a world of human embryo cloning and Dolly the Sheep, Mary Shelley’s Modern Prometheus is no longer as
outlandish as we would want it to be. Arguably, the time is ripe for contemporary
take on the legend and Bernard Rose, the prolific modernizer of Tolstoy and
director of Candyman, is a logical
choice to do it. Transporting the monster from Geneva to Los Angeles, Rose
takes intriguing liberties while remaining oddly faithful to the iconic tale in
Frankenstein (trailer here), which screens as
part of the closing night tribute to the British filmmaker at the Film Society
of Lincoln Center’s Scary Movies 9.
might shock you, but the wealthy Dr. Viktor Frankenstein and his wife Elizabeth
have been trying to create a living human being (with the help of their senior
staff scientist, Dr. Pretorius). Initially, they believe their latest attempt
is the breakthrough they have hoped for, until cancerous lesions start
appearing all over his formerly pristine body. Despite his bonding with
Elizabeth Frankenstein like an infant with his mother, both Frankensteins agree
to euthanize their creation for ostensive reasons of mercy. However, the
increasingly disfigured creature just will not die.
from the compound, the wretched soul accepts the wider world’s name for him: “Monster.”
He soon has a nasty run-in with LA’s Finest, but falls in with a homeless blind
bluesman. The protective Eddie is the first person to truly treat him like a
human being. Unfortunately, Eddie’s misunderstanding of the extent and nature
of Monster’s blighted appearance will lead to compounded tragedy.
riffs on Shelley and the original Universal films in clever ways, honoring the
spirit of both. He follows the same general trajectory of his Frankenstein
predecessors, but he does so within a distinctly gritty, naturalistic urban
environment. The grey concrete labs and scuzzy welfare hotels are fitting
backdrops for the ultimate genre morality tale, while also presumably
accommodating his budget constraints.
Huston (a regular Rose repertory player) is absolutely perfect as the arrogant
Dr. Frankenstein and Carrie-Anne Moss plays off him well as the deceptively
warm and supposedly empathetic Elizabeth Frankenstein. Despite his small
stature, Xavier Samuel is still impressively expressive as the largely inarticulate
Monster, especially considering the escalating layers of makeup that masks him
for most of the film. However, it is Tony Todd, the Candyman himself, who really
anchors the film with tragic gravitas as blind Eddie.
Rose somewhat misfires with a rogue cop subplot that
seems calculated give the film further zeitgeisty urgency, but it comes across as
a heavy-handed distraction. In fact, a film depicting the creation of life
through, amongst other things, the use of 3D printing, without regard for the
ethical implications, is already pretty timely. Regardless, Rose’s mise-en-scéne
is austerely stylish and often quite visually striking. Altogether, the film is
quite in keeping with cautionary essence of the original novel, while Randy
Westgate’s ghoulish make-up design gives this Monster his own distinctive look.
Recommended for Frankenstein fans, Rose’s Frankenstein
screens this Thursday (11/5) at the Walter Reade, as part of Scary Movies
Labels: Bernard Rose, Frankenstein, Scary Movies 9, Tony Todd