Tuesday, October 8, 2013


No, that curious creature to the left isn’t one of my ex-girlfriends.  That is cinema’s very first Frankenstein’s monster as he appeared in FRANKENSTEIN (1910) produced by Edison Studios.  Since that first appearance over a century ago, Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula have been neck-and-bloody-neck in a competition for which horror character has been portrayed more on both the big and little screen.  With its themes of life and death, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a fertile ground that draws filmmakers from all corners of the Earth.  The fact that the character is public domain might also have something to do with it. Today we’ll examine two of the lower budget attempts, both updating their variations for modern audiences by titling their films FRANKENSTEIN REBORN.

Our first entry came from Charles Band’s Full Moon studio. Much like the concurrently-shot THE WEREWOLF REBORN (1998), their stab at the Frankenstein legend was aimed more at kids as part of Band’s ambitious Filmonsters sub-label (which was a planned 12 part series, but only last for these two entries). An obvious attempt to cash in on the lucrative GOOSEBUMPS market, Band certainly had his heart in the right place; meaning, right next to his wallet.  This 45-minute flick wastes no time with the set up as recently-orphaned Anna (Haven Burton) arrives at the isolated castle of her uncle, Victor Frankenstein (Jaason Simmons; yes, with two “a”s).  Victor apparently hates being saddled with the responsibility and tells her she can’t wander around his abode while he does medical research with his assistant Ludwig (George Calin) in the basement.  Anna meets Thomas (Ben Gould), a young groundskeeper, and soon they are sneaking into Victor’s private library and peeking in on his experiments.  Before you can scream “it’s alive,” the medical deviate duo has resurrected a monster (Ethan Wilde) sewn together from various humans that bolts into the woods and starts terrorizing the villagers.

In case you ever forget your surname:

Made during the start of Full Moon’s lean period, FRANKENSTEIN REBORN! was lensed on the cheap in the Romanian countryside.  Like Jeff Burr on the werewolf picture, director David DeCoteau (under the pseudonym Julian Breen) actually turns this negative into a plus as the locations give the film a more authentic feel.  Truthfully, this looks a lot better than it has any right to and DeCoteau and his production team actually give us an impressive looking laboratory. The budget restraints do reveal themselves in the final where the castle burns down in the finale with some CGI flames rendered so terribly that the monster would probably scream, “Fire bad!”  I’d be willing to wager that DeCoteau is a fan of Hammer’s THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) as his monster resembles the Christopher Lee variation from that film with its body wraps and big overcoat.  Of course, this is still a film made for kids so don’t expect anything too challenging, graphic or subversive (hopefully no kids looked up DeCoteau’s filmography post-viewing).  It is basically a Cliffsnotes version of the story.  And by that I mean the story of James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and not the actual source novel.  I just find hope in the idea that some lazy kid opted to rent and watch this instead of reading this for their book report.  “What do you mean Frankenstein didn’t read children’s books,” little Timmy questions after getting an F on his essay.  In the end, this adaptation is just too innocuous to recommend, unless you are a Frankenstein or Full Moon completists (if you’re the latter, I’m sorry).  If you still have a desire to see it, you can pick up a cheap double feature DVD of this and THE WEREWOLF REBORN from the UK.

The Asylum’s FRANKENSTEIN REBORN arrived seven years later.  As you can see, this is a totally different kind of beast as the title features no exclamation point.  Believe it or not, before they took over the world with unwatchable mockbusters, The Asylum produced films that were original stories. Well, original in the sense that they retold stuff like the Frankenstein or werewolf mythos.

The film centers on Dr. Victor Frank (Rhett Giles, aka bootleg Gerard Butler) who is currently incarcerated in a loony bin and telling his story to psychologist Dr. Robert Walton (Thomas Downey, aka bootleg Matt Damon).  The shrink is trying to determine whether Dr. Frank is mentally fit to stand trial for several murders and his outlandish stories aren’t really helping.  Dr. Frank explains that he was working on some pioneering nanotechnology and, via flashback we see how he and his assistant Hank (Jeff Denton) experiment on paraplegic Bryce (Joel Hebner).  In his downtime the good doc has S&M threesomes with his love interest Elizabeth (Eliza Swenson).  Yes, this has all the risqué sex scenes Shelley wanted to put in her book.  Anyway, with fear of losing his trustees grant, Dr. Frank also starts experimenting on himself and this causes a problem when his unsavory desires are picked up by the computer and fed into Bryce’s brain.  When their subject is killed, Dr. Frank and Hank (haha that rhymes) set about trying to resurrect him.  Naturally, they succeed and soon a hulking, killing beast with Dr. Frank’s deviant mental issues is on the loose.

Frankenstein's Monster: The Meth Years

The second FRANKENSTEIN REBORN is the complete antithesis of DeCoteau’s kiddie retelling.  Director Leigh Scott opts for a gory-as-hell reworking of the Frankenstein fable as evidenced by the opening scene where a lady is thrown onto the table by the monster and has her legs ripped off.  For a low budget Frankenstein variation, this definitely sets itself apart with that element and some occasionally decent acting.  And I have to say that I really liked their design for the monster in this one as it sets itself apart from the storied history of Frankenstein’s monsters.  Scott also makes some nice nods toward THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991).  Now don’t think I am praising this as a classic. It is definitely not.  The direction vacillates from engaging to flatter-than-days-old-soda and Scott even botches the filming of some kills.  But it slings enough grue that I was sufficiently satisfied during its 80-minute running time (the same can also be said for Scott’s THE BEAST OF BRAY ROAD from the same year).  Yes, I’m easy and it caught me at the right moment.  Sadly, The Asylum abandoned this type of film in favor of the drivel that is currently driving the cult movie hipsters crazy on SyFy.  Sad. They coulda been a contender.

1 Reactions:

  1. Trivia: Dana Dearmond apparently cameos in The Asylum's film.


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