Given that it’s directed by Candyman helmer Bernard Rose, I expected Frankenstein to be good. But I was actually pleasantly surprised by how good it is, considering that I was initially thrown off by the changes made to the standard storyline. The first major change, of course, is that the film is not a period piece as most adaptations of the story are. Instead, it’s set in the present, using modern technology to form the conception of the creature. Luckily, the film doesn’t dwell on this too much. We don’t get a lot of exposition and that’s fine. All we really need to know is that Adam was created in a lab.
The second change is that the creator role has been split into two. Adam is not targeting his revenge on a single parent figure, as Victor and Elizabeth are a husband and wife scientist team who created him together. Once Adam’s beautiful features begin to break down and the degenerative disease of his skin begins to take over, Victor thinks that he is an outright failure and elects to simply dispose of him and start anew. Elizabeth is shown to have more of a conscious. She’s guilty about killing him, but she’s far from perfect. She still lets Victor attempt to kill Adam, when Adam is later brought in by the police, she claims she’s never seen him before.
Adam’s relationship with her is the most unique aspect of the film, but also the strangest. Like a child, all he wants is his mother, but there’s a somewhat incestuous implication at one point in the narrative. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, though. All he wants is to be embraced by the people who threw him away and moved on with their lives as though he had never existed. Adam doesn’t even have a revenge plot. He doesn’t want to kill either of the Frankensteins. He only wants to find them, to learn where he came from and to ask them why they did it.
I knew that Rose’s Frankenstein would be done on a smaller budget, but it looks much more expensive than it actually is. This is shot like an indie drama, it feels like a drama. There’s a strong emotional weight carrying the film that is its greatest strength. At the same time, it’s not pretentious. Rose is clearly a fan of the material and those references and homages—particularly to the Universal features—shine through.
The performances are solid across the board, with relative newcomer Xavier Samuel definitely shining as Adam. Both Danny Huston and Carrie Anne Moss are great as the two halves of Frankenstein, and Tony Todd is a great touch as a blind, homeless jazz musician who becomes Adam’s only friend.
The disc itself, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired. While I give the film a very positive grade, it definitely suffers in its Blu-ray treatment. There are no special features to be found, not even a director’s commentary, which I would have loved to have heard. All we have are scene selections, audio setup options, and a couple of trailers. You can access these from any time, in case you get to the middle of the movie and decide you really need to see that trailer for Howl one more time.
While the feature itself is a solid 8, the overall disc treatment leads me to give it a 6. It’s hard to specifically review the Blu-ray of Frankenstein when said Blu-ray was just slapped into creation and released without much thought, much like the poor monster himself.
WICKED RATING: [usr 6]
Director: Bernard Rose
Writer: Bernard Rose
Stars: Xavier Samuel, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tony Todd, Danny Huston
Release: February 23, 2016
Studio/Production Co: Bad Badger, Alchemy Media
Length: 89 minutes
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi Horror