Hello and Hallo-welcome back to Frankenstein Friday! Congratulate yourself for making it to the end of the week by sitting back, having your hunchbacked manservant bring you a whiskey, and reading the latest review by your friendly neighbourhood graverobbers, Andy and Lilly!
Today’s film offering: The Frankenstein Theory
Andy: Last week, we looked at Frankenstein’s Army, a movie that asked what the descendants of the world’s most famous mad scientist would be up to if they were still around during the Second World War. And also if camera technology had magically advanced by decades.
But what of the creature? What if it still lurked somewhere isolated, away from human sight, rather than dying in the frozen arctic? What if it was still alive now?
Lilly: Why, you’d go look for it! Of course. Of course you’d go and hunt down a creature made of dead bodies which killed everything his creator loved before isolating itself from humanity for centuries. How could that go wrong? How!
Andy: It’s not many found footage movie that require a small amount of knowledge of literature to fully grasp. The novel Frankenstein has an unbelievably bleak ending, with the titular scientist trying and failing to pursue his creation into the Arctic wastes after the death of virtually everyone he cares about. He dies, his quest unfulfilled and the creature claims he will wander northwards until he is presumably killed by exposure.
Before any of you chumps call spoilers, I will point out that the novel was published in 1817.
Lilly: Frankly, I am a walking spoiler alert in these reviews. So. Spoiler alert! Watch the film.
I was actually really excited to write about this film, even with you having done a review already. You know why? I bet you do.
Lilly: Karl. There is a lot to like about this film. A seriously obsessed character mirroring Victor Frankenstein and allowing the same thing that destroyed Victor to destroy him, for instance. The surprisingly legit reasoning said obsessed character has to finding the monster also makes the film worth watching. But Karl. Well. Karl the badass Canuck is literally the best part of maybe any film ever. He gets things done, has a bit of fun, and actually makes the viewer feel safe whenever he’s around, because whatever, Karl’s got it.
Andy: Yeah, Karl’s got my vote as most badass Canadian character ever put to film. As for the rest of the cast, they’re all kinda forgettable – which interestingly makes them seem more human. One guy you only ever see once or twice, as he’s the cameraman. This is a logic not often seen in these sorts of films.
The only other standout is Venkman, supposed descendant of the 19th Century scientist who originally created the creature. His evidence is…sketchy (although his reasoning for where he thinks the creature is has its own mad logic that I am very entertained by) and not everyone is convinced – least of all his wife. The quiet disintegration of his marriage is one of many tiny subplots that permeate the journey north.
Lilly: Venkman is a ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ character who leads the crew to the wilderness and the monster with such blind ambition and dedication to this theory that you can see the other characters attracted to him, even though they might think he is mad. He has the same appeal of Victor Frankenstein himself, his passion leading him to make mad decisions, pulling the others along with him.
I suppose I could mention the dude bro cameraman who is that guy you get on trips that is just a doofus, doing stupid things and making stupid comments. He was surprisingly well-realized, unlike the ‘I need this job’ leader/old school friend of Venkman we find in Vicky, who just whines, complains, and rolls her eyes through this film. In fact, she was less developed than a junkie we meet up North early on in the film to tell a ‘Tale of the Creature’. All I got from her was that she wanted to be Barbara Walters, and was going to do that by covering Venkman’s journey. I think. I was really disappointed they didn’t go any further with her, but. At least Karl was there. He got me through it.
Andy: One final character is the Northwest Territories themselves. There’s a lot of shots of the Aurora, and a real sense of threat from the environment itself – you aren’t going to live very long out here, monster or no monster, unless you know exactly what you’re doing.
Lilly: This film is actually scary. I know, this is a horror film blog, and that should sort of be the point and all, but not all horror films meet that mark, and that’s fine. Sometimes, you don’t want to be scared, you want to be thrilled, grossed out, or made to laugh at the absurdity of life. But this film? It scares me. The hunt for the creature steadily becomes a slow and steady march towards madness, and no matter how many bumps are met along the way, you just watch with growing dread Venkman’s surrender to his obsession that could easily kill him, which he knows to be the case.
Andy: Yeah, mounting dread is one of the things this one does quite well. When you read books about human disasters in extreme environments, there is never usually one big mistake that causes the catastrophe. Often it’s a sequence of minor things going wrong, slowly escalating as a series of decisions are handled poorly. This is a slow burn you don’t see very often, and has led some people to think of this film as ‘boring’. You know what, those people need longer attention spans.
Lilly: If you are a fan of found footage, I’d definitely suggest this one. Unless you mean Paranormal Activity when you say ‘found footage’, because than you might be a bit bored by the documentary style frights you get in this one rather than sudden camera flashes and wobbling. It’s a little more Trollhunter and a little less Blair Witch. But that’s okay! It’s still interesting, still fun, and still worth watching, if you enjoy found footage as a trope.
Andy: I love this one. Sure, it’s a little slower paced, and there’s no jump scares or sudden cuts or any cheap gimmicks that fill the rest of the found-footage genre. It’s just a very well-told story, about obsession, and the dangers of finding exactly what you’re looking for.