When Bernard Rose’s Frankenstein was unveiled in the Frightfest lineup this year, I wasn’t immediately taken with the idea.
There have been numerous retellings of Mary Shelley’s tale (including a forthcoming James McAvoy release) and none have managed to recapture the excitement of the iconic 1932 Universal film.
‘Modern’ interpretations are dangerous, evoking hideous memories of similar assaults on the classics such as Dracula (Dracula A.D 1972, Dracula 2000, Dracula 2012 and even Dracula 3000!)
Rose begins his Frankenstein from an entirely new angle. Based on the fact that Mary Shelley’s book never actually mentioned how the ‘monster’ was created, his interpretation is inspired by silicon valley – a living being created with a 3D printer capable of printing organic matter.
Once built, this experiment is brought to life and begins to develop – as a full grown man with the mental development of a newborn baby.
He instantly bonds with Elizabeth Frankenstein, seeing her has his mother, which makes things difficult when it becomes clear that something is wrong with the his physical development. He develops painful growths and soon the doctors agree that it’s best to euthanise him, seeing him as sub human, an experiment gone wrong and underserving of the right to live.
But during the attempt to kill him, the subject escapes and embarks on a journey of discovery. As he makes his way through woodland and through to the city, he learns and as he does so, becomes more human.
On the surface, Rose’s Frankenstein film doesn’t sound too different to the others before it. But its balance of perfect pace, excellent casting and skillful writing making it a pleasure to watch.
Xavier Samuel is absorbing in his role of Adam, the first human created by 3D printer. And supporting roles by Mr and Mrs Frankenstein, Danny Huston (30 Days of Night, American Horror story) and Carrie-Anne Moss (Matrix) add to the polish of this well formed filmic creation.
Rose also cast Tony Todd as the blind beggar, after having cast him for Candyman some 23 years ago. Todd too is a perfect fit. His character, Eddie teaches the monster about society, unaware of his affliction or origins, and brings him closer still to understanding humanity and his place in it.
A nice touch is having Shelley’s original words being read by Samuel as narration. Although his character is only capable of grunts and simple sentences, his eloquent thoughts further enforce the point that he is a conscious human being, affording him the same rights as the rest of us.
Frankenstein may not have you sitting on the edge of your seat or shaking with emotion, but it is a very good film without any flaws.
It is definitely one of the unexpected highlights of Frightfest 2015.