Production: Ruthless Pictures
Distribution: RLJ Entertainment, Image Entertainment
February 10th, 2015
Release length: 1:44:00
Frankenstein vs. The Mummy is, as you would expect, both of the classic monster tales wrapped up into one story line. In this iteration, we find Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Max Rhyser) an instructor at a medical school that professor Naihla Khalil (Ashton Leigh) has brought her recent Egyptian discovery to. The two start to mingle once more, playing up a love interest that almost damns the two the deeper into their work they get. Victor is paying the school janitor to get parts for his research, which leads to the brutal murder of a homeless man. When all goes awry, Victor uses what brain he can to bring hsi creation to live. Once animated, it sets out for revenge to get back into a less frightening body by hunting down Naihla as a bargaining chip to get the doctor to do as he commands. Unfortunately, this is not her only pursuer, as Professor Walton (Boomer Tibbs) accidentally awakens the brutal leader who seeks freedom from the tomb of its own body an evil sorceress trapped him in ages ago, who he believes it is her.
While the concept sounds more like something better left for a Twilight knock-off, the story behind Frankenstein vs. The Mummy is actually handled quite well. There’s a decent amount of character development on both parts, though the most memorable stands with Victor and how his mother’s passing greatly impacted his life. There’s a little more originality there that creates some additional pain and hardship for the character, unlike Naihla, who largely sums up typical pop culture mummy curses as her background, pinning her studies more on just a family trait with her grandfather that she was fascinated by and is now following.
The only gripe to really be had about the writing of the film is that the dialogue seems trapped between modern times and the source material. Most of the characters is fairly well spoken and rarely ever uses slang. However, there are times, like when Victor is introduced to Naihla’s co-workers for the first time, where he belts out a random “cool” in an otherwise more well spoken response. Granted a lot of these flubs are minor, but it does take you out of the sophisticated and collegiate world that story works so hard to establish. It also doesn’t help that much of the line delivery throughout the film could be better overall.
That’s not to say this is a poorly acted film by any means, though. The problem is that everyone seems to be stuck between good and mild. When just talking amongst one another, it feels like these people have either have a common bond of friendship between them, or at least a mutual respect. The love story between Victor and Naihla is executed quite well among the two actors, though sometimes their emotions end up a bit flat and hard to read in, and outside of, this sub-plot. Even when trying to finally wake up his creation, Victor is shouting in desperation and failure, but you can’t feel the passion in it that would come from the traumatic event he just recently explained to Naihla, something that ultimately messes up the relationship the two have (I assume, as it’s never really addressed other than his own admission he screwed up shortly after that scene).
Really, it’s the dialogue between Victor and his monster (Constantin Tripes) and the janitor that sticks out the most. You can feel the tension at all times whenever these two are in the same shot that the dark, brooding, gothic side of the initial tale’s influence plays up quite well. There’s always a layer of deception you can easily pick up on, especially during the conversation between the janitor and the homeless man (Martin Pfefferkorn). Even though you know the down-on-his-luck man’s fate is sealed, you can’t help but think the direction it will take may actually go a different route thanks to how believable the kindship and trust can be.
Finally, there’s the production. Where Damien Leone took his time to flesh out the characters and their background enough to have you either liking or distrusting one or the other, the production moves things along just as well. The scenery has a modern gothic touch to it that still looks fairly sleek by modern college standards. However, it does have an underbelly with Victor’s lab just off the campus grounds. This is where a gritty seventies to eighties aura can be felt in the production, channelling a legitimacy similar to Re-Animator. Even the banter between Victor and his newly born creation and how it plays out from a distance in the eyes of someone hiding in the room is done well, building up the tension of what exactly the grunting noises are compared to the realization of the being pinned down trying to eat too quick.
The rest, however, is a mix between good and bad ideas. The audio for the film is pretty good when the characters are close enough to the screen, but there are times it causes problems. When in the hallway outside the room the mummy is kept in, the dialogue is hard to understand due to how it echoes, and when walking to the camera in a long hallway it slowly gets louder, as if the boom mic were stationary near the cameras and not moving with the cast having the discussion. There’s also a scene in the campus cafeteria, or a diner, where the levels are raised when Victor and Naihla are talking, and the moment the line ends are podded down to drown out the background noise. There really wasn’t a practical need for it, in fact doing so proves to be more distracting than beneficial. But, chances are this was shot in an actual college cafeteria, or some place off campus, so it might have been done to avoid any legal issues from people in the shot.
And then there’s the costumes. For the most part, the mummy itself looks alright, but once reanimated, Brandon deSpain does as good a job at selling the creature as Constantin does Frankenstein’s Monster. The problem is that, by the end of the film, they look a bit too gimmicky. Frankenstein’s Monster looks like something torn from The Crow, just horribly disfigured, whereas The Mummy appears more like something out of a fighting game. There’s very little that makes the latter stand out other than the movement of its jaw while it talks, which is just a superb touch to help make the newly awakened ruler more realistic.
Frankenstein vs. The Mummy may seem like a nearly two hour trek into generic, unnecessary rehashing of two classic stories, but what we really get is a well paced love story about two people who let their obsessions reach the depths of madness coupled with plots of betrayal, revenge, and just enough blood for gore fans to wet their taste buds. It’s a modeerately sophisticated film from start to finish that never really tries to be something it isn’t. While more scenes off campus would have greatly helped add a little more variety to the film visually, homages to the original devices found in early Frankenstein films, not to mention a decent amount of basic Egyptian ideals, all come together to keep this dark story moving without really relying on padding. Even the most mundane scenes often have something to do with the story in the long run, such as the ending which seems to set up for a possible sequel. All in all, Frankenstein vs. The Mummy is a well executed film that fans of the original lore will definitely appreciate.
|Overall Score: 7.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by personal funds.