Director Andrew Weiner’s latest film has a fascinating premise: What if the Frankenstein monster wasn’t a fictional story? What if it really existed? What if it still exists today and if so where is it? A combination of found footage & traditional film styles it dares to ask & answer those very questions. Horrornews.net spoke with him about the ideas behind the film & some of the controversy surrounding it.
Horrornews.net: I have to admit I was excited to get this chance to speak with you Andrew because when I had first heard of the premise behind your film, “THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY”, I thought it was quite unique & interesting. Between you & your co-writer (Vlady Pildysh) how did you come up with this idea for your film?
Andrew Weiner: We had worked on a different project together previously and he called me up with the idea of the novel being based on true events. From there we really spent a lot of time crafting a treatment. Even before that I just had to sit with the idea in my head for quite a while before I could really wrap my head around it and just think. I reread the novel and just really thought about how we could craft the story…just tell it. Once I was satisfied that there was something here we could do then we spent a lot of time crafting the treatment together. Then we wrote the script together and then I went off and directed the movie.
HNN: How long did it take the two of you to write the script?
AW: I would say it was written in bursts over the span a few months. Vlady wrote the first draft and sent it to me, then I re-wrote it. Then I would send it back to him and he would re-write it and so on until we got to a place where we were both happy. But so much of my time was spent researching not just the novel but the life of Mary Shelley (Original author of “FRANKENSTEIN”) as well. Where she lived, European history at the close of the age of enlightenment which is when she was around and during which her parents were pillars of that era. I just wanted to understand as much as I could about that time and place to inform this film.
HNN: Let’s talk about the critical response the film has gotten. From what I’ve read it’s definitely divided audiences right down the middle…
HNN: There are those that enjoyed it and those that didn’t. A lot of the responses that I read just took it as an unimaginative “BLAIR WITCH” ripoff and others really loved the idea of melding the found footage genre with a classic monster theme. What would you say to those who didn’t like the film?
AW: I think that the film has been quite polarizing so far. Some of the reviews just eviscerate the film and others are such raves that when you read them you have to wonder if they’re talking about the same movie! People talk about found footage films like “BLAIR WITCH PROJECT” & “PARANORMAL ACTIVITY” and how the genre is completely dead and then along comes “THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY” which is this incredibly imaginative, original film which utilizes the best elements of the found footage genre while avoiding the worst ones. And then there are those who say that it’s an offensive pile of crap that is the most boring, unimaginative ripoff of a film that I’ve ever seen! For the people that feel that way, I don’t really have too much to say to them. The film is subjective and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I do think that the marketing is interesting though and while I like the ad set that has been created, I think that it’s misleading some people so if someone sees the poster art and sees this hulking creature under the title “THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY” expecting that they’re going to watch a gory, slasher film that was made with a significant budget they’re gonna be completely disengaged three minutes after the film starts and just outright reject it. They’ll say “What is this? Where’s the monster? I don’t understand this? I’m not paying attention…FAIL!
So I think that they’re not open to the film as a concept. I think that they’re rejecting it without giving it a shot but no movie is for everybody…some people may watch it and not like it. If they’re expecting a film full of action and violence, this isn’t that movie. Make no mistake, I think it’s a really interesting & engaging film but the film making is completely different from a film that’s just going for scares & action.
HNN: I agree! I think the poster art is actually very misleading. I saw it with my 11 yr. old son who was excited about watching it because he had received a copy of the novel “FRANKENSTEIN” for Christmas last year. The problem was that he saw the cover art for the film & he expected something a lot different than what he saw so he came out of it a bit disappointed. While I liked it I did have some issues with it’s pacing. In addition, I believe that no one in horror films do what someone like you or I might do if faced with a similar situation. If they did no horror film would last longer than 20 minutes! But even believing this I had a big problem with the characters in your film just doing the polar opposite of what I would do. They take these actions even though they acknowledge that they really shouldn’t be doing anything like this earlier in the film. I have to ask was that done on purpose? Was this inherent to the script you co-wrote because I really felt that a few of the characters were just plain dumb and didn’t necessarily have to die.
AW: They’re not necessarily stupid but they make horribly, some of them anyway, make horribly bad mistakes! This is foreshadowed early on when they’re in Los Angeles and they’re in a really safe environment but they’re being negligent while driving and nearly run over someone. And they’re in an affluent neighborhood just driving around! What that says to me is that there is a certain level of negligence & arrogance that is inhabiting these characters. And even if they’re smart, well educated & well bred…they have no idea of what they’re getting into! And while you can be book smart…when you get dumped in the wilderness those skills don’t apply. Bad decisions happen all the time, throughout history you read about mishaps like boating accidents or mine explosions and through hindsight you’ll see that they were all the result of bad decisions.
Now I don’t think that some of the decisions the characters make are necessarily bad ones. Those decisions were made out of desperation without having the full picture of what’s really going on. The fact that they head out to the arctic to look for this creature makes sense to me. Nobody believes this guy Jonathan Venkenheim (Actor Kris Lemche) for a second, so if you’re getting paid why not go? But then when things go badly & you can’t return home all that easily then you’re not equipped to be in the situation you allowed yourself to get in. So yeah, bad decisions are made but to me it makes sense that something like that would happen.
HNN: Thank you! That was a very interesting response! The film was gorgeous to look at and some of those vistas were breath taking. For a film shot on what I assume to be a low budget it’s beautiful to look at…
AW: It was made for nothing.
AW: We didn’t have the luxury of having “Down Days”. If we did they would’ve been days that we didn’t shoot because the weather was bright & sunny and I didn’t want it to be bright and sunny, I wanted it to be gray & cold & miserable! It was cold but I didn’t want the sun to be out. There were a couple of days when it was extremely cold & windy but we were well prepared clothing wise for that. A couple of times the equipment didn’t quite operate the way we would’ve liked but those instances were few & far between. Some days we ran out of light and we weren’t set up for night shoots but for the most part we made use of what we had and there wasn’t a moment when I felt we couldn’t shoot because it was too cold.
There was just one day towards the end when it warmed up and then really got cold again. It really got warm & started to rain a bit, the temperature got to about 40 degrees and I needed to shoot a scene at a motel but the temp had plummeted and the roads were just pure ice and the location was 40 miles away so I pulled the plug on it and found a location a lot closer because I felt it was way too dangerous to drive. I worked on a lot of films as a producer and transportation is the most dangerous thing that you do during a film shoot. No film is worth anyone losing their life over.
HNN: Did you hold auditions for your cast or did you have actors in mind for the parts beforehand?
AW: We had a casting director (Charley Medigovich) so there were auditions for almost every part but there was one actor that I worked with before who played the sound guy (Eric Zuckerman) and I wrote that role for him. And then there was Timothy Murphy who played Karl the guide who I thought did such a great job…
HNN: He was great!
AW: Well my entire cast did a great job! Timothy was a lot of fun & a gentleman too but he didn’t audition. He read the script and had his agent call me and say “Timothy Murphy is willing to be in your film but he will not audition. He will however, meet with you to discuss the project”. Some actors are like that, some actors don’t like to audition. Frankly the skill that goes into auditioning is sometimes different from acting. Some actors need weeks of prep work to get into a role and some actors can just come in cold and nail it. I looked at Tim’s reel & I was already familiar with some of his work already so we met and we hit it off. I knew that there was just no way I was going to find anyone else who could play the role afterwards. Looking back there was no doubt in my mind that I didn’t hire the best actors I could for the film. Everyone did a fantastic job.
HNN: The film is kind of open ended in a sense. Is there a plan for a sequel?
AW: The ending is ambiguous. In terms of a sequel…I would certainly be open to it. We’ve seen the monster & we might have opinions about him but we never really understand him and that’s the kind of thing I’d like to explore in a sequel should there be one. People assume that they know what this creature is but let me tell you they have no idea! Just like Jonathan Venkenheim completely misunderstands the creature, the same could be said for some of the audience and it was left that way by design.
Image Entertainment will be releasing “THE FRANKENSTEIN THEORY” on DVD/Bluray on March 26th.
Interview: Andrew Weiner – Director (The Frankenstein Theory)