Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Frankenstein Theory

The Frankenstein Theory is a fine little piece of film making that shows the virtues of minimalism.  It is one more entry in the growing list of mockumentaries.  All the action is presented from the viewpoint of a camera held by one of the actors.  This technique, with all its obvious limitations, imposes a number of virtues on the film maker.  Story telling takes a back seat to action.  Everything has to be communicated by people in motion.  Almost all of the emotional weight is held just off camera. 
The footage begins with Professor John Venkenheim (Kris Lemche) getting used to the camera.  We soon learn that he believes himself to be the descendant of the real Dr. Frankenstein.  The novel, he emphatically insists, was based on letters from his ancestor.  The Frankenstein monster is very real and he believes that it still lives in Canada.  Dr. Venkenheim has just lost his position at a university due to his obsession with his theory.  He is desperate to prove that he is right.  The film crew is desperate to get something worth viewing.  So off they go to the north to find the monster. 
The portrait of an obsessed academic, who has spent nearly all his waking hours pouring over little bits of information, is dead spot on.  It mirrors the obsession of Baron Frankenstein in many of the films devoted to that story.  It becomes clear very early that he always imposes his theory on the evidence, rather than letting the evidence speak for itself.  He keeps telling the film crew where the monster is and what it is doing.  They keep asking “how do you know this?”  He always has an answer, but the answer only works if you fervently believe the story.  Unfortunately, he is quite right. 
Venkenheim believes that the monster has been living by following herds of caribou.  He correctly guesses where the monster will be and hires a guide to lead the crew to the location.  We get lots of gorgeous footage of the winter landscape and some marvelous scenes in tents and later in a yurt, while ominous howls break in from outside.  When the real horror begins, it is very sparsely presented.  The monster shows up, sure enough, but we get only glimpses of him.  The camera is generous only with the victims.  

This is a much better film than it has any right to be and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is worth studying for the lessons it can teach aspiring horror directors and writers.  It is available on Netflix instant. 

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