Tag Archives: Frankenhooker

Fright Club: Prostitutes in Horror

Jack the Ripper carved up prostitutes in real life and in about a million cinematic representations. But Jack’s not the only marauder who recognizes a helpless population when he sees it. Sometimes, though, the prostitute gets the last laugh.

5. The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

John Erick Dowdle’s film is a difficult one to watch. It contains enough elements of found footage to achieve realism, enough police procedural to provide structure, and enough grim imagination to give you nightmares.

Edward Carver (Ben Messmer) is a particularly theatrical serial killer, and the film, which takes you into the police academy classroom, asks you to watch his evolution from impetuous brute to unerring craftsman. This evolution we witness mainly through a library of videotapes he’s left behind for the police to find, along with poor Cheryl Dempsey, (Stacy Chbosky).

While Cheryl’s plight is the most morbidly fascinating, a tricky side plot involving the murders of prostitutes not only clarifies the murderer’s game, but offers some of the most troubling scenes in the film, toying not just with horror but with weird personal anxieties: like the popping of a balloon.

4. Frankenhooker (1990)

Wanna date?

Director/co-writer Frank Henenlotter took the Frankenstein concept in strange, unseemly new ways with this one. Out-of-work loser with a knack for science Jeffrey (James Lorinz) mourns the really messy loss of his beloved Elizabeth (Patty Mullen) in his own way. Grief is like that—personal. And when you’re really grieving, a project can help you get past that. It focuses the mind.

Jeffrey rebuilds Elizabeth with the help of a lot of body parts made available to him via NYC prostitutes. They’re not volunteered, and Jeffrey is really conflicted about that, but this isn’t what makes him a bad person. It’s the fact that he never really accepted Elizabeth for who she was, or he’d be a lot less picky about these parts.

Jeffrey learns his lesson—kind of—in a film that is unusually sweet given the topic. It’s funny, gross, wrong-headed and more than a little stupid as well.

3. We Are What We Are (2010)

Jorge Michel Grau’s horror about the disposable population of Mexico City centers on a family with a ritual to fulfill. Too bad the patriarch’s death leaves no one but novices to put dinner on the table.
The fact that this family is a cannibal clan is a brilliant avenue into the sociopolitical theme of a society feeding off the poor, but Grau’s perspective offers a little bit of optimism in its own, bloody way. The cops are useless, the system is ridiculous, but those very people who have been disregarded by society are not as helpless as you might thing.

The family underestimates a society it deems beneath them, a group of people so low they are not even fit to kill. What Grau does with this circle of prostitutes is like a Pat Benatar video done right.

2. American Psycho (2000)

Mary Harron’s near-perfect horror comedy send-up of the Reagan era benefits from a number of things, including maybe the best casting in cinema history. This cast and Harron hit every note perfectly, offering a film that is as bloody and alarming as it can be, with every re-watch an opportunity to see more and more of its comic genius.

And of the many memorable moments in the film, the line most likely to be quoted is this: Don’t just stare at it. Eat it.

There is a lot of soullessness afoot in American Psycho, and in that line, but not in Cara Seymour’s performance. As Christie—Patrick Bateman’s favorite prostitute, God help her—she gives this film its first truly empathetic character. She is the one character you root for, the one whose death you don’t want to see happen. When Christie is lured back to Patrick’s apartment for a second round, for the first time in the film, you find yourself feeling sad for someone, finding the empathy Patrick so utterly lacks.

1. Peeping Tom (1960)

Director Michael Powell’s film broke a lot of ground and nearly ended his film career. People tend to react badly to horror movies that unnerve them, which is really odd given that this is the entire point of the genre. Peeping Tom pissed everybody off, maybe because—like Michael Haneke’s films Funny Games—Peeping Tom implicates you in the horror.

Mark (Karlheinz Bohm) had a difficult childhood, developing a bit of a voyeuristic hobby to help him cope. He starts off with prostitutes, filming them, capturing their terror as he kills them. He’s a voyeur, but who can throw stones? Didn’t every one of us who’s ever watched this film— or any other horror movie, for that matter—sign up to do exactly what Mark was doing?

Bohm’s great success is in making Mark unsettlingly sympathetic. Powell’s is in using the audience’s instincts against us. Bohm makes us feel bad for the villain, Powell makes us relate to the villain. No wonder people were pissed.

Fright Club: Death + Sex

A few weeks ago we covered Sex and Death. That is, the act of sex leads directly to death. Sex kills you.

This week, as a kind of wrong-headed sibling, we talk with B Movie Bros about Death and Sex. Which is to say, the death part comes first. Either party can be dead, or both can. Reanimated corpses are fine, if that’s your thing. Just as long as at least one participant is dead.

5. Living Doll (1990)

Though few scenes go by that don’t showcase Katie Orgill’s bare breasts, this odd British import is just a sweet romance at its heart. It’s a romance between a young mortician/med student and the corpse of his unrequited love, which doesn’t sound that sweet, I’ll grant you, but between Mark Jax’s delusional naivete and the strangely tender script penned by director George Dugdale with Paul Hart-Wilden and Mark Ezra, the film may openly flirt with necromancy, but it courts true romance.

Why is Christine (Orgill) buried naked? Why does everyone hide their British accents—and so poorly? Why clutter the film with so many atrocious actors? Why is Orgill so bad at holding her breath? Who knows or cares, when Eartha Kitt plays the landlady?

The film is weirdly memorable—equally grotesque and tender-hearted. You can’t exactly look past its snail’s pace or poor acting, but it works on you. There’s not much else like it.

4. The Corpse of Anna Fritz (2015)

Young hospital orderly Pau (Albert Carbo) attends the morgue, where the famous actress Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas) awaits an autopsy come morning. He secretly texts a selfie with the body to two buddies. They show up to see the body.

Soon, three young men are alone with a beautiful, naked, dead woman with absolutely no chance of being interrupted for hours. If you’re a little concerned with where this may lead, well, you should be.

As a comment on rape culture, the film is a pointed and singular horror.

Sort of a cross between 2008’s irredeemable rape fantasy Deadgirl and Tarantino’s brilliant Kill Bill, The Corpse of Anna Fritz will take you places you’d rather not go.

And while contrivances pile up like cadavers in a morgue, each one poking a hole in the credibility of the narrative being built, The Corpse of Anna Fritz has a lot more to offer than you might expect—assuming you stick it out past the first reel.

3. The Neon Demon (2016)

“Beauty isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

So says an uncredited Alessandro Nivola, a fashion designer waxing philosophic in Nicolas Winding Refn’s (Bronson, Drive) nightmarish new film The Neon Demon.

The line, of course, is borrowed. Refn tweaks the familiar idea to suit his fluid, perfectly framed, cynical vision.

Jesse (Elle Fanning) is an underaged modeling hopeful recently relocated to a sketchy motel in Pasadena. Will she be swallowed whole by the darker, more monstrous elements of Hollywood?

Or is Ruby (Jena Malone) the godsend of a friend Jesse needs?

Nope. And she’s not to be trusted with the kind of beautiful corpses you might find in an LA mortuary, either.

2. We Are the Flesh (2016)

Are you squeamish?

First-time feature writer/director Emiliano Rocha Minter announces his presence with authority—and a lot of body fluids—in this carnal horror show.

A hellish vision if ever there was one, the film opens on a filthy man with a lot of packing tape. He’s taking different types of nastiness, taping it inside a plastic drum to ferment, and eventually turning it into a drink or a drug. Hard to tell—loud drum banging follows, as well as hallucinations and really, really deep sleep.

During that sleep we meet two siblings, a teenaged brother and sister who’ve stumbled into the abandoned building where the hermit lives.

What happens next? What doesn’t?! Incest, cannibalism, a lot of shared body fluids of every manner, rape, necrophilia—a lot of stuff, none of it pleasant.

Minter has created a fever dream as close to hell as anything we’ve seen since last year’s Turkish nightmare Baskin.

There’s little chance you’ll watch this film in its entirety without diverting your eyes—whether your concern is the problematic sexuality or just the onslaught of viscous secretions, the screen is a slurry of shit you don’t really want to see.


1. Dead Alive (1992)

Rated R for “an abundance of outrageous gore,” Dead Alive is everything the young Peter Jackson did well. It’s a bright, silly, outrageously gory bloodbath.

Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) secretly loves shopkeeper Paquita Maria Sanchez (Diana Penalver).His overbearing sadist of a mother does not take well to her son’s new outside-the-home interests. Mum follows the lovebirds to a date at the zoo, where she’s bitten (pretty hilariously) by a Sumatran rat-monkey (do not mistake this dangerous creature for a rabid Muppet or misshapen lump of clay).

The bite kills her, but not before she can squeeze pus into some soup and wreak general havoc, which is nothing compared to the hell she raises once she comes back from the dead. Soon enough, Lionel has a houseful of reanimated corpses, some of them a bit randy.

You ever wonder where a zombie baby comes from?