The Frankenstein Theory
Directed by Andrew Wiener
Reviewed by Anthony C. Francis
What an extremely clever idea this is; The Frankenstein story is actually non-fiction and the monster still lives out in the Canadian wilderness murdering anyone who would cross his path. A descendant of the actual person, on whom the character of Victor Frankenstein was based, discovers the murders and, due to old papers written by his Great, Great, Great Grandfather, finds the area where the monster may be roaming. He sets out to find, and perhaps tame, the famous creature.
That, my humble horror fans, is a fun and original idea for a film. Unfortunately, that is where the fun stops. The filmmakers decide to go the tired route of the “found footage” sub-genre and, in doing so, completely drain all of the originality and interest out of the film. The film does not engage the use of the gimmick in any compelling way. The film becomes another by-the-books Blair Witch Project rip-off.
Jonathan Vekenheim, played with annoying jerkiness by newcomer Kris Lemche, sets off to the outer reaches of the Arctic Circle of Northern Canada with his skeptical film crew to document the journey. The crew is played by a trio of newcomers who bring nothing new to the craft of acting. In fact, the one performance of any weight is that of the crusty old guide played by a good character actor from Ireland named Timothy V. Murphy. He plays a memorable IRA villain on FX’s great series Sons of Anarchy. Here he is fine but the character is written as homage to the role of Quint in Jaws that the filmmakers turn into more of a rip off. There is even a scene aping the great U.S.S Indianapolis speech from Jaws that Robert Shaw delivered so memorably. It is laid out almost identically, even down to the very diction Shaw used in his film, as Murphy’s character relates a story of his mates being eaten by a polar bear. The sequence is obvious and does not play.
Another sequence that does not work is where the crew goes to interview a drugged out “tweaker” who claims to have had an encounter with the titular monster. The filmmakers try to give us a twisted, black humored, scene where a bizarre character goes wild for our enjoyment. This is the kind of scene that works so well in the hands of Rob Zombie or Sam Raimi. Here the scene is laughably bad and falls flat.
There is an incredibly long set up to the proceedings. The film runs only 87 minutes yet the first 45 to 50 minutes is all exposition. Mind you, I enjoy good dialogue but after the 30 minute mark I was screaming for something to happen. I assume this is due to The Blair Witch Project’s style, but where that film slowly rolled out its suspense with interesting characterizations and dialogue that hinted at the horrors to come, this film becomes talky and boring.
Once the film moves into the wilderness it does do somewhat well in creating a suspenseful atmosphere with its howling wolves and spooky sounds in the cold, dark and snowy winter night. The director makes good use of a couple of night vision scenes where the actors sit scared inside their tent as the sounds of the wild surround them throughout the night. Those moments give the film the ominous vibe that it has been struggling for, however, in the immortal words of playwright Neil Simon, “six days does not a week make.”
Unfortunately, there isn’t much more to say about the film. It is too undercooked and bland to get excited about. It is the kind of horror film that can be used as an example for the argument that “nothing ever happens in found footage films” and how they are “too boring”. This film is all of that and less.
Since the modus operandi of horror these days is to rip off every other film, I hope that someone will take this great idea of the Frankenstein monster as non-fiction and give us a film with cohesive structure, interesting characters, and chilling horror. The Frankenstein Theory is not that film.
1 star out of 5