I have to admit, I knew nothing about this film going in and wasn’t expecting much. But I was utterly amazed at how well made, well acted, and well written THE FRANKENSTEIN SYNDROME was. Though the tale of Frankenstein and his monster has been told in a million different incarnations, I believe it’s a testament to Mary Shelley’s brilliant novel that it can be interpreted in so many fascinating ways. Having just raved about Danny Boyle’s stage version of FRANKENSTEIN a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure I was ready for another science gone awry horror film. And was firm in my thinking that I wouldn’t find one to match the caliber of Boyle’s masterpiece adaptation, for sure. Turns out, I was wrong on both counts.
Setting stem cell research as the backdrop for the Frankenstein story isn’t entirely original, but that doesn’t mean that THE FRANKENSTEIN SYNDROME is not an effective little story about scientists who try to be god by inadvertently creating one. Attempting to unlock the secrets of cloning cells for universal donor organs, Elizabeth Barnes (Tiffany Shepis) and a team of doctors have thrown the Hippocratic Oath out the window in order to take medical science to the next level. All of them know that what they’ve signed up for is illegal. All of them have reasons for being there, be it prestige, the quest for knowledge, or just for the money. What these brilliant minds create in the lab is something they never imagined; they create God in the form of a man. What I loved about THE FRANKENSTEIN SYNDROME is that doesn’t go the usual route likening the doctors to God. What they do in this film is unlock man’s complete potential by allowing their creation to use 100% of his brain matter, thus giving him not only increased intelligence, but the power to read minds, move objects through telekinesis, and to perform feats that those of a religious background might call miracles such as healing the sick and turning water into wine (or in this case, fruit punch). In THE FRANKENSTEIN SYNDROME, the creator is not trying to be God, the Monster is. This role reversal allows for some astounding moments of terror and tension, all the while raising sophisticated philosophical questions about man’s desire to conquer death.
All of the actors here are top tier. Tiffany Shepis who usually falls under the scream queen role, shows surprising depth and ability here. She’s not just a pretty face. Yes, she’s hot as Hell’s barbeque, but she’s also got the chops. She acts as our eyes and ears through this terrifying tale and does so in a manner I didn’t think the actress had in her. Scott Anthony Leet offers up a strong performance as well as the man turned God. His movements and story arc follows Mary Shelly’s book very closely. He’s no lumbering monster with bolts in his neck. He’s a man-child who grows into his full potential too fast, switching between more advanced being to wimpering child in a heartbeat. In some scenes, he’s utterly menacing. In others, he’s convincingly helpless and gentle. Both lead actors elevate this good script into the stratosphere.
THE FRANKENSTEIN SYNDROME is one of the best films birthed from Mary Shelly’s masterpiece in recent memory. The film starts out with a chilling confession from a woman scarred and masked. Even though I’m well versed in the original material, this film had me guessing from beginning to end. In a subgenre of films that I thought I’d seen it all, THE FRANKENTSTIN SYNDROME turned out to be a smart, original, and completely well done version of the Frankenstein tale. Highly recommended.