’t see the problem with using other (“better”) body parts to bring Elizabeth back, but when it happens to him, he is distraught. The previous scene is flipped as Jeffrey repeats Elizabeth’s words and she repeats his:
JEFFREY: “What do you mean living parts? Holy shit! That’s not my hand. What are these boobs? Elizabeth, what did you do to me?”
ELIZABETH: “Granted, what I did may have been a bit unorthodox. But, hey, you look great, and you’re alive. And you’re back with me, and I love you. I love you, Jeffrey, and we’re together, again. All of us, together, again.”