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Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein (Script)

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Over the last decade or so, a variety of spins on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein have stalked the airwaves. Some have been dull two-hour telepics (TNT’s 1993 version comes to mind), others wild diversions on past big studio experiments like House of Frankenstein ‘97. Like a faulty car battery, the boob tube has slowly been draining the life from Shelley’s story to the point where you have to ask, “Where’s big Frank to go now?” Is there any charge left in the old Frankenstein monster idea to excite fiends like myself who still hold James Whale’s 1931 film and Karloff’s unforgettable visage close to heart?

At the time of this writing, two prominent names in entertainment, one of whom is moderately known within horror circles for his divisive remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, are combining their strengths to confidently prove there’s at least an entire series worth of shows to tap with a modern twist from the Frankenstein legend.

Potential spoilers ahead; you’ve been warned.

This October USA Network is debuting the aptly titled Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series penned by the novelist himself and realized by director Marcus Nispel. Koontz will also serve as executive producer with Goodfellas’ Martin Scorsese and 24’s Tony Krantz. Filling out the cast are Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Vincent Perez, and Michael Madsen. It goes without saying that based on all of the involved talents alone, a certain amount of interest is generated. But look beneath the surface of this marketable package, and you’ll find a script that is a pieced-together Monster in and of itself with some parts being greater than the whole. It’s an amalgamation of every formulaic cop show you’ve ever seen that is almost consumed by moments of self-serious melodrama. And when it’s not brushing ever so lightly over a premise covered by Swamp Thing: The Series, Koontz also makes a little room to stumble around in Cronenberg territory.

Here’s the gimmick, and I’ll serve it to you straight up with a plot chaser to follow: The Monster teams up with two detectives to take down Dr. Victor Frankenstein in modern-day Seattle. Funky, eh? It’s a concept that’ll immediately turn you off or on, but let me elaborate. Our protagonists are detectives Carson O’Connor (a rough ‘n tough tomboy) and Michael Maddison; they’re wrapped up in a murder investigation in which certain organs have been surgically removed from the victims. Shades of Jack the Ripper? You bet, and the references to other literary and cinematic horror icons don’t stop there. Koontz names another pair of detectives Harker and Frye, and Maddison playfully jokes about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at one point. While all of this is happening, we’re also introduced to a circus performer named Deucalion, the Frankenstein Monster who has lived for 200 years on the gift of immortality lightning has given him. Also alive and well is his creator, Victor Frankenstein, an affluent member of the Seattle community cloaked under the identity Robert Ingolstadt. All three plots surrounding these characters collide somewhere around the second act when O’Connor learns from Deucalion that his creator has been keeping himself busy constructing a race of men and women who are weaving themselves into society as priests, security guards . . . regular folk. (Thankfully they don’t appear in the guise of grunge rockers.) But Victor’s plan begins to fray at the seams when one of his “experiments” begins killing its own kind.

Koontz expands the core idea and theme behind Shelley’s novel by giving Victor a larger playing field in which to meddle with his experiments. However, unlike previous incarnations, there’s no empathy to be had for the good doctor. Koontz’s portrayal here is very cut and dried. Good vs. Evil – with Victor playing for the latter team. His God complex has wholly consumed him; at one point he gets off on the strangulation of one of his female creations when she asks him to destroy her. Elsewhere in the script he leaves a conversation with a priest by saying “God bless you,” a playful joke because, in fact, the cleric is actually one of the doctor’s “children.” There’s no gray area when it comes to Victor and no sense that there’s retribution for this man down the road. What differentiates him from a one-dimensional antagonist like, as previously mentioned, Dr. Arcane of the Swamp Thing series, who only served to keep the show afloat by cooking up new creatures each episode, is a very thin line.

O’Connor and Maddison are slightly more fleshed out than their adversary although their relationship is annoyingly reliant on the weak-humored banter they exchange while on the job. Their romantic chemistry, on the page, feels non-existent until Koontz forces the issue to come to the forefront when Maddison ponders, to another character, what his life would be like with O’Connor if they weren’t partners. While Maddison seeks to answer this unneeded question in his head, Koontz provides O’Connor with emotional meat of her own to chew on concerning the fact that she lives with her 12-year-old autistic brother. Naturally, Koontz aligns a connection between this “special” kid and Deucalion – a cliché mark of death as far as I’m concerned. And as for Deucalion, setting him up as a staple circus attraction is an intriguing approach; but again, like so much that happens in the script, Koontz puts a tacky flair on the Monster such as the “glow” of an electrical charge one can see crackling in his eyes. He has also had a Maori-style tattoo inked onto one side of his face to hide some disfigurement; that I can live with if the end result has an intimidating and creepy effect.

A pilot episode, for all intents and purposes, makes or breaks a series, so will viewers want to come back for seconds? There will likely be a straggler or two looking for an ounce of cult value to cling to, trying to recapture that “thing” that made The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fun. But I don’t see enough of a spark in Koontz’s Frankenstein to sustain a horror fan’s curiosity.

Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein
“Pilot”
Draft: November 24, 2003
59 pages

2 ½ out of 5

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

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Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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