This week sees the release of Victor Frankenstein, a new (loose) adaptation of Mary Shelley's classic horror novel about a scientist who discovers the secret to creating the spark of life, and uses it to disastrous effect. The new movie, directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock) from a script by Max Landis (American Ultra) is told from the perspective of Igor, Frankenstein's lab assistant, who was introduced into the Frankenstein mythos during previous film adaptations.
Danie Radcliffe (Harry Potter) plays Igor while James McAvoy (X-Men: Apocalypse) takes on the role of the obsessive scientist. When Screen Rant visited the set last year, the film's leads discussed the intense friendship between Igor and Victor, while executive producer Derek Dauchy described the film as having a significant sense of modernity, despite being set in the 1860s.
It's clear from the trailer alone that this latest incarnation of monster royalty is a little different from what Shelley originally imagined - blending the horror with equal parts adventure and buddy comedy. "Kooky" is one of the words used to describe the film in the Screen Rant review, and it's one that can't really be applied to Shelley's novel. According to McGuigan, however, the tale of Frankenstein was sorely in need of some new life.
"We give a lot of backstory to it. And it’s our backstory, it’s what we’ve chosen to make up. There’s not a reverence to the book. I think sometimes people are over-reverent about the book. It’s got a fantastic premise, I don’t know if you’ve ever read it, but it’s dull as dishwater, in my opinion."
Landis' script takes Shelley's "fantastic premise" and seeks to improve upon it by throwing in Igor, a deformed circus clown who secretly harbors intellectual gifts, who is rescued from his sorry life by Victor. The film also throws in a love interest for Igor in the form of Lorelei, a trapeze artist played by Jessica Brown-Findlay.
Frankenstein holds the honor of being one of the first horror stories ever committed to film, in the form of a 16-minute short made by Edison Studios. Perhaps the best-known film version to date is James Whale's 1931 adaptation, which also invented the character of Frankenstein's hunchbacked assistant (then called Fritz, not Igor). Frankenstein's monster has since become a mainstay of popular culture, which makes it all the more difficult to bring something new to the character and his creator. For McGuigan, Igor and his relationship with Victor was the secret ingredient.
"We’re much more coming to it from a character perspective, but there is lots of bang for your buck. At the same time it’s very much a character piece. For me, that’s what I loved about it, the interaction between these two characters that I've never heard say anything other than 'it’s alive!' or 'pull the switch' and that’s it. So the backstory helps you to understand and maybe even understand emotionally what is appealing to them about the science."
Though some horror fans may bristle at McGuigan's characterization of Shelley's novel, he seemed unconcerned about the possibility of annoying hardcore Frankenstein enthusiasts, saying, "My catchphrase is always 'if you love the book you’ll hate the movie.'" Unfortunately for Victor Frankenstein, it seems as though a lot of critics loved the book.
Victor Frankenstein is in theaters now.