VOD film review: Frankenstein (2018)
James R | On 10, May 2020
Director: Bernard Rose
Cast: Xavier Samuel, Carrie-Anne Moss, Tony Todd, Maya Erskine, Danny Huston
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Bernard Rose is perhaps best known for giving the world Candyman, but the British director has also served up a fantastic run of Leo Tolstoy adaptations, in partnership with regular leading man Danny Huston. Here, they reteam to bring together his knack for updating classic novels with his eye for horror. The result is Frankenstein, a film that is, aptly, a hybrid of his best qualities.
The movie begins, like Danny Boyle’s recent National Theatre production Frankenstein, with the birth of a creature (Xavier Samuel), a man who is too disfigured to be the success that Victor (Huston) intended. Rather than flee the monster he made, though, Victor tries to bump off the reanimated corpse once more. The creature is explicitly relegated to a lab experiment once more, before he comes back to life again – and, enraged by his father’s mistreatment, sets about making his way through the world on his own, leaving a bloody trail in his wake.
That decision to portray the familiar tale from the creature’s perspective brings a poignant tragedy to the events that unfold. They vary to some degree from Mary Shelley’s text, as Rose updates each beat for the modern world, but what emerges is a searingly critical portrait of society today, as the creature learns his cruel, violent traits from the people around him – a self-centred population that lacks empathy and equality.
An eloquent voiceover that laments the state of civilisation sometimes steers us into a little much melodrama – the creature longs for his mother, Elizabeth (played by an excellent Carrie-Anne Moss) – but the cast consistently ground events, from Huston’s determined scientist to Samuel’s scarred newborn, not to mention Candyman veteran Tony Todd as the outsider Eddie, who takes the creature under his wing. Bursts of horror deliberately unsettle, not just in their gruesome nature but in their inevitability – a doomed sense of tragedy that outweighs the clumsy nature of the rushed final confrontation, but nonetheless makes this graphic horror show a thoughtful melancholic air.
Frankenstein (2018) is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription.