26 September 2015

Bernard Rose's FRANKENSTEIN (/Slash Filmfestival 2015)


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USA / Germany, 2015
Director: Bernard Rose


Claiming that "Candyman"-director Bernard Rose returns to his horror-roots with his latest film is not right, because even though he spent most of his career making Tolstoy-adaptations ("Anna Karenina", "Ivansxtc", "The Kreutzer Sonata") or films about composers of classical music ("Immortal Beloved", "The Devil' Violonist") he also made at least two low-budget horror films ("Snuff Movie", "Sx_Tape") over the last 10 years, though admittedly, both of them received nearly no attention.

His newest movie is obviously his biggest horror film since "Candyman", though looking at the upcoming big-budget vehicle "Victor Frankenstein" with Daniel Radcliffe, I have a feeling that it will get lost in the shuffle. Bernard Rose's adaptation of Mary W. Shelley's "Frankenstein" is one of the the most radical, most unconventional Frankenstein-filmizations ever, following a modern-day married scientist couple who create an artificial human via a 3D bio-printer.

Fans of Gothic horror and old-school Frankenstein - stay away. "Frankenstein" (what an unimaginative title) feels more like directed by David Cronenberg or Paul Haggis, taking place in the suburban areas of Los Angeles where Frankenstein's monster stumbles around between lonesome forests, ghettos areas and fucked up hotels. The movie starts out unsettling and almost claustrophobic in small, ugly laboratory settings before going out into the outside world which at first seems to be a paradise for the artificial creature (nature, animals, no humans), but then he enters the harsh reality of the L.A. city limits (humans, ruthless policemen, dirty ghastliness everywhere) and his "life" becomes kind of an ordeal.

On the technical level, it's a superb film with great cinematography, effective music and brilliant gore & make-up effects. However, acting-wise, it's a mixed bag. There's some really great performances from Carrie-Anne Moss ("The Matrix") as mother-like scientist, a stunningly hilarious Tony Todd ("Candyman") as super-cool blind blues-playing beggar, and Jeff Hilliard as indescribably asshole-ish police officer - but there's also a super-lackluster Danny Huston ("21 Grams") as super-lackluster non-Victor, as well as a bizarre Xavier Samuel ("The Loved Ones") whose acting isn't bad, but his take on the monster... *sigh*, at times it feels like he's playing a wild animal (thanks to my gf for noticing!), at time he's babbling and behaving like a retarded child. The fact that his ability to speak is limited, while at the same time, we get to hear his inner thoughts in the form of original quotes from Shelley's literal source (Baz Lurhmann style)... it was distracing and constantly took me out of the movie.

Also, the whole thing was unexpectedly gory and brutal, at times so extreme, even me, an old-school gore-hound, was irritated by it. The added police brutality was interesting, but ultimately went nowhere, the scenes with the hooker reminded me of the god-awful "Frankenstein '80", the semi-nods to James Whale's "Frankenstein" (Victor screaming "He's alive!", girl at the lake) were simply pointless, and aside from a few intense scenes in the middle, there was hardly any tension or suspense.

Overall, an interesting but ultimately underwhelming attmept to create some kinda 21st century Frankenstein. Kenneth Branagh's adaptation remains the uncrowned king of all "Frankenstein" films...


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