FrightFest 2015 Dispatch: FRANKENSTEIN, ROAD GAMES, SCHERZO DIABOLICO, And More
Retelling Mary Shelley's gothic novel - rather than James Whale's iconographic and influential spin on it for Universal in 1931 - Bernard Rose's Frankenstein is a story of hubris, abandonment and marginalisation in contemporary LA, told from the point of view of the ultimate empowered underdog. Born with a child's developing mind in a superstrong adult body, the Monster (Xavier Samuel) barely has time to imprint on his nurturing mother (Carrie-Anne Moss) before his scientist father (Danny Huston), unhappy with the creation's degrading, imperfect flesh, sends his 3D-printed miracle to be scrapped. Yet the Monster dies hard, and fleeing confused and terrified into the world beyond the laboratory, finds his innocent nature being gradually cast into the cruel, uncaring image of all around him, so that he eventually - just as he has learnt to do - harms the ones he loves.
Frankenstein may come with its share of bloody, bludgeoning brutality, but it also shows how such violence is acquired behaviour, as the Monster, in search of meaning and mother, becomes a living petri dish for the conflict of nature and nurture - and as a result, every blow here is fully felt, and never feels gratuitous or out of place. For while Shelley's myth may now be forever associated with horror, Rose's focus is more on the story's tragic elements, while his updating accommodates all kinds of commentary on the gulf between the beautiful, privileged people of Hollywood and the alienated, overlooked underclass just down the road. This latter community is embodied by Rose regular Tony Todd (Candyman), characteristically engaging as the blind mendicant bluesman Eddie who alone tries to school the Monster in the basics of humanity. The results are a haunting - and touching - film that exposes the monstrousness in us all.