Frankenstein Unlimited (2009)

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The folks at Sinema Saliba manage to concoct an interesting indie experimental anthology film around the theme of Frankenstein and rebirth with a series of short films that dabble in narratives revolving around mortality and death all of whom vary in tones of artistic to the utterly absurd. Director Matthew Saliba pulls out all the stops for this anthology picture that deconstructs the tale of Frankenstein and sets the framework down in assorted set pieces and flavors that help this movie feel like a varied buffet of vignettes that will manage to perfectly entice the viewer’s imagination and rethink the concept of the mad doctor and the monster.

Saliba begins the affair with “Dark Lotus” a hyper sexual revenge tale about violence reaped through the seeds of vengeance when a young girl comes across the man she knew from the past and decides to take it upon herself to wreak havoc on his own body and settle an old score. Kayden Rose takes center stage as this mysterious and beautiful temptress who takes pure lust out of setting the wrong things right, and she’s a vision. Saliba is in his usual flow with his entry providing some startling imagery and brilliant photography all of which is compiled to tell an interesting story that is handicapped by a campy climax that reveals the solid narrative it lacks. Matthew Forbes’ “Victor” is a more low key take on the “Frankenstein” tale that explores the aftermath of Victor Frankenstein’s experiment gone awry.

More a character study than a horror short, we’re able to witness the sheer psychological and emotional torment Victor experiences years after his monster has been killed, and watch as he lives the rest of his life stained by the scorn of others who wish him dead like his monster. Unfortunately he can do nothing more than wait out his mortality as an otherworldly harmonica player follows him around as a reminder. Truly it’s a powerful little entry. The one and only Gordon Liu stars in King-Wei Chu’s “Flesh for Kung Fu” a very short film that’s really nothing more than a short choreographed fight atop a building with a Frankenstein theme tacked on for good measure meant to represent the unsettled fighter who is merely a pastiche of other better masters’ techniques. While I was aware of the symbolism in the climax, I couldn’t believe this was actually included because it feels hopelessly out of place and doesn’t quite have any real weight to it beyond Liu’s intensity and Chu’s sharp direction.

Maude Michaud’s “Reflection” is Frankenstein tale about the ugliness of the human soul and how vanity can ultimately be our own undoing. Anna is a young disfigured girl who is granted the gift of plastic surgery to correct a scar on her face. But when she achieves true perfection in her own eyes–like that old adage goes–a monster is created. Anna is then forced to sit and watch what havoc she’s wrought on the people in her life who stuck by her when she was deformed and face her own self-destruction pondering how her beauty was within, and her ugliness was unleashed once she became a superficial beauty. Michaud’s direction is detailed and his is a think piece that works as a dissection of our own views of what is most valuable in our lives even if we lack aesthetic value. Peter James’ “Occam’s Razor” is my favorite of the bunch and one of the best short crime thrillers I’ve seen in a while. In its deepest form it’s a Frankenstein story with elements that are left purposely ambiguous for the viewer to ponder on after James cuts to black.

A very sexy young girl and a slick young man are taken in to custody as accomplices after committing two seemingly disconnected murders, but as the detectives interrogate them and piece together their testimonies they discover that the bits of the stories they tell are eventually bound to be formed together and the principle of Occam’s Razor comes in to play in ways utterly unimaginable. Everything from the direction to the raw powerful performances, right down to the question mark ending is utterly brilliant and I could have seen this for two hours because it’s a slow boil mystery that director James brings together as a masterful murder tale that I could not turn away from no matter how hard I try. There are twists and turns in such a short time and I couldn’t have asked for a better take on Frankenstein. To top it all off there’s “Mr. Fluffenstein,” Martin Gauthier’s dark comedy that I was a little reluctant to watch. Comedy is very tough to pull off especially in an anthology film that’s comprised of dark short films, but suffice it to say I was laughing non-stop.

I can only be describe “Mr. Fluffenstein” as a display of raw comedic talent who come face to face with a robotic re-animated cat who is brought to life by a mild mannered little girl who can’t let go of her precious cat. When Mr. Fluffenstein begins to murder the cats in the neighborhood, the disgruntled parents (inexplicably armed with torches and pitchforks) get together to stop it once and for all and… well, there’s a lot of laughs and what I can only assume is improv as our main hero spends ten minutes trying to ignite a lighter as two neighbors argue back and forth about a fishing trip. While some may be turned off by the comic end to a atmospheric breakdown of Mary Shelly’s tale, I loved this finisher and I couldn’t stop laughing. While it’s flawed in some areas, “Frankenstein Unlimited” is an admirably ambitious magnificent artistic challenge that Mary Shelly enthusiasts will assuredly love because it takes the story and concepts of the original novel and toys with its complexities bringing about six very strong and entertaining short films that just have to be seen to be believed.