When it comes to found footage films, I’ve pretty much run the course. I’ve seen all the triple-A Hollywood titles (Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity) and nearly every straight to DVD wannabe released in the last decade: Bigfoot: The Lost Cost Tapes, Area 407, Grave Encounters 1 and 2, The Amityville Haunting and a dozen more. To put things bluntly, most of them are terrible. It’s the cheapest way to make a horror movie so it makes sense that filmmakers would flock to it and the outcome is handfuls of mediocre, jump scare ridden, terribly written, poorly acted horror movies.
I am happy to say that The Frankenstein Theory does an excellent job at avoiding those downfalls. Now while many of the advertisements you see come tagged with “from the makers of The Last Exorcism,” this is a bit of a stretch. This is Andrew Weiner’s first foray into directing but he has had his hand in horror for years, producing titles such as Penny Dreadful and even B-movie classic Tromeo and Juliet. He tag teams with writer Vlady Pildish (Heartstopper) on the script and together the two manage to create a smartly written movie that isn’t necessarily scary but it’s entertaining and fun to play along with.
The “footage” is of a team of documentarians who are following Jonathan Venkenheim into the Arctic Circle. Jonathan is a now disgraced college professor who believes he is a direct descendent of the basis of the Frankenstein novel. Not only that, but he also theorizes that the monster is real, alive, and living in the barren arctic fields of Northern Canada. He has loads of evidence supporting him, an eye-witness testimony, and even a corroborating number of murders that falls in line with a caribou migratory pattern. If the facts and statistics he presents were real, you would be hard pressed not to believe in the monster. So Jonathan and a small crew of four, plus one ruffian hunter named Carl, make their way into the Canadian wilderness to hunt the creature down.
The movie is insanely well written. Not just the realistic reaction of characters of the hilarious interactions between Carl and sound man Brian, but because it comes across as intelligent and scientifically sound. It’s not some oddball random assortment of words thrown together to create a plot to drag us around into creepy hallways or haunted cemeteries but instead collegiate level psuedo-science fiction with it’s claws buried deep into reality. It’s fun to mix a literary classic with horror undertones and a good job at fusioning fiction and non-fiction.
The cast is superb. Venkenheim is played by Kris Lemche (Final Destination 3) and he does a killer job. The entire movie he is spouting scientific jargon with a nervous edge, his entire career is teetering on this discovery after all, and you find yourself wondering if these are just the ramblings of a deluded professor or if there really is, in fact, a Frankenstein’s Monster. Timothy Murphy is the grizzled huntsman they take to traverse the wild and he nearly out acts his co-stars in one tense scene where he recalls a hunt gone wrong, nearly miming the same anxious energy of the shark monologue made by Quinn in Jaws. The crew of the documentary all play the doe eyed unbelieving bit well, with tensions rising as they reach the Arctic Circle, and the balance of the cast is near perfect.
The entire film is incredibly well shot for a found footage flick. Sure, we get the standard night vision green screen, the cameras narrow light running through the dark with a bouncy shaky view, but we also get a number of excellent time lapse sequences and gorgeous Canadian backdrops. The movie runs into the same flaws that some many of the genre do. It drags in story at points and we don’t get any real action until the last thirty minutes or so of the movie. This is made up for by it’s realness. At times, you almost think you could be watching an episode of Destination: Truth.
The movie is just hands down fun. It’s full of big words and literary allusions but it’s a joyride that exceeds it’s expectations. It’s easily in the forefront of straight-to-dvd found footage films, maybe even topping it. With a solid cast, exceptionally talented script, and an exciting background, The Frankenstein Theory is a well needed surprise in a genre full of one note scares.