Director/Screenplay/Visual Effects – Leigh Scott, Based on the Novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Producers – David Michael Latt, David Rimawi & Sherri Strain, Photography – Steve Parker, Music – Regan, Makeup Effects – Dizzworks Designs, Production Design – Kurt Altschwager. Production Company – The Asylum/Anthill Productions, LLC.
Rhett Giles (Dr Victor Frank), Tom Downey (Dr Robert Walton), Joel Hebner (Creature/Bryce Daniels), Eliza Swenson (Elizabeth Weatherly), Jeff Denton (Hank Clerval), Dan Tana (Detective Ferrati), Christina Rosenberg (Rebekkah Clark), Sarah Lieving (Jessica Halvorsen), Amanda Barton (Dr Emily Hertz), Timothy Travers (Detective Nimby), Kandis Erickson (Mez), Alison Johnston (Susie Carr), Alicia Vigil (Wendy)
The latest psychiatrist assigned to assess whether inmate Victor Frank is mentally fit to stand trial for murder gives up in frustration and so the asylum head Dr Robert Walton steps in to do the job. Frank tells Walton his story. He was a scientist experimenting in the field of nanotechnology. Using nanobots that were capable of rebuilding the human body, Frank and his team had great success in helping the crippled, wheelchair-ridden Bryce Daniels regain use of his faculties. Bryce then started to become unstable. When he broke into his apartment, Frank was forced to shoot him. Frank and assistant Hank Clerval then set up another laboratory in a basement and used the nanobots and a dose of electricity to revive Bryce’s body. They were successful, although the process left Bryce hideously disfigured. Horrified at his condition and infected with thoughts from Frank’s head, the creature began to take revenge, killing Frank’s girlfriend Elizabeth and others.
Frankenstein Reborn is an effort from The Asylum, a company that in recent years has specialised in ‘mockbusters’ – films with titles that either parody or evoke association with other hits of the moment. They made their own version of War of the Worlds (2005) at the same time as the Spielberg remake came out, as well as the likes of The Da Vinci Treasure (2006), Pirates of Treasure Island (2006), Snakes on a Train (2006), When a Killer Calls (2006), The Hitchhiker (2007), I Am Omega (2007), AVH: Alien vs Hunter (2007), Transmorphers (2007), Allan Quatermain and the Temple of Skulls (2008), The Day the Earth Stopped (2008), Sunday School Musical (2008), Battle of Los Angeles (2011) and Age of the Hobbits (2012). (It is not hard to guess which mainstream release each title is exploiting).
Frankenstein Reborn is not exploiting any major release of recent but is riffing on the oft-filmed Mary Shelley novel Frankenstein (1818). Like a number of other efforts – the tv movie Dr Franken (1981), Mr. Stitch (1995) and the mini-series’ Frankenstein (2004), Frankenstein (2007), The Frankenstein Syndrome/The Prometheus Project (2010) and Frankenstein (2015), Frankenstein Reborn attempts the challenge of updating the Frankenstein story to the present day. This leads to some interesting interpolations. The story opens, as Mary Shelley’s book does, with a framing device. Shelley had Frankenstein discovered in the Arctic by the explorer Captain Walton and then telling his story to him; director/writer Leigh Scott also has Frankenstein telling his story to Walton – but here Walton is a psychiatrist in an asylum who is assessing Frankenstein’s sanity for a murder trial. Scott fascinatingly now has Frankenstein using nanotechnology in his experiments – the reason given for the surgery on the body is that he needs to reorganize the organs to better facilitate the passage of the nanobots and then has to apply electricity to activate them. On the other hand, the scenes where the creature becomes infected with its creator’s thoughts, which has been taken from the very Frankensteinian Saturn 3 (1980), are confusingly explained. (Mostly this seems to have been added to give a reason for the creature’s coming after Elizabeth as the threat to be with Frankenstein on his wedding night seems a dated one in modern surroundings).
The film’s Frankenstein has been characterised along the lines of Peter Cushing in The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) – one of the versions of the story that Leigh Scott admits that he was influenced by on the Making Of extras. Rather than the classic characterization of Frankenstein as a mad scientist that mostly follows on from Colin Clive in Frankenstein (1931), this is a Frankenstein who is arrogant and a seducer of women, not to mention has a liking of Porsches and a coke habit. Rhett Giles’ Frankenstein is, like Cushing, disdainful of the morality around him, although in an oh-so-contemporary touch is being pressured over rising costs by the drug companies who are funding his research. As Frankenstein/Frank, Rhett Giles has a nice line in coldly arrogant tight-lipped expressions.
Elizabeth is now Frankenstein’s assistant – he describes her as a simple girl from the Midwest. Here Elizabeth becomes not so much the concerned fiancee as the assistant who is annoyed at being locked out of his latest project and then wanders off to have an affair with Clerval. Although, Mary Shelley would surely be turning in her grave when Leigh Scott gives us Frankenstein and Elizabeth engaged in (rather tame) bondage and threesome scenes. These sex scenes tend to sidetrack away from the main plot and feel like a point where Leigh Scott has become distracted or that the producers wanted to insert something gratuitous – the Rebbekah character and her jealousy has no real place in the script.
While it has some good ideas in its deconstruction of the story, Frankenstein Reborn has only been afforded one of The Asylum’s mediocre budgets. It has a grainy shot-on-video look. Most notably, the laboratory – which has usually been a production designer’s dream on some of the earlier adaptations of Frankenstein – is just a rundown basement and the revival equipment consists of no more than a glass tank of green fluid and a big mains switch nearby. There is some gore to the film, although this is not terribly convincing, and the monster makeup look somewhat absurd.
Leigh Scott has directed a number of other films for The Asylum including The Beast of Bray Road (2005), King of the Lost World (2005), Dragon (2006), Exorcism: The Possession of Gal Bowers (2006), Hillside Cannibals (2006), Pirates of Treasure Island (2006), The 9/11 Commission Report (2006), The Hitchhiker (2007), Transmorphers (2007), as well as several other genre items for other companies with Dracula’s Curse (2005), Flu Bird Horror (2008), Chrome Angels (2009), The Dunwich Horror (2009), The Witches of Oz (2011), Dorothy and the Witches of Oz (2012), The Lost Girls (2014), Piranha Sharks (2014) and episodes of the anthology The Penny Dreadful Picture Show (2013).