So once again we have survived.

Frankenstein (2015)

As I’ve mentioned once or twice, CANDYMAN might be my favorite horror movie of the 1990s. And I remember director Bernard Rose’s PAPERHOUSE being very good too when I watched it in the 1980s. But most of his movies have not been horror. Didn’t seem to be his thing. So I was intrigued when I found out that all the sudden in 2015 he did a new version of FRANKENSTEIN.

This is a modernized take on Mary Shelley’s story. The monster is not some stitched together green guy, he’s just a regular full grown man (Xavier Samuel, THE LOVED ONES, FURY) suddenly born in a secret lab through unexplained genetical engineering type methods. Victor Frankenstein (Danny Huston, THE WARRIOR’S WAY, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, BIRTH) is there, but it’s his wife Elizabeth (Carrie-Anne Moss from the fucking MATRIX!) doing the important work now: cuddling him, shushing him, feeding him with an eyedropper.

His eyes are just starting to see. They’re crossed and he drools and pees and can’t hold up his head. And it’s weird but I found it deeply disturbing and gross to see an adult acting so believably like a newborn baby. They didn’t even have to put a diaper and bonnet on him, it creeped me out anyway.

He’s designed to be resilient, so he’s ridiculously strong. Once they start teaching him to walk and play catch and stuff they see how awkward it is. He has the coordination of baby Bambi with the strength of He-Man.

But then he starts growing strange boils. Something came out wrong. His cells are degenerating. Victor decides they need to put him out of his misery. Elizabeth isn’t as sure about it. They’re both very good playing the Frankensteins; Moss is so empathetic and mothering, Huston well-meaning but aloof. But they blew it. They created Adam (that’s what they call him, same as I, FRANKENSTEIN) and failed to find a place for him in the world. He has to do that himself after he survives their lethal injection and makes a daring escape.

This is a really effective execution of the monster-who-doesn’t-know-his-own-strength. He has no idea what’s going on and doesn’t even understand the concept of hurting people. Cut him some slack, he’s new here. I like that he’s so strong he doesn’t have to be coordinated to beat people up. He knocks a guy hard against a wall with a limp, rubbery slap. When he gets outside there’s an amazing scene of him fleeing from armed security and you see him go from a guy who’s still getting used to walking to a straight up Tom Cruise run within one shot.

Out in the wilderness he befriends a stray German shepherd (voice of Chevy Chase) (just kidding it’s a regular dog so he is voiced by a dog not a human) and together they find dead raccoons and stuff to eat. He seems to have an instinct to stay away from other people, and when he goes against that he gets in trouble. He doesn’t understand how anything works, from roads to police to death. So there are incidents. The little girl that he throws in the water is played by Mckenna Grace, who will play the young Tonya Harding in the upcoming I, TONYA. So for all we know Adam just has some opinions about ice skating.

Okay – this Blu-Ray cover is some bullshit. Pretty sure they were thinking of the other one.

It’s a simple, low budget movie, not a huge cast, seems to be mostly on location, no digital effects or anything too complicated. And it reminds me a little bit of the tradition of modernizing Shakespeare plays. Part of the fun is the play itself and part is seeing how they make it contemporary, what fits naturally into a modern context, what is a little odd but you just have to go along with it. In the case of this FRANKENSTEIN it’s surprising how much of it works perfectly. It used to be the monster could pass as a wandering beggar; in today’s terms that means he’s a homeless street kid. It makes so much sense that he’d be able to sit on the street in his rags with his rotting face and people would avoid looking at him too much.

Also the blind man is a street musician, and he’s played by Candyman himself, Tony Todd.

Other than a run-in with some modern day “villagers” trying to lynch him it all comes off as pretty believable updating. The scariest part is when some cops have Adam in custody, because we know they have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it doesn’t go off without a hitch. There are some hitches.

As much as stitched together body parts has always been part of the appeal of this story to me, it was really smart to completely ditch that for this version. In Shelley’s time that was a plausible sci-fi concept but we’ve moved beyond that. The cloning/growing-in-a-lab type approach does fit with modern techniques and theories, and allows Rose to skip over the outdated “if my body parts are from a criminal am I doomed to be a criminal?” questions.

Adding a woman doctor into the mix really changes things too, because now the monster has a mother! She’s nurturing and humane and recognizes the seriousness of terminating this artificial life. Her husband just looks at it as logic: I created him, I can uncreate him. I kept the receipts. But since she’s the one who really took care of him, he seems to have imprinted on her. She’s the one he yearns for, holding onto her security badge like it’s a precious locket with her photo. And all this makes Victor seem like more of a schmuck. Totally oblivious to the ethical implications of his illegal experiments and the suffering they caused.

But honestly the Frankensteins are not in it that much. It’s told from Adam’s perspective, and the first shots are actually from his blurry, blinking perspective looking at his parents. So Samuel is in the whole thing, often alone, it’s almost his one-man show, and it requires a very physical performance that evolves throughout as he becomes used to moving and eventually learns to speak. He acquits himself very well. This is a pretty good one.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Thursday, April 6th, 2017 at 12:06 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

22 Responses to “Frankenstein (2015)”

  1. I guess the way this is going means that we’re not getting a review of THE BRIDE with Sting and Jennifer Beals this time. Which is fine, as it’s really not great. And yet the Master Blaster combination of David Rappaport and Clancy Brown as Rinaldo and Viktor (the Monster) really is great.

    How can it be that Rappaport died in 1990? Damn, I have to stop nowand go watch TIME BANDITS again.

  2. Stop nowand? Clearly, that needs stopping, but I mean “now and”.

  3. Thanks for the reminder that this movie exists! It was one of those low budget affairs, that got some buzz on the internet before its release, but once it was out, nobody cared anymore. Seriously, I totally forgot it existed until now! Have to check if it was even released here.

  4. Yeah, this sounds like a good one.

  5. Woah… Vern took my “In summary, go research the lakeside poets again” comment literally. #Thanks

  6. I really hope this is all lead up to the Surfs cinematic universe.

  7. Smurfs. Damn autocorrect.

  8. Sorry to be that guy but I think in the book he was actually “grown in a lab” and not made from a bunch of dead guy pieces stitched together.

  9. I hate to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming but it looks like Trump might have started World War 3.

    “It figures it’d be something like this.”

  10. I was gonna post this in the ‘Vote for Hilary’ post but since Griff started it here…

    *ahem*

    Thank God we didn’t elect Clinton. I mean Trump and Clinton are exactly the same. EXACTLY THE SAME.

  11. *sigh* to be fair, Clinton has also stated before that we should take out the airbases as well so *technically* this may be a bad example for me to finally have that rant. So sorry about that. I’ve been very good humored about all this and very sympathetic to WHY people voted for Trump but damn even I’m starting to get to my limit.

  12. Last week US forces dropped bombs that might have killed as much as 230 people. Our leaders do choose what to be upset by, don’t they?

  13. pegsman: Yeah, based on my limited understanding from reading about them, that airstrike in Iraq was much more reckless and deadly than this one. But the idea that Trump would SUDDENLY REALIZE that Assad is bad and be dropping missiles the next fucking day is feeding into all our fears about having an ignorant lunatic with his finger on the button (or just a chump who is doing what somebody else is telling him to do). It is true that our military has been consistently involved all over the place and we as citizens don’t pay enough attention. But it is new to have someone so clearly incompetent, petty and divorced from reality as commander in chief while it happens.

    Anyway, FRANKENSTEIN is good.

  14. The day of shit news continues

    Stockholm truck attack leaves two dead

    Sweden's security services have launched a major security after a truck rammed pedestrians in a busy Stockholm shopping street

  15. @Toxic, I can promise you in the book the creature was indeed made out of stitched together parts.

    @Vern, the “Adam” thing is from the book, too! At one point the creature refers to himself when addressing Frankenstein as “the Adam of your labours”. Though he never actually takes it (or anything) as a name.

  16. As I recall (it’s been 25 years so bear with me), yes, the monster was stitched together from body parts. The main difference in the animation process was that, in the book, it was alchemical, while in the movie (and most popular adaptations that followed) it was electrical.

  17. It seems the long arm of coincidence has touched my shoulder. Yesterday I was at the local video store (aka: the library) and picked up season one of the show Penny Dreadful because I have a hazy memory of a bunch of people saying it was good. So i watch the first episode, which is a pretty overstuffed pastiche of spooky and mysterious Victorian lit, and the episode ending, mind-blowing, big twist is that one of the major players is actually… Victor Frankenstein!!!!

    As far as I can tell, Max Landis has no involvement, and the biggest twist of all is that Eva Green manages to keep her shirt on.

  18. I thought I remembered Frankenstein just growing the creature from artificial “matter” in his lab, kind of like he does in the Landis movie, rather than digging up bodies in graveyards like he does in most movies. I guess I remembered wrong, sorry.

  19. “and the biggest twist of all is that Eva Green manages to keep her shirt on.”

    Well what’s the point in watching it, then?

  20. Griff – Because she’s a great actress?

  21. This one really slipped me by!! Gotta seek it out!

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