The idea behind “Frankenstein’s theory “is quite clever, although more than slightly silly: Mary Shelley’s Monster was not a fiction, but a barely disguised fact.
That’s what the film’s protagonist, a desperate and dishonored academic named Jonathan Venkenheim (Kris Lemche), believes anyway. Presented as images found in the style of “The Blair Witch Project” Where “Troll hunter“The Frankenstein Theory” follows a deeply skeptical documentary film crew as they record Jonathan in their attempt to track down the still-living creature that inspired Shelley’s story in 1818. According to Jonathan, his ancestor, Johann Venkenheim, was the man that Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s character was based on.
If Jonathan’s research is correct, the monster still lives on the edge of the Arctic Circle in remote northern Canada. This is based on Jonathan’s study of caribou migratory movements, which appear to be followed by large increases in the number of unexplained human deaths. (The monster’s frightening longevity is explained, somewhat less plausibly, by Johann’s experiments combining human DNA with that of birds and other animals.)
Venkenheim therefore leaves in his SUV, hoping to restore his academic reputation by capturing photographic evidence of the existence of this proto-Bigfoot. If the creature becomes aggressive, Venkenheim intends to reason with it. After all, he’s not a stupid animal.
Damn, even I would make a movie about this guy. He looks absolutely crazy.
The directorial debut of Andrew Weiner (a Washington native whose parents are local documentary filmmakers Hal and Marilyn Weiner) benefits immensely from the film crew’s disbelief after Venkenheim. Although the fictional director (Heather Stephens) seems the most open-minded, her crew (Brian Henderson and Eric Zuckerman) spend much of the film winking and smirking at the camera in disbelief. Their doubts echo ours, which helps us swallow what is admittedly a pretty far-fetched premise.
But once Jonathan and the film crew set up camp in the frozen north with their grizzled French-Canadian guide (Timothy V. Murphy), things start to turn sour overnight. The movie gets really a little scary at this point.
Fourteen years after “Blair Witch”, have all the genre of found images and horror jumped on the shark? May be. Weiner, however, skillfully manipulates his well-worn tropes. The search for light in the dark; the eerie green glow of night vision; the camera shaking; the victim hyperventilating as something sniffs outside; “Frankenstein” gets as much mileage as possible.
“The Frankenstein Theory” is not a slasher movie, nor is it torture porn. Most of the scariest things happen right off camera, in the mind of the mind. While the technique might be a bit tired – and the source material is almost 200 years old – there’s something refreshing about the efforts that the film won’t go in its search for old-fashioned scares.
Unclassified. At AMC Potomac Mills 18. Contains obscenity, a reference to drugs, and scary imagery. 87 minutes.