If you "Wanna date?!" with Frankenhooker you're in luck. The exploitation horror-comedy recently stumbled onto Blu-ray. Frankenhooker is not unlike Frank Henenlotter's other highly entertaining, schlocky films like Basket Case. This one features a strumpet that's been stitched together, however. Mad scientist-type Jeffrey loses his girlfriend in a lawnmower accident. He brings her back to life by transplanting her head onto the body of a hooker. Beneath the bloodshed (exploding prostitutes!) and oft-quotable Frankenhooker named Angel is Henenlotter's cheesy, yet clever, puns and social commentary lite. Meanwhile, prostitutes rebel against their greedy pimps when low-budget indie Hookers in Revolt arrives on DVD later this month. Clearly, horror cinema has never shied away from depicting the world's oldest profession on screen.
Walking the streets for sex and money is a dangerous occupation, making women of the night easy targets for knife-wielding weirdos and other creepy stalkers. The ruthless murder of a working girl is often depicted as an overused plot device — a cheap way to create a gritty T&A wonderland or to rack up a quick body count (they're always the first to die). Other films find horror in the act of a hooker's dehumanizing profession in itself. Whatever the case may be, here are twelve films that found ways to terrify with tales involving tawdry tramps and trashy tarts. (Some of these clips may be NSFW.)
Dressed to Kill
Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill drops homage after homage to maestro Alfred Hitchcock — almost as much as the women in the film drop their panties for taxicab trysts and other seductions. Set in New York's grindhouse-era Rotten Apple, De Palma's film centers on a happy hooker — Nancy Allen's Liz — who stumbles upon a murder and becomes the killer's next target. She uses the almighty powers of lingerie to try to get the heart of the matter with a psychiatrist, finally arousing the strange truth. While Allen's character walks the streets, some might say the woman that's really doing all the whoring is Angie Dickinson's horny housewife — which is perhaps why she doesn't make it to the end of the movie (horror film rules apply, obvs).
Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers
If you ever wanted to see scream queen Linnea Quigley wearing a sequined thong and seductively slow dancing with two roaring chainsaws (who doesn't, really), Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers has got you covered. Fred Olen Ray's trashy horror-comedy features a cult of chainsaw-wielding prostitutes — appropriately led by Texas Chainsaw Massacre's Gunnar Hansen — who find thrills through gory kills. Quigley's "virgin dance of the double chainsaws" is just one of many sleazy, fun time moments. Michelle Bauer also stars as a hooker who adores Elvis and dismembers her victims Dexter-style. Keep your eyes peeled for the credits "warning" about chainsaws and strenuous sex. Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers begs you to leave the dirty work for the seasoned professionals.
Crypt keeper John Carradine plays a vampire who recruits a team of undead prostitutes to supply him with tasty, red libations. During shore leave, two sailor pals fall into the bloodsuckers' trap when they wander into Carradine's territory thinking they're about to score with a hooker. Sexytime and bad fart jokes eventually ensue. Vampire Hookers' pimp hand is strong, keeping its ladies in line and sadly not utilizing the fanged fiends for the unexpected — but you do get to hear Carradine recite an awful lot of poetry. Plus, there's that ridiculous closing credits song …
A sleazy sorority puts two of its pledges on the streets to pick up Johns as part of their rush into the girl group. The friends become entangled with a group of flesh-munching floozies that transform their tricks into something resembling zombie-vampires. If there were more to tell you about 1987's Cannibal Hookers we would, but this shot-on-video piece of trash isn't using its trollops for much more than the usual T&A.
Perhaps taking a cue from Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is Patrick Bateman's ménage a murder with a hooker named Christie in American Psycho. The obsessively meticulous and psychopathic banking exec indulges his sadistic side with two working girls. One of them (Christie) returns for round two, but it all ends badly … and bloody … with a chainsaw. Like most things in Bateman's life, people are a disposable means to an insane end, and hookers are no exception. Pure 1980's hedonism at its goriest.
Dead Hooker in a Trunk
The Soska Sisters' debut feature sports a Canadian working girl of the dead variety, stuffed inside the trunk of a car. Four friends make the discovery, which complicates matters and sets them off on a series of deranged encounters with bizarre characters. Even though she's dead, the hooker's role here is essential in forcing the misfit gang to face their own personal demons.
The Hughes brothers' From Hell tries to acknowledge and avert the overused dead prostitute device by making them the stars of the show. (Technically Alan Moore did it first and did it better.) Heather Graham's hooker Mary Kelly — based on the real-life impoverished young girl who became Jack the Ripper's final victim (or so they say) — does more than just hawk her wares to men on the streets of London. She tries to empower her fellow ladies of the evening while life in the ghetto overwhelms their every chance of happiness. Despite any attempts at seriousness, the film still features a bevy of gory prostitute killings — and they're kind of pretty to look at, too.
Nosy horror fan Charley Brewster becomes the laughing stock of the town when he tries to reveal to his friends and family that new neighbor, Jerry Dandrige, is a vampire. Outing the suave, undead gentleman after Dandrige invites an attractive call girl to his home one evening, the annoying teenager gets a bird's-eye view of the escort's death while spying from his bedroom window. Later, Charley believes he witnesses the vampire dumping the body in a trash bag outside. Fright Night's guilty of using the dead prostitute trope to beef up its main baddie, but when the vamps look like Chris Sarandon and the hookers look like Heidi Sorenson we can easily forgive them.
Takashi Miike's Imprint — intended as the 13th episode in the first season of Showtime's Masters of Horror series — was never aired, and perhaps with good reason. Brutal depictions of torture, incest, and abortion are just a few of the haunting images conjured in Miike's story about a journalist searching for the prostitute he loved and left years before. During his search, he encounters a deformed courtesan who tortures him with cruel tales about his lost love's demise. We could spend all day discussing what the Japanese auteur intended to say by analyzing his symbolic nightmare that takes place on a remote island full of prostitutes, but instead we'll just conclude that it's not a good thing.
New York Ripper
When a maniac starts murdering women across sleazy 1970's New York City, Detective Fred Williamson must quickly find a way to end the killer's reign of terror. A Donald Duck-voiced madman taunts the detective throughout his investigation. We eventually learn that Williamson has a penchant for prostitutes and isn't your typical heroic cop. The usual giallo red herrings follow. Lucio Fulci's New York Ripper features one of the most chilling scenes with a prostitute ever to be put on screen. (Knife, meet face.) More so, however, it defined an era where depraved smut and sleaze were a palpable, real-life terror on the mean streets.
Murders in the Rue Morgue
Robert Florey's expressionistic cult classic, 1932's Murders in the Rue Morgue finds Bella Lugosi hanging up his Dracula cape for a role as Dr. Mirakle — a mad scientist who abducts young virgins and injects them with ape blood so he can create a lover for his talking sideshow beast, Erik. Inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's story of the same name, Mirakle's prostitute victim is the key to solving the murder when a medical detective connects the crime back to the lunatic.
Interview with the Vampire
Neil Jordan's Interview with the Vampire posits that prostitutes were the life's blood of every vampire roaming the European landscape during the 18th and 19th century. Lestat is a cruel killer who has accepted his role as an undead murderer living off the blood of streetwalkers and the aristocracy alike. His fledgling killer Louis isn't thrilled with what's for dinner and refuses to relish in the slaughter of innocents. Lestat uses one prostitute as a pawn in his game to get Louis to become like him. In Lestat's world, every hooker had it comin'.