(A.k.a. THE FRANKENSTEIN SYNDROME)
The onscreen title is THE FRANKENSTEIN SYNDROME.
We begin inside a high security hospital compound that has just been thrown into a state of lockdown. The place seems to be deserted, save for a panic-stricken nurse who’s searching for an exit amid the blood that stains the surgery walls. She tries to call for help on an internal telephone but to no avail ... someone, or something, has caught up with her ...
Cut to "2 Years Later", and our story begins proper with FBI agents Wollstonecraft (Shane Dean) and Godwin (Esther Ellsworth) arriving at the nurse’s house to conduct an into-the-camera interview with her. Elizabeth (Tiffany Shepis) has been left wheelchair-bound and wearing a face mask since the previous trauma.
We learn through the interview that Elizabeth became associated with Dr Walton (Ed Lauter), and subsequently joined his Prometheus Project – which the FBI believes is guilty of organ harvesting and trafficking.
Cue flashbacks illustrating how Elizabeth first came to fall under the spell of the enigmatic, take-no-shit Walton.
"My heart was in the right place" Elizabeth tells the agents as she goes on to describe her introduction to Walton’s maximum security experimental laboratory. It transpires that her mother was fatally ill with cancer and the young nurse had promised to find her a cure. She saw Walton’s work, looking into the possibility of reproducing and re-animating stem cells, as a chance to achieve this.
Through her flashbacks, Elizabeth introduces us to key players such as thuggish security guard David (Scott Anthony Leet) and the altogether more insidious Marcus (Louis Mandylor), Walton’s right-hand-man and the one who obtains the live subjects to experiment upon. He welcomes her to the fold with a true crocodile’s smile.
Marcus then introduces Elizabeth – and us – to the rest of his team: medical geniuses William (Jonathan Northover), Neeraj (Sebastian Kunnappilly), Ira (Noah Todd) and Victoria (Patti Tindall).
Elizabeth reveals that she was fully aware of Walton’s research being illegal, but insists she was desperate to help her dying mother. So much so, she was prepared to live on the compound with this bunch of weirdoes and oddballs. From the drab grey walls to Victoria’s distinctly unfriendly manner: this was no substitute for the comforts of home.
The shit starts to hit the fan when Elizabeth notices ill side effects in one of the live test subjects. This infuriates Victoria, who accuses the newcomer of disparaging a years’ worth of hard work. Elizabeth, she insists, merely wants everything to be just so. These people are clearly very passionate about getting results.
When one of their subjects dies, Elizabeth is the one who suggests they try out their new experimental serum on her. Could it re-animate dead cells like they hoped? I think we all know the answer to that question.
With this inevitable "success" under their belts, the medical outlaws pause momentarily to consider ethics, before ensuing on their mission to create new life and potentially eliminate diseases in the process.
All of which leads to a bloodbath that perhaps only these greedy twerps didn’t see coming. And, of course, explains to us and the FBI agents why Elizabeth has taken to covering her visage ... But you’ll have to hang around to get the full effect of that one.
Director Sean Tretta keeps the action brisk within a taut 87-minute running time. The fractured storytelling – flitting between past and present tense – doesn’t harm the pace any, and action is never too far away. Any technical jargon is pure phooey, and Tretta is wise enough to ensure his players speak even louder and faster when they’re spitting out the big words.
While THE FRANKENSTEIN EXPERIMENT doesn’t live up to close scientific scrutiny, it does at least entertain in a low budget but energetic manner.
The cast are spirited save for Lauter, who basically telephones his performance through. But he doesn’t get much screen time anyway, despite his name being plastered across the DVD’s cover.
Played straight and benefitting from good technical points (sound design, adequate lighting, sharp editing), Tretta’s film is well-made and a definite step-up from his THE GREAT AMERICAN SNUFF MOVIE.
4 Digital Media bring THE FRANKENSTEIN EXPERIMENT to DVD in a good 16x9 presentation. While some of the darker scenes look occasionally murky, this is by-and-large a very healthy-looking transfer with strong colours and fine detail.
English 2.0 audio is a tad on the quiet side, but clean and even throughout.
This being a screener DVD-R, there were no extras or menus on this disc.
THE FRANKENSTEIN EXPERIMENT is by no means a great film, but provides a decent evening’s entertainment for those looking for something none-too-demanding. It’s gory, competently staged and just about intriguing enough to keep you watching.
But it still looks like something that will be best suited to late night showings on cable television.
By Stuart Willis
|Released by 4 Digital|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|