frankenstein-theory1[xrr rating=2.0/5]The Frankenstein Theory wastes no time before setting up its central idea. Less than three minutes into the film, Professor John Venkenheim (Kris Lemche) flat out states that he believes that Frankenstein, the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley, is a true story. Slightly more accurately, he amends that it is the “fictionalized” account of true events, ones that were set in motion by his own distant ancestor, Johannes Venkenheim, who delved into the science of genetics, pre-Mendel, and created a monster that made its way into the Arctic Circle after a series of violent murders. After being kicked out of his university for essentially devoting his life to a crazy, evidence-free theory primarily designed to vindicate his great-to-the-umpteenth grandfather, Venkenheim organizes a documentary film crew to travel into deep northern Canada, where he believes he has tracked the migration pattern of the monster.

There’s a lot of exposition in the first act of the film, and it’s commendably conveyed in quick succession (necessary, too, considering the film clocks in at a brief 87 minutes). The real problem of the film is that after setting up an intriguing premise, it almost immediately reverts to a by-the-numbers found-footage horror film, with almost no part of the premise actually informing the action. Horror filmmakers have been burning through the goodwill The Blair Witch Project brought to the genre for 14 years straight, and The Frankenstein Theory doesn’t bring anything new to the table to change that. For the vast majority of the film, it’s simply six people with cameras out in the wilderness being picked off by an unseen but omnipresent monster. The mere fact that it’s supposedly the non-Karloff version of a famous monster doesn’t change that it’s an overused formula.

The Frankenstein Theory does have a few things that elevate it above the worst examples of the found-footage horror film, last year’s Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes perhaps being the low point of the genre. The sound guy (Brian Henderson) and second camera operator (Eric Zuckerman) have a comfortable, bro-ish back and forth that frequently acts as an antidote to the moments of pretension that inevitably arise in a film that uses Mozart’s “Requiem” as a motif for no apparent reason. And at least in the film’s beginning, the supposed footage of the film is edited into an explanatory montage that hints that it may not simply be an entire film of wobbly hand-shot footage, but something a bit more polished–you know, like an actual documentary. Unfortunately, that turns out to be a bit of a red herring: the film is 90% shaky footage of snow and woods and people freaking out.

The real issue of The Frankenstein Theory is that after introducing a fairly novel concept (masking a seminal fictional horror story in a supposedly real, yet still-fictional story), the film squanders its potential. Director/writer Andrew Weiner (and co-writer/producer Vlady Pildysh) make no attempt to explain why Shelley rewrote the elder Venkenheim’s life into fiction, or even why she was involved in it. It also doesn’t engage with the role Frankenstein (either the creator or the monster) has in popular culture, even in horror films, which would seem to at least deserve a nod. And most damningly, the creature itself has zero personality and is barely seen; despite Venkenheim repeatedly referencing that the creature from the original novel was an articulate, reasoning being, it does nothing but roar outside the frozen yurt the crew is holed up in. In effect, it might as well be the angry polar bear initially suggested, for all it has to do with Frankenstein. For a movie predicated on an innovative idea, The Frankenstein Theory does nothing with it.

  • Revisit: Do the Right Thing

    Do the Right Thing saw a filmmaker at the extreme apex of his abilities, one who transform…
  • Oeuvre: Lynch: Inland Empire

    While it would not be fair to treat Inland Empire as a sort of culmination of Lynch’s care…
  • Owen: Other People’s Songs

    [xrr rating=2.25/5]For a guy who consistently sounds low-key, Mike Kinsella is quite busy.…
  • Kandisha

    This familiar yet effective tale of supernatural terror is on-brand for Maury and Bustillo…
  • From the Vaults of Streaming Hell: Heidi 4 Paws

    You want Lynchian resonance in the talking-dog adaptation of a beloved children’s book? Ha…
  • Settlers

    Writer and director Wyatt Rockefeller nails some qualities of classic Westerns in his feat…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Revisit: Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing saw a filmmaker at the extreme apex of his abilities, one who transform…