The Frankenstein Experiment (2011)

Directed By: Sean Tretta
Written By: Sean Tretta
Starring: Tiffany Shepis
  Scott Anthony Lee
  Ed Lauter
  Louis Mandylor
The Frankenstein Experiment

Science – it has done so much to improve the world. It relocated my shoulder nine times, it fixed my cracked skull twice and it’s saved lives every second of every day for decades. So why does cinema hate it so much? The Frankenstein Experiment is another example of “bad science” and it’s a cliché-packed monstrosity that lumbers sluggishly forward until it’s chaotic and surprisingly excellent finale. Overall, this is one failed experiment. Whack on a toe-tag and lob it in the furnace.

A medical establishment; a headless corpse leans against a wall; blood is splattered throughout the building, and Elizabeth Barnes (Tiffany Shepis) sprints around the facility, chased by something horrible. Locked in a room, she desperately scribbles something down on a pad before the monster at the door bursts in and -

Two years later and Elizabeth is a face-mask wearing, wheelchair bound recluse. Her story is told in a flash-back deposition given to a couple of Detectives and their video camera, which gives us easy access to the set-up and character profiles. Although breaking the cardinal rule of “show instead of tell” it jumps straight into the action.

Elizabeth was a renowned scientist when she joined the secretive Prometheus Project ran by the shady Dr. Walton (Ed Lauter). The programme was at the cutting edge of science and focused on stem cell research, unregulated and entirely illegal. Those involved understood the risk to their careers but continued unheeded, desperate to make that breakthrough and be the first to bring cells back to life.

Loosely based on Mary Shelly’s superb novel Frankenstein, the plot weaves into the expected realms of weird science and Elizabeth quickly finds herself involved in bringing dead people back to life… with disastrous and bloody consequences.

The Frankenstein Experiment – or Frankenstein Syndrome, for those not in the UK – attempts to retell a fantastically old story, but not in a new way, just by a new structure. At its heart it has a genuinely interesting idea, but it’s poorly created and carelessly dull in places.

The major problem with The Frankenstein Experiment is our protagonist Elizabeth. Whatever is happening in the facility is clearly utterly illegal and more sinister than a cloaked man in an alleyway, but Elizabeth gleefully gets stuck right in. Who cares where the stem cells come from?! Let’s do science!! They try and explain away her reasons with a “her mother needs urgent medical help” sub-plot, but it’s not convincing and our heroine immediately becomes a hateful, ambition-driven idiot. When Elizabeth’s participation finally becomes involuntary, she has already gone too far for you to sympathize with. She is Doctor Frankenstein and Herbert West, and she made her bed and then set it on fire. Let her climb in and burn.

The acting and script is also annoyingly worthy. All the “bad guys” speak in lowered, sinister tones and Elizabeth’s narration is teeth-gnashingly earnest: “I was making myself a prisoner of my own obsession.” There are some great performances, but they sit alongside some appallingly amateur ones too. It’s a frustrating watch.

Another regular filmmaking failure (see Fear Island, for example) is how our protagonist relays all the past events to the Detectives, many of which she cannot have possibly seen or heard, making Elizabeth either psychic or a massive liar! It is poor scripting and very dumb, and this sadly lands at the feet of Sean Tretta, the director, writer, producer and editor of The Frankenstein Experiment. Perhaps unable to see the wood for the trees – or for all the producers, since five of the actors also produce – the result is messy and flips from being horribly amateur to being slick and superb.

Scott Anthony Leet is excellent as David Doyle, a thickly-accented thug who – after dying and being brought back to life – has lost his accent and personality. It is a superb and finely crafted performance from Leet.

There are some nasty gore moments in The Frankenstein Experiment; with bullets flying, blood-letting, flesh stabbing, jaws ripping and brains splattering the walls.

Frustratingly, there are some superb moments throughout The Frankenstein Experiment. It is genuinely interesting in many places, bumbles along between the thrilling moments, and then powers through the final thirty minutes at a rocketing pace. This lack of consistency is frustrating and the film is pock-marked with shoddy acting and senseless science-talk jabbered at a lightning pace.

Overall The Frankenstein Experiment was not a success. It excels in some areas and fails miserably in others. Maybe worth watching for Scott Anthony Leet’s superb performance, it is otherwise a frustrating, inconsistent creature that fails to reach its true potential. Mary Shelley’s novel is much much better, and she died in 1851.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

One Comment on “The Frankenstein Experiment”

  1. Fliss says:

    Awesome film, well worth a watch.

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