Friday, May 10, 2013

The Cinema File #175: "The Frankenstein Theory" Review

This is the first of a loose and most likely out of sequence trilogy of movie reviews focusing on recent films based on or inspired by classic Universal horror monsters, something I decided to do after recently being so disappointed by the vampire comedy Vamp U. To kick off this mini-series, I figured I might as well start with the one featuring my personal favorite movie monster, Frankenstein, which is to say the monster named Frankenstein, not the doctor named Dr. Frankenstein. Yeah, I still hate that nerdy debate. Anyway, the movie is called The Frankenstein Theory, a unique twist on the found footage format that might be the first mostly traditional example of the genre that I have actually enjoyed.

The story follows a historian who has come to believe that Mary Shelly's original novel Frankenstein is actually secretly a work of non-fiction, and sets out into the Canadian wilderness to prove his theory and find first hand evidence of the still living creature. The premise would have been an interesting one even independent of the found footage gimmick, but as it is its the first time I've ever actually been excited to watch a found footage movie after reading what it was about, and for the most part, it didn't disappoint. It indulges in all the cliches of the genre but presents them in an original context and with rich characters that I could invest in, making the experience much more watchable than it probably has any right to be.

As I was watching, I found myself marveling at both how far we've come with these movies, and how much we're still stuck in the same rut with this genre. With all due respect to the five or six Last Broadcast fans out there, The Blair Witch Project was what really started this trend, and even as we've moved on to the suburbs with the Paranormal Activity movies, it still seems like the vast majority of found footage movies I see are the same group of douche bags traipsing through the woods until they die. I watched not one but two Bigfoot found footage movies just last year with that formula. But even as we go through the same motions, the mysterious poorly shot something out there has gotten more and more esoteric as we've run out of the basics. Frankenstein might be the weirdest one so far, but probably not the weirdest yet to come.

And yet it works a lot better than I expected it would. I'm not saying its plausible, as if any found footage monster is, but I was surprised by how quickly I was able to accept the world of this movie and go along for the ride. Much like the last decent found footage movie I watched, The Lost Coast Tapes, the writing and acting here is clearly more geared towards witty hyper-realistic characters rather than authentically boring ones, but again I think it helps the film immensely, especially considering its not like I was going to suspend my disbelief and pretend these were real people anyway. Much of the dialogue is funny or at least charming when its supposed to be, enough that I feel for the characters by the time the carnage is unleashed and they start getting picked off one by one.

Overall, as strange as it is for me to say it given my own personal biases against this type of movie, I would definitely recommend giving The Frankenstein Theory a shot. Its available on Netflix Streaming as of this writing, and while it follows the standard formula that you've seen again and again, it does it better than I've ever seen it at least in long form, not counting the surprisingly good anthology film VHS. It maintains a level of intrigue and tension throughout, and if you can resist what I guess would be the knee jerk reaction to dismiss the film based on its particularly silly premise, there's more here than I was certainly expecting to find, and enough to justify the effort of watching.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...