Frankenhooker is a ridiculous B-Movie. It is pure late 1980’s camp and that’s probably the best thing it can be. It’s the only way this was ever going to work. Yet it’s surprising that in its own inherent cheesiness there is some semblance of an overall story. Frankenhooker is one of the most overlooked 1980’s cult classics. It starts off with a man named Jeff Franken who’s girlfriend is killed in a freak lawnmower accident. He’s about to marry her, they’ve planned a very happy life together. He also happens to be somewhat of a scientist, constantly working on weird experiments in his basement. He’s a sheltered individual, but very different from the usual interpretations of Victor Frankenstein. He’s quick talking with what sounds like a thick Jersey accent.
Yet, he is nonetheless faced with a death he cannot handle, the death of his beloved, and so he makes it his mission to bring her back to life. Here’s where what might seem like a noble task becomes a little murkier. Only her head remains intact, which means he needs to build her a new body. In order to do that, he either needs to find dead women around her general size, or he needs to kill them. He chooses the latter. It’s only a minor victory when he finds himself hosting a party for a large group of sex workers only to realize he can’t go through with murdering them.
And that’s where Frankenhooker goes into surprising territory. It’s doesn’t turn out to be rape/revenge so much as it turns out to be revenge on a creepy and unknowingly misogynistic murderer. This is the love of her life, and when he first brings her back to life, our Frankenhooker’s mind is mixed together with all of the girls that went into making her. Naturally, she takes to the streets and almost instinctively tries to work. Yet when guys are awful towards her—which is just about every second she’s out there—she puts them in their place.
It’s actually impressive that she can see this clearly with someone who she loves so much, when she eventually gets her full mind back. Immediately, she’s sickened by everything he did, even though he did it to save her. Because that doesn’t matter when you’re killing people to create an ideal female form. Frankenhooker doesn’t exactly veer into a pointed revenge tale, a statement, or even an overall point, but these aspects of the film should not be disregarded either.
The ending is really what makes the whole thing stand on its own. Spoilers to any who have not yet seen Frankenhooker, but at the end she turns the tables on her beloved fiancé. He created what he considered to be her ideal form without any input from her and is shocked when she is horrified to one, be alive and two, be in a body that is completely alien to her that was built specifically to play into his own desires.
Her justice for this is absolutely perfect and while Frankenhooker isn’t always sensible and is often tasteless, the ending proves how strong it is on its own when she turns the tables on him and he wakes up in a new, bodacious female body. It’s a hilarious, over-the-top “see how you like it” sort of moment. But the entire film is over the top from beginning to end. It’s absurdly campy. The ending could not have been anything less than it is for the feature to work as well as it does. And for something called Frankenhooker to work at all is nothing short of a miracle of modern science.