FRANKENSTEIN: DAY OF THE BEAST (2011)
Though there have been many tales of Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation, I never tire of seeing new versions of Mary Shelley’s tale. Writer/director Ricardo Islas brings a low budget, but high concept take on the classic story of man attempting to be god. And for the most part, it is a quite successful film.
I have to stress that FRANKENSTEIN: DAY OF THE BEAST is a very low budget film. Don’t expect the gothic castles and expansive landscapes of the Hammer or Universal takes on the subject matter. Most of this film happens in what looks to be an abandoned church and a surrounding woods, but Islas does his best with the limited locale, choosing to focus on one portion of the Frankenstein story rather than the world spanning story.
If you are familiar with the story, things are going to sound familiar here. A bride is whisked to an island for a secret wedding. A handful of mercenaries stand guard on a secluded forested isle. And a monster is stalking them. By zooming in on one chapter of Shelley’s novel, Islas is able to make all that’s familiar new again. This is a fresh take on this old legend, choosing one of the most emotionally complex portions of the book to make into an entire movie.
I’ve seen takes on FRANKENSTEIN that dissect man’s right to do God’s work and ones that examine the complexities between father and son. This film focuses on the monster’s revenge and drive to destroy what Frankenstein holds near and dear; his love Elizabeth (played by Michelle Shields). The monster’s desire to plunder his master’s mate is the most complex and abhorrent detail in the original story. Here Elizabeth is treated as a delicate prize being guarded by a monster. Focusing on this emotionally impactful moment in the story is an interesting move by the filmmaker; making the story seem new again with the rest of the monster’s origin told through flashbacks throughout the rest of the narrative.
The acting is not the best. A lot of the characters seem to be played by non-actors and are not given many lines to speak, thankfully. Adam Stephenson does a decent job as Victor, though he is a bit young for the role. Tim Krueger, has little to do as far as emoting, but he does look very ominous as the bandaged, grey skinned monster. The fetching Michelle Shields does the best job here as the monster’s prize and Victor’s wife Elizabeth. She alternates between tough final girl and innocent delicate flower pretty fluidly throughout the film.
There are some interesting choices here as far as horror elements. The monster is able to remove his limbs and reattach them at will, leading to a nice ode to EVIL DEAD midway through. The monster also seems to have a zombie appetite, though I guess that makes sense since he is one of the living dead. Blood and gore is not over the top here, but when it does occur, it’s most of the time pretty realistic (despite the animated severed limbs, that is).
This looks to be shot in Chicago and I’m all for supporting the indie spirit in my town of residence. FRANKENSTEIN: DAY OF THE BEAST is definitely not the most conventional telling of the Frankenstein story, but its diversions from that story made me look past the rough edges that go along with low budget and amateur acting. Shelley-freaks will want to seek it out, but those who don’t have an appreciation toward low fi scares may not be impressed. I applaud the filmmaker’s derivations from the source material. It made FRANKENSTEIN: DAY OF THE BEAST a fresh experience for me.