Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Frankenstein Theory (2013)

Who's In It: Kris Lemche (Ginger Snaps), Heather Stephens (The Forgotten), and Timothy V Murphy (Sons of Anarchy).

What It's About: The descendent (Lemche) of the possible historical inspiration for Victor Frankenstein leads an expedition into the Canadian wilderness to prove that his ancestor really did create a monster and that it still exists.

How It Is: My hatred for found footage movies was overcome by my curiosity about Frankenstein movies. I should have paid more attention to my found footage feelings.

It's not all bad. Shot mostly in Alaska, the scenery is gorgeous. And Murphy is quietly amusing as the grizzled guide who's taking no crap from the young, wise-cracking members of the documentary crew. Other than those two things though, the movie's horrible.

My problem with most found footage movies is that they're all about building tension and very rarely do they pay off. The feeling I always get is that the movies aren't structured that way because they're especially interested in tension for its own sake, but because it's a lot cheaper to just film people walking around, arguing, and looking for things. The mistake these movies make - and The Frankenstein Theory is among the worst of them - is to think that just prolonging the reveal is enough to keep an audience engaged.

In The Frankenstein Theory, none of the characters are the least bit interesting. They're just copies of people from other movies who react to their horror scenario exactly like people always do in these things. I had hopes for Lemche's Jonathan Venkenhein, who not only wants to find the creature, but to befriend it. I'm fascinated by that idea too: what would happen if someone tried to treat Frankenstein's monster with compassion and kindness? But Frankenstein Theory isn't actually interested in that as a theme. It's just another symptom of Venkenhein's possibly insane drive to find the creature. And while I say "possibly insane," the movie's not interested in exploring that either. Maybe Venkenhein is crazy and maybe he isn't. He could be right about the monster, but still be insane. That would be a fascinating character study if the movie was as interested in it as it is in having Venkenhein argue with his crew of cliche, whiny unbelievers.

As bad as the build-up is, the resolution is still disappointing. I might forgive the movie if it had a rewarding conclusion, but not only does it fail to say anything interesting about Frankenstein's monster, it doesn't even offer a good look at him. The image on the poster is a better view of the creature than is ever seen in the film and the reveal of the monster is as murky and unsatisfying as the resolution of The Frankenstein Theory's plot.

Rating: One out of five scenic shacks.


Paxton said...

That's a shame. I was interested in this movie.

Michael, I'm not going to argue the validity of this movie but I will fight for the honor of found footage films. I like them. The ones that work are excellent (Troll Hunter, Paranormal Activity 1-2, even Blair Witch Project). But the ones that don't work are garbage. And that's true of many genres.

I'll give you that even with the good ones, once you've watched it through, the second or third viewings are a lot less interesting because of the loss of tension which seems to be the basis of the majority of the found footage genre.

But that's just my two cents. I think one's leanings towards the found footage genre will shade your thoughts on that particular movie. But again, I'm not saying this particular movie you are reviewing is any better than you say it is.

Michael May said...

If you like found footage movies, you might enjoy this one better than I did. It got some decent reviews on Amazon from people with more affection for that genre than I have.

I shouldn't make it sound like I hate ALL found footage movies. I did enjoy Paranormal Activity and Troll Hunter (and to a lesser extent Blair Witch, but I might would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't missed an important detail, so that's on me). It's an uphill battle for found footage movies to connect with me though. I've seen too many bad ones that I tend to go into them with my arms crossed, insisting that they prove me wrong about them.


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