Image Entertainment // 2012 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 28th, 2013
The monster is real.
The movie is real.
The terror is real.
Disgraced academic Jonathan Venkenheim (Kris Lemche, Final Destination 3) believes that the Frankenstein story is not just a scary old yarn, but actual fact. According to Venkenheim, his ancestor Johann Venkenheim actually created a living, breathing monster and he was the inspiration for Victor Frankenstein. With a documentary movie crew at the ready, led by a spunky director Vicky (Heather Stephens, Tomcats), Venkenheim sets off into the frozen north in an attempt to track and find the legendary creature. What Venkenheim and his documentary crew finds is far more than they bargained for and just may put them six feet in the ground by sundown!
Found footage films and fake documentaries have become so clichéd that you could easily create a long list of films that you couldn't pay me to watch. Of course, the culprit to this genre is 1999's seminal The Blair Witch Project, a horror film that took three actors, a miniscule budget, a creepy forest, and turned it into a one hundred million dollar hit. Like parasites riding the coattails of a famous celebrity, dozens of POV films have flooded theaters and the home video market. The Last Exorcist. Paranormal Activity. Cloverfield. Diary of the Dead. Quarantine. This list goes on and on (and on, and on...). Please God, make it stop!
The Frankenstein Theory is the latest horror film to offer up a documentary crew in search of supernatural horror, brought to you buy the producers of The Last Exorcism. This time around viewers are given the premise that the Frankenstein legend was not a work of fiction by author Mary Shelley, but instead it was a true story and the creature is still wandering around in the dark, assumingly upset at his portrayal in the movie Van Helsing. On par with almost every other movie of this ilk, The Frankenstein Theory spends most of the plot watching characters talk about the movie's monster, discuss what it might look like, where it could be hiding, blah, blah, blah. Whenever this happens it's clear that the filmmakers didn't have a very large budget, so moviegoers are forced to sit patiently and wait until the end for the 'big reveal', which usually turns out to be the least interesting thing in the movie.
The Frankenstein Theory doesn't feel like it wants to be a believable found footage film. The performances are too broad and played for laughs; witness a burned out drug dealer (Joe Egender, The Hamiltons), who had a run in with the monster a while back, flipping out like he was a supporting character in a Jim Carrey film. Chris Lemche fares the best in the 'mad doctor' role, playing John Venkenheim with equal parts neurotic ego and vulnerable angry. If anyone gets away scot-free from this movie, it's Lemche. Most of the actors commit to their roles (including Appaloosa's Timothy V. Murphy as a hardheaded French-Canadian wilderness guide and Heather Stephens as a naïve director), but they aren't given enough to do by writer/director Andrew Weiner (Penny Dreadful) to justify the nearly hour and a half runtime.
The dialogue falls along the line of techno-babble (Venkenheim discusses the history the monster in sometimes monotonous detail) to the slyly amusing ("My mom is unstable. That was a meth-head or pulled a gun!"). I wouldn't say the writing is award worthy, but it at least tries to have a little fun with the concept without going too over-the-top. Of course, movie fans will be thrilled to see the inclusion of some nice nods to the original Frankenstein myth, including an arc where Venkenheim loses his girlfriend over his obsession (a clear echo to the original film's Dr. Frankenstein). The Frankenstein Theory doesn't get high marks for execution, but at least tries to have some fun with the concept, however limited.
Spoiler Alert! The Frankenstein Theory wraps up as films like this often do: characters meet gruesome ends, usually in the corners of the frame/video camera or out of sight with squishy, crunching sounds. This movie is no different, and the ending harkens back to The Blair Witch Project nihilistic finale. Ten years ago a movie ending this way felt unique and terrifying; today it feels as fresh as watching Will Ferrell make another sports themed comedy. In a way the ending feels like a cheat; to heighten the scares, we are given only a few brief glimpses of the monster and even then he's mostly covered up in heavy clothing and guttural grunts. Why call your movie The Frankenstein Theory when you aren't really going to show the Frankenstein's monster? Sometimes less is more, and sometimes less feels like kind of a rip-off.
The Frankenstein Theory is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is very good for standard DVD; for a found footage movie, it actually retains a very clean, crisp look. There are a few scenes that look rougher than others, but overall this is a very good video presentation. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. The audio mix supports the film well but is often front heavy with a few light directional effects scattered throughout the film. While the track is hardly reference quality, it gets the job done. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc. There are no bonus features.
The Frankenstein Theory doesn't do enough to separate itself from the pack of found footage movies cluttering up local Best Buy shelves. While it's hardly a resounding failure, it features too little horror and too much dialogue.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R