Director: Bernard Rose
Cast: Xavier Samuel, Danny Huston, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tony Todd
Running Time: 89 minutes
Sorry, this is not the first review of Paul McGuigan’s upcoming adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic gothic horror novel starring hot British stars James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. Instead we have PAPER HOUSE and CANDYMAN director Bernard Rose bringing us his best film in decades with a contemporary take on the legendary story that puts the spotlight on Frankenstein’s freakish creation, played by an outstanding Xavier Samuel.
Best known for his work on THE TWILIGHT SAGA, the Aussie actor is surprisingly solid as an artificially created human given life by Danny Huston’s Doctor Victor Frankenstein and his team, which includes wife Carrie-Anne Moss.
Rose cleverly updates Huston’s doctor as a bored Silicon Valley plastic surgeon, no longer interested in fixing the human form. He’d rather mould and experiment using intricate 3D printing techniques to form the perfect living organism. One that not only has a beating heart but a conscience. So grave-digging is out!
With his first breath, Samuel perfectly encapsulates childlike behaviour and immediately takes a shine to the Moss’s Mrs. Frankenstein. Things take a bloody turn when “Adam” begins showing signs of distress and disease, with the team reluctantly deciding to put him out of his misery just as he’s learning, and yearning, to live. His escape from the lab is an extreme one, as this fabricated unstoppable being chops and stomps his way on a mission to find his Mommy.
From then on, and as a narrative, Rose’s FRANKENSTEIN’s surprisingly faithful to Shelley’s flamboyant text. More faithful than all that’s come before. And that includes James Whale’s groundbreaking Universal classic which made an icon of Boris Karloff. Weaving iconic detail from page and screen while Samuel beautifully narrates exact passages to explain the psychology of the character’s interpretation of life, love and nature. The effects of soaking up so much of the cruel world he is faced with so young.
This version of FRANKENSTEIN is not a perfect picture, but Rose does deserve plaudits for not pandering to audience expectation. There is more than enough freshness and fascination to feed on while the pace of the film means it’s never dull. The conclusion may be surprisingly swift, hauntingly poignant and very effective.
Special mention for Tony Todd. Rose’s first collaboration with the genre icon since their urban horror classic CANDYMAN. He’s terrific in his short but pivotal role of the blind beggar who befriends the modern-day monster, only for their relationship to turn tragic.