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No, my hair isn’t like this as a statement.

The Last Exorcism was a really surprising and good movie. It was a character study, had effective suspense, and it yielded one of the nicest cinema surprises in a horror film in recent memory. The Frankenstein Theory has none of these accolades. There is no discernible sense of character, the suspense is basically dumb and feels like a limp attempt at Blair Witch retread, and its only surprise is just how lamely it fails to fulfill the promise of its own subject. The Frankenstein Theory‘s only real promise comes in its premise and smarter filmmakers would have realized that this promise had to be kept at some point but never was. In a post The Cabin in the Woods genre scene, this shit will not suffice.

Happily, the endorsement of “From the Makers of The Last Exorcism” means absolutely nothing in this movie. It has a completely different writer and director, meaning that Daniel Stamm, Huck Botko, and Andrew Gurland (the real “makers” of that film) are not choking on their sophomore outing. This film comes to us from Andrew Weiner (actually a pretty good director) and co-writer Vlady Pildysh. It follows the gimmicky model of Paranormal Activity, eschewing the self-awareness and nuance of Exorcism utterly.

This is not to say that The Frankenstein Theory has no redeeming qualities. It has a few. It’s more important for a movie that coasts on a gimmick to be called out as a charlatan, however, at the outset. People will go into this having inklings and hopes that will never be satisfied. You’ll want to see the movie where they go and find the real Frankenstein and talk to it, maybe holding some dark and doomed palaver even if only just before the end.

This is not that movie.FrankensteinTheory_03-450x250

“Frankenstein.”

The premise of the movie is that Johnathan Frankenheim (Kris Lemche) thinks, based mostly on some artifacts from his family, that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a work of nonfiction that was either disguised or mistaken for fiction. The evidence is utterly circumspect, even later in the movie when Johnathan finally hints at why everybody keeps insisting he’s smart by laying down a pretty nice bit of circumstantial evidence, and fails the premise. Because we are only given nebulous reasons for the crew to be going along with his mad quest to the Arctic to go looking for this thing, it always feels like this is being waved away. Some people might read into Vicky’s (Heather Stephens) adoring attitude or the reference to the money Johnathan is paying them all (maybe they are that desperate for work sorta thing). Ultimately, there’s nothing substantial there and it never factors into the movie. They just are, like the “evidence”, necessary for the movie to happen as planned.

So being that this is a “found footage” movie, the characters are the crew of the documentary being made about Johnathan’s quest. There is also Carl, played by Timothy Murphy, who was memorable in Sons of Anarchy as IRA King Gaalen and is equally memorable here as a grizzled North-Canadian guide. He’s the best character in the movie so of course he dies way too early.

The group heads North and has a few half-hearted adventures along the way. They interview a meth-head who once “saw” the Creature but of course would not for a second believe that it was Frankenstein. When they tell him this, he freaks out and pulls a gun as tweakers are wont to do. This is actually a pretty effective scene, reminiscent of the slow-burn movement of Exorcism where tension was being laid down before ever they met Nell. Unfortunately, this is the betrayer of the limpness of this movie as it goes on to immediately abandon civilization and the potential for other interesting encounters. After this, they are left alone to follow Carl into the North where people act stupid and get killed.

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“Maybe… Frankenstein.”

Johnathan’s idea is that the Creature is intelligent and murders to keep itself hidden, given its disastrous encounters with humans prior to its exile. He convincingly argues that data supports that something abnormal is out there, following caribou herds and killing the odd person who happens upon it. Carl thinks it’s a bear, the others suspect it’s a psycho killer. The movie doesn’t want us to know, trying to hold the cards to its vest so we’re wondering “is it a bear?”. Unfortunately, nobody will see this without having seen its trailer the trailer completely reveals that it’s fucking Frankenstein and blows the ending on top of it. Hooray for everyone involved. Except you, audience.

So the rest of the movie is a lifeless, rote picking off of the annoying crew, the earnest Johnathan, and finally Vicky who actually gets knocked unconscious and hauled off. Presumably, she is going to be raped a lot.

The one nuanced note here is that there’s this doll in the yurt where the documentarians hang out. The doll has red hair, like Vicky, and the Creature saunters off with the doll in one hand and Vicky in the other so hey what is that about, it must mean something. Or something.

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It means POLAR BEAR.

There are beautiful landscape shots in this movie and it not only mentions the Yukon and North-West Territories but Churchill and Manitoba as well. The acting is good, the characters are believable even if you never really care about any of them. Except Carl. Timothy Murphy saves this movie on the single watch it deserves from people who don’t know any better.

Which was me. This review exists so it will not be you.

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