This Schlocktober, Comics Bulletin will be exploring the world of horror cinema, featuring thirty one films released between Halloween 2012 and Halloween 2013. Next up is director/co-writer Andrew Weiner‘s The Frankenstein Theory.
Some people really hate found-footage films. And some people really hate this movie. But I don’t get the hate in either case. Well, I understand it, I suppose, but I don’t think it’s warranted. And for a first-time feature director, The Frankenstein Theory is head and shoulders above any Paranormal Witness or Insidious bullshit floating around out there. And it achieves this by concentrating on the script.
Andrew Weiner directs and co-writes the script with Vlady Pidysh, and they start with a very intriguing premise that is ripe for exploration: the idea the Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was based on true events. Of course, this isn’t the first time this idea has been played with, but by keeping the focus on a low-key independent documentary about the theory, we get a pretty fresh and entertaining film.
Entertaining, so long as you don’t mind a deliberately-paced set-up, and seeing as how Weiner was involved in one of my favorite Troma films ever, Tromeo and Juliet, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here. I enjoy seeing actors take opportunities like this to develop believable characters and to craft relationships that we can see developing in real life. The interactions are down-to-earth and the slowly developing sense of unease and mistrust is organic. And as our characters get further and further away from civilization we can really get a sense of just how alone they really are.
And that’s a production element that works well here. Weiner and crew filmed on location in Alaska (substituting for Canada) and it pays massive dividends in realism as well as in making this a beautiful film.
The performances are all solid, with Kris Lemche heading the cast as Jonathan Venkenhein, ancestor of the original Dr. Venkenhein upon whom the Frankenstein legend is based. Eric Zuckerman and Brian Henderson have a solid relationship as the producer and sound engineer, really capturing a sense that they’ve known each other for ages. Heather Stephens plays Vicky, the director of the documentary, and while she’s not actually given a lot to do in the script – oddly enough – it’s a very naturalistic performance. And once they get into the “Canadian” wilderness they meet up with their guide, Karl, played by Timothy V. Murphy, who totally inhabits the role of the dangerous, slightly mischievous, outdoorsman.
The end of the film is as dark as you might expect. Darker, maybe. This is made more effective by the found-footage approach, as Weiner does an excellent job capturing the now-familiar styles and clichés of TV shows like Destination: Truth or Finding Bigfoot. In fact, there was a point where I almost expected the titular Frankenstein Theory to be disproven and for Bigfoot to appear instead.
If that had happened, I would love this film to the end of time.
Instead, we stick to the expected, and at first glance the ending seems to just be a dark, violent end for everyone involved. But in retrospect, there’s a little more going on. There’s more to the monster than we’re really shown and Vicky’s fate is probably worse than death.
No. It’s definitely worse than death.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor/editor for Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is available at Amazon US & UK, along with his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation (US & UK). He recently contributed the 1989 chapter to The American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1980s (US & UK) and has kicked off Comics Bulletin Books with Mondo Marvel Volumes One (US & UK) and Two (US & UK). Paul is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy.